Acupuncture Center
  • Chinese Medicine - An Approach To Food Allergy

    The millennia-old practice of acupuncture is rapidly becoming mainstream medicine in the United States. This time-tested medicine is finally getting its due because it has so much to offer to a health conscious society. Whether we are talking about public awareness, research funding, insurance coverage, institutional recognition, research breakthroughs or educational standards, acupuncture is on an ever-accelerating upward trajectory. The following examples from professional journals and other sources are proof of the assured success of acupuncture in this country.

    Every time we see a new doctor and fill out a patient history, there is always a question about allergies, especially drug allergies. Since drug allergies can be life threatening, there is a lot of attention paid to them. Some food allergies can also produce a severe reaction, called anaphylactic shock, or even cause death, but this is a rare occurrence. Food allergies can produce a wide variety of symptoms, some acutely uncomfortable, others subtle and hard to pin down. With seasonal allergies, like hay fever, or a reaction to a specific thing, like bee stings or animal fur, we are usually aware of what the problem is. We say, Oh, the ragweed must be in bloom, or Get that cat away from me. But with food allergies, people often don t know what is causing their discomfort. They go along for years with headaches, fatigue, breathing problems or some other symptom, and are not aware that food allergies could be the source of their problem. 
    One reason that food allergies can be very hard to diagnose is because the symptoms are not just one thing, like hives or sneezing, but can be a systemic reaction. A person could have gastrointestinal tract symptoms, a respiratory system disorder, or even cardiovascular involvement. Another difficulty with detecting food allergies is that there can be a lag time -- sometimes it takes several days or even several weeks for a reaction to develop. 
    People with food allergies quite often find that they have developed an allergic reaction to multiple foods. At this point, life becomes difficult. It is very hard to eliminate all the foods they have a bad reaction to: they can t eat with friends, go out to restaurants, or go to a party. Sometimes they have to bring their own food along to family occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners. It s not much fun. And besides that, a very restricted diet can have harmful long-term health consequences. I have seen people suffering from malnutrition because they are frightened of eating, and only eat very limited varieties of foods. They do not get enough nutrients, and develop many other health problems, even becoming disabled. One woman I saw only ate four kinds of food. At 5 6  tall, she weighed 78 pounds, was malnourished, and was pretty much unable to work. 
    Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating this problem. It focuses on diagnosing and treating the underlying imbalance that produces the symptoms of food allergy. It can reduce the body s negative reaction to foods, support the functioning of the internal organs, and improve the immune system. 
    First, let s describe the symptoms of food allergy. The most common symptoms are fatigue, hives, eczema, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, nasal congestion, cough, asthma, and swelling of the lips, eyes, face, tongue, and/or throat. Severe or life-threatening manifestations include difficulty breathing, decreased blood pressure, increased heart rate, dizziness, mental confusion, slurred speech, anxiety attack, and cardiovascular collapse. 
    Most Common Problem Foods: 
    Shellfish, dairy products, wheat, corn, sugar, certain nuts such as peanuts, strawberries, and food additives such as dyes, preservatives, MSG, sulfites, etc. 
    The TCM Approach 
    Of course, the easy and simple and solution for a food allergy is to avoid the food you re allergic to. But with multiple food allergies, it is almost impossible to eliminate whole categories of foods from the diet. The answer is to rebuild the body s capacity to respond normally to food. Chinese medicine sees the body as interacting organ systems, and also as a system of energy pathways, or meridians, that connect all parts of the body. Deficiencies or disharmonies in the organs or meridians can be the basis of multiple food allergies. The two organ systems most involved with food allergies are the Lung and the Spleen. In addition to breathing, the Lungs are responsible for circulating defensive Chi at the level of the skin. Therefore, any allergic reactions involving the lungs or skin (hives, eczema, nasal congestion, cough, asthma) indicate that the Lung organ system or meridian needs support. The Spleen, with its partner the Stomach, is responsible for digestion, and for transforming food into Chi and blood. The Spleen meridian has an outlet in the face and mouth. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat indicate a Spleen imbalance. 
    A Chinese medicine practitioner will select acupuncture points and herbal formulas that support the functioning of the organs, dispersing unhealthy excess patterns and nourishing deficiencies. If a person has been suffering with food allergies for a long time, it may take several months of treatment to reverse the imbalances, but there is a good chance that a healthy response to food will be restored.


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