Now is the time the geese return, the grass begins to grow, the trees start to bud…and allergies attack. The sniffling, the coughing, the runny nose, the itchy and red eyes. Yuck. It’s hard to enjoy the beautiful spring time with all this going on, right?

This month is all about allergies and how we can help! So come along as we explore this topic. We will begin with a basic understanding of what allergies are, both in Western and Eastern Medicine, below.

Western

Let’s first talk about our immune system. This system is responsible for helping us fight off threatening substances. When we sense a cold virus, harmful bacteria or we become injured, it turns on and starts fighting on our behalf.

Lymphocytes: The body defender

One large aspect of our immune system involves the lymphocyte. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that help us fight off invaders. Their various functions allow them to properly fend off invaders in the body and therefor, keep us safe and healthy (Study.com).

Western medicine explains allergies are caused by an overactive immune system that attacks otherwise, non-threatening substances. So, in an allergic reaction, your lymphocytes see ragweed as a threat, aka invader, and start to fight by sending chemicals like histamine through your system which gives us our not-so-popular allergy symptoms.

Histamine: A tricky substance

Now, histamine can be very beneficial. It helps us get rid of invaders by making us sneeze and causing useful inflammation. However, when this system in unbalanced, our bodies go through this whole response and the reaction seems to be somewhat of an over-reaction. The sneezing and inflammation become a hindrance more than a help, and it starts to interfere with everyday life. Not to mention that ragweed, in and of itself, usually just isn’t a threat to the human existence.

For more information on the western theory of allergens, check out this video by SciShow: All About Allergies.

Eastern

Chinese medicine explains allergies are caused by a deficiency in our bodies-often a wei qi deficiency (think weak immune system), lunq qi deficiency (think chronic sneezing or always getting a cold) or spleen qi deficiency (think food allergies and loose stools, bloating, low energy).

Vital force

For the purpose of this blog, let’s focus on wei qi. Wei qi is equivalent to our immune system. It’s the vital force, or qi, that is used to help fight off external invaders. When we don’t have enough, our body is susceptible to the outside world and we can easily come down with a cold, flu or allergies.

How does someone end up with a wei qi deficiency? Well, that goes a little deeper into TCM theory. It is said that people with low wei qi started with low kidney or lung qi. For more information on what I’m talking about, visit yinyanghouse.com.

And isn’t it interesting that one theory (western) is saying there is too much of some thing and the other (eastern) says there’s just not enough. This isn’t the first or the last time these two medicines seem to contradict each other. Imagine how confusing it was for a Chinese medical student! (Insert emoji of monkey with hands over it’s eyes).

Branches and roots

My current understanding of western vs eastern theory of allergies (and lots of other conditions), and why they seem to say two completely different things is this: We have branches (the symptoms of allergies aka the overactive immune system) and we have a root cause (why someone has an overactive immune system in the first place, and why others simply don’t).

Western medicine is more focused on the branches aka take antihistamines to stop the sneezing. Chinese medicine looks at the branch symptoms and the root cause aka stimulate certain points on the body that strengthen your wei qi.

So, when we say our allergies are caused by an overactive immune response, what we are really talking about is our branches-the symptoms.

Have I confused you yet? Trust me. I’ve confused myself. So, if you’d like more clarification on the Chinese medicine view or to simply keep diving down the rabbit hole, check back in a little bit and I’ll post a blog with several links to help quench your thirst.

How can we help?

Come back next week to learn all about how VAMT can help you treat your allergies. From stress relief, trigger point therapy to acupuncture, needles and herbs…that’s all to come.

Until next time!
Rachel Kristyniak, Licensed Acupuncturist 

Picture source

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