As the Willamette Valley finally inches into spring, then summer, the sun-deprived populace rejoices! But there is a segment of the population that cringes. Wait a minute! Why would anyone not welcome sunshine, longer days, budding trees and blossoming flowers? To some people these signs of seasonal renewal are equated with red, itchy eyes, sinus congestion, sneezing and difficulty breathing. Yup. To them, spring means allergy season and that is not a pretty picture.
Spring time allergies, commonly called hay fever, are caused by the body’s reaction to seasonal airborne particles such as pollen and grasses. Hay fever is an example of an allergy to inhalants, since the allergen enters the body through the lungs. Dustmites is another example of a common inhalent allergen.
There are several other categories of allergens. We can also be allergic to ingestants (substances we eat or drink). Wheat, corn, milk products and sugar are frequently ingestant allergens. Contactants are things we come in skin contact with such as lotions and fabrics, and are also a possible source of allergic reaction.
We typically think of allergies as affecting the route through which the allergen contacts the body and the symptoms that are specific to that organ or system. Hayfever, for instance, involves breathing in allergens (i.e. pollen, grasses) and produces sinus congestion and sneezing. People with allergy-induced asthma can have such severe problems breathing they need emergency medical intervention. Allergies to ingestants can produce strong gastrointestinal tract reactions such as vomiting and urgent diarrhea, or milder symptoms such as bloating, gas or being tired after eating. Contactants produce topical redness or itching. Allergies also have a systemic effect. Anyone with allergies can tell you that when their body is having to mount a defense against an allergen, it taps the body’s vitality leaving the individual quite fatigued.
So, what can be done about allergies? When possible, avoiding the allergen seems the logical solution. Depending on an individual’s allergy triggers, this option can range from being a nuisance to downright impossible. Some people get shots to desensitize themselves to their allergens with varying success. Another option is to medicate the symptoms. Many people pay great and sincere homage to the Seldane gods, but relief lasts only as long as the drug is in their system. In recent years, more and more people have been using acupuncture and Chinese herbology to lessen the body’s reactivity to allergens. This approach helps many, but the allergic reaction is still there to some degree.
What about attempting to eliminate the allergies? Dr. Devi Nambudripad has developed a technique to do just that. Nambrudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) is a system that has Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM, the medical model behind acupuncture and Chinese herbology) as its foundation. NAET is now being learned and used by practitioners from literally all over the world.
This technique, like TCM, says the human body has ‘qi,’ or energy, flowing through its circulation pathways (called meridians in TCM). Everything with which we come into contact also has an energy, or qi. It is well known in sciences that energy either attracts or repulses other energy. According to NAET, an allergic reaction is caused by the body viewing the energy of the allergen as repulsive. As a defense mechanism, the body creates a blockage in whatever meridian is affected by the allergen to prevent the “toxic substance” from entering deeper into the body. This blockage manifests as the allergic symptoms discussed earlier. Another facet to consider about the blockage is that meridians supply qi to organs. When the flow of qi to an organ is blocked by an allergic reaction, that organ does not get what it needs to function properly. Over time, the organ’s health and ultimately the individual’s health will be compromised.
NAET utilizes muscle response testing combined with acupuncture points associated with the major organs to determine exactly which organs and circulation pathways are affected by a specific allergen. Treatment involves either acupuncture or acupressure at specific points on the body while the patient holds a sample of the allergen. After the treatment, the allergen must be avoided for 25 hours as this is how long it takes qi to travel through the whole body. Sometimes the treatment must be repeated if, for some reason, the allergy did not clear. If, however, the muscle response test indicates no allergy, contact with the allergen should produce no reaction in the future.
Having one’s allergies cleared through NAET treatments can bring major improvements to a person’s health by removing all blockages. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, blockage or imbalance in the body is the cause of all disease and pain. Correcting blockages and imbalances is the key to maintaining or improving health. Not to mention, making spring in Salem a whole lot more enjoyable.
Kathy West is a licensed acupuncturist practicing at Eng Acupuncture in Salem. She is currently a board member of the Oregon Acupuncture Association and editor of the OAA newsletter.