Inflammation Revisited: First Day of Spring

Bronwyn's picture

As many parts of the country are still under a snow-pack, we’re all pretty grateful for the blossoms here in Vancouver; well, almost all of us.  If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you’re probably feeling a lot less grateful than your friends, neighbours, and colleagues.  While everyone else is happily walking or biking to work, you are hiding from the world, closing your windows and dreading the days.  


You are not alone, even though it really feels like it at the time.  With allergies on the rise, you can invite one in six Canadians to your allergy party.  It seems almost impossible, but that’s over 6 million people who are  allergic to the outdoors from early March until late June.  So, as Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, what can we do to help get folks back outside sooner?  


According to this study, acupuncture significantly reduced symptoms and increased quality of life. So, if you’re like me, you’re probably asking what is the mechanism of action for this therapy?


Once again it comes down to inflammation and your immune system interacting with the environment.  When there is an allergic response, your body is reacting inappropriately to the environment and mounting a much-larger-than-necessary response, due to a perceived overload on your immune system.  My question to allergy sufferers is “what else contributes to this ‘total load’, and can reducing that load have an effect on your seasonal allergies?”  Why is your immune system on full alert in the first place,  and what can we do to ease the total burden and thus relieve symptoms? I have witnessed major changes in allergy patterns simply by shifting the diet. 


About 11 years ago, I had my very first experience of watching acupuncture change someone's longterm chronic allergic inflammation.  One of my very first patients came to me with severe eczema all over her hands.  Being a new practitioner, I pulled out all the stops: acupuncture, internal herbal medicine, and a herbal cream to apply at night. Being so new to the profession, I wondered about her all week until the next appointment when I asked (as casually as possible while internally bouncing up and down on my seat) how she was doing.  “Well”, she said, “it’s MOSTLY gone, but there are a few patches over here”.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing; having learned it in school, and now seeing it actually work, I didn’t really believe it.  “How were the herbs?” I asked.  “oh”, she guiltily replied.  “I’m sorry, I totally forgot to pick them up”.  So one acupuncture treatment reduced her eczema by 80%. 



In my clinic, I usually employ a combination of acupuncture treatment with dietary therapy and herbs aimed at reducing total load on the immune system and reducing inflammation, so you can enjoy the great outdoors in this beautiful city!


And that’s nothing to sneeze at (!)