Coping with asthma, allergies and skin issues
It’s pollen season and this time last year I was writing about the correlation between hay fever, asthma, allergies and stress, as well as the role acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have to play when it comes to these.
Sadly, despite a year having gone by, many of the acute stresses caused by the pandemic (on top of life’s ordinary, daily worries) haven’t lessened. The Government and society may slowly be acknowledging the impact of lockdown restrictions on mental health but there are dozens of other ways it may have affected your health, including by causing or worsening asthma, allergies and skin complaints.
The connection between stress and health
You’re probably already familiar with the idea that high levels or continuous levels of stress can cause significant health issues. When you’re stressed you produce cortisol (one of three main hormones: insulin, cortisol, and adrenaline). Cortisol helps you focus on surviving whatever stressful situation you’re faced with (putting to one side the non-important stuff while you focus). This is great for the short-term emergency but when kept up repeatedly and over long periods of time, everything else starts to fall out of balance and your other hormones (which carry out important roles) get constantly overridden.
The impact of this can be include all sorts of health issues from depression and anxiety, skin problems, immune system problems, allergies and much, much more.
But what does Traditional Chinese Medicine say
I think it’s fair to say, Chinese Medicine recognised the connection with stress and health issues long, long before Western medicine caught up. You may remember that in May last year I explained how Chinese Medicine is “based on what it calls Qi (life energy which constantly flows through your body) and the idea of Yin and Yang. Ying and Yang is the belief that everything has an opposite. That means if one part of you is out of balance, that imbalance can have a ripple effect through your whole system”.
When we’re stressed, we tend to draw on our Jing energy (life force) which happens to be stored in our kidneys. And when we draw heavily on one area, then there will be a correlating effect somewhere else. In Chinese Medicine the kidneys are responsible for getting and keeping air in our body. It therefore makes sense that if stress is draining the energy of your kidney, the counterbalance is likely to be difficulties breathing like asthma.
Similarly, the lungs are the main organ responsible for immunity (allergic response) and the state of our skin as well as being responsible for letting air out. Hence, I’ll often ask a patient if they struggle more with breathing in (kidneys) or breathing out (lungs). I often find a patient struggling with an eczema flare up has been through a traumatic event such as a bereavement which they’re struggling to let go of.
So how can acupuncture help?
As you may already know, acupuncture involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles which results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins or substances that help the health of specific organs.
What’s more, when your Qi or life energy is not flowing freely through the body, it can cause illness. Apart from relieving pain and boosting mood, the substances released by way of acupuncture are thought to kickstart the body’s natural healing abilities and restore the flow of Qi, and therefore a person’s health. I’ve heard this described as turning on the “self-healing or regulatory mechanisms, sending vital energy through natural pathways in the body”.
And the science?
Although undoubtedly more research needs to be done in this area, there is a growing body of research that demonstrates that acupuncture can be effective for relieving allergic asthma (which is where asthma symptoms are caused by things like dust, mould, pollen, and sometimes even food). Studies revealed that a group of asthma suffers who had acupuncture which focussed on the asthma pressure points saw improvements in disease-specific, health-related quality of life and in general well-being compared with a control group.
Furthermore, blood tests of those individuals who received asthma-specific acupuncture showed reductions in inflammatory cytokines (proteins that influence how other cells communicate) and lower levels of interleukin-6 (a protein your body produces in response to infections and injuries but too much of which can contribute to chronic inflammation).
Acupuncture has also been used for thousands of years to treat a number of skin complaints including eczema, acne, psoriasis, and others and I wrote about this last November. Again, by activating acupuncture points it stimulates the production of endorphins or good hormones and stimulates the immune and endocrine systems, in tandem. This can provide lasting results without any side effects.
The conclusion of the medical research is that although it is not recommended that you give up conventional treatments, it does appear that acupuncture is a good add-on treatment and may improve your quality of life, boost your immune system, and ease symptoms. That said, it’s often also sensible to consider appropriate lifestyle changes too that may include changes to diet.
Whilst I cannot claim to have carried out any research, my experience matches what I have read. I discuss all aspects of a client’s lifestyle and health and have found that acupuncture and lifestyle changes can both help ease a range of complaints including skins conditions, hay fever and asthma. And with no unpleasant side effects, you may just think it’s worth a try.
So, although it may be pollen season once more, you don’t necessarily have to suffer in silence.
Please contact me to book an appointment or for more information.