For those of us who live in Chicago, spring seems to take a long time to arrive. And once it gets here, we can’t get enough – eating and drinking on restaurant patios, taking strolls in the warm sunshine. But for too many people, spring also brings with it troubling allergies. For them, constant sneezing, dry or watery eyes, and sinus irritations come as part of the package.
Fortunately, though, many people find relief without constantly popping either prescription or over-the-counter allergy pills. As I often write on this blog, I am a big believer in using alternative treatment methods that complement – or in some cases, can remove the need – for synthetic drugs that often come with side effects.
That’s why the Tiffani Kim Institute Medical Wellness Spa has always promoted an integrated approach to health and wellness. When it comes to treating the symptoms of spring allergies, you might consider trying the ancient arts of acupuncture and ear candling.
I talked to Jason Bussell, one of the wonderful licensed acupuncturists that works with us at TKI, about using acupuncture treatments to address allergies. (He also specializes in pediatric, orthopedic and oncology acupuncture, which work to complement the Western medical treatment a client may be receiving.) And he says one of the best reasons to try acupuncture to relieve allergy symptoms is that it comes without side effects that can accompany drugs.
Acupuncturists are “concerned about how energy flows around the body,” says Jason. “Typically, when you have an allergy, there’s too much going on in one area. We want to draw out the heat and excess and bring (the body) back into a state of harmony.”
Acupuncture increases the body’s production of serum ACTH, which is the main modulator of cortisol. And cortisol is an important hormone that among other things is involved in controlling the body’s response to inflammation. That’s why Jason says acupuncture can be especially effective at dealing with allergy-generated sinus pressure and headaches, and dry, itchy or watery eyes.
Obviously, there’s no miracle cure, but Jason reports that 50 percent of his clients feel better after their first acupuncture treatment. “I’ve gotten a lot of people off their (allergy) drugs – and I’ve seen it during or after one season.” In other cases, this treatment “is like knocking down a fire. If you only hit it once and step back, it’ll flare back up. But it’s dependent on the individual and how bad the allergy season is.” And as with most things, it’s best to treat allergies proactively and before seasonal conditions get the best of you.
Jason, who wrote The Asian Diet: Simple Secrets for Eating Right, Losing Weight, and Being Well and other acupuncturists always stress the role DIET plays in helping to control allergies. Dairy products often turn to phlegm in adults and aggravate congestion; too much acidity in the system can cause inflammation. Says Jason: “We bring the body into balance” through acupuncture, “but if the patient is living in a way that’s out of balance, their symptoms will likely return. We see symptoms as the body’s way of telling us to adjust something.”
Another treatment that some allergy sufferers try is the art of ear candling, which is believed to have begun in ancient cultures 2,500 or 3,000 years ago! Using 100 percent pure beeswax candles at TKI, we practice Asian Ear Candling that can help eliminate a variety of ailments, including vertigo, migraines, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, tinnitus (noise or ringing in the ear) – and treats the symptoms of seasonal allergies. During the 30-minute procedure, a hollow candle is gently placed into the ear canal, while the other end is lit by a flame and constantly monitored by the therapist. The process creates a low-level vacuum that draws excess ear wax and other debris out of the ear and into the candle. It’s really soothing, and massage can be added for extra relaxation.
Our lead massage therapist at TKI, Madi Camilo, is a huge advocate of trying this treatment—and reports that her own adult sister finally weaned herself off over-the-counter allergy medicine after a couple months of ear candling. “It prevents the allergens from accumulating,” she says. “You’re starting off with a clean slate.” Ear candling can be done every six months, or when warranted. (But ear candling should not be used if you have or think you have an actual ear infection—you should visit your doctor for treatment first.)
Again, I know there’s no ‘miracle cure’ for allergies. But you just might find that going the natural route to treat their symptoms makes your spring much more enjoyable and memorable!