26. January 2017 · Comments Off · Categories: Acupuncture, Allergies

Acupuncture’s ability to improve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis may be due to modulation of the upper airway mucosal immune response to house dust mites. Australian researchers randomised 151 individuals suffering from persistent allergic rhinitis into real, sham and no acupuncture groups. Both groups received twice-weekly treatments for eight weeks. Real acupuncture was carried out at Yintang, Yingxiang L.I.-20, Hegu, L.I.- 4, Zusanli ST-36 and Lianquan REN-23, while sham consisted of needling away from documented acupuncture points. Various cytokines, pro-inflammatory neuropeptides and immunoglobulins were measured in saliva or plasma from baseline to four-week follow-up. Statistically significant reductions in total IgE and allergen-specific IgE for house dust mite were seen only in the real acupuncture group. A significant down-regulation in pro-inflammatory neuropeptide substance P (from 408.74 to 90.77 pg/mL) was also seen with real acupuncture, 18 to 24 hours after the first treatment. Nasal obstruction, nasal itch, sneezing, runny nose, eye itch and sleep were observed to improve significantly in the real acupuncture group and continued to improve up to four-week follow-up. The authors suggest that since nasal itch, eye itch and sneezing are all symptoms that are mediated by the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), a cellular receptor which plays a central role in the allergic inflammatory response, acupuncture may result in modulation of TRPV1 expression, sensitivity and/or activation.
Effect of acupuncture on house dust mite specific IgE, substance P, and symptoms in persistent allergic rhinitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016 Jun;116(6):497-505.

07. January 2016 · Comments Off · Categories: Acupuncture, Allergies, Hayfever

The evidence supporting the use of acupuncture as an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis continues to mount. An Australian study randomly allocated 175 patients diagnosed with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) to receive either real acupuncture (RA) or sham acupuncture (SA), consisting of 12 acupuncture sessions over four weeks during the pollen season. RA was delivered manually, whereas SA involved superficial needling at non-acupoints without additional stimulation. RA was found to be significantly better than SA for decreasing SAR symptom severity (sneezing and itchiness) at the end of treatment and improving participants’ quality of life at the end of the treatment and follow-up phases.
Acupuncture for seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2015 Jun 11. pii: S1081-1206(15)00342-7.

A pilot study carried out with 30 SAR patients in Germany suggests that, compared with matched healthy controls, SAR patients show altered cardiovascular autonomic function at baseline, which can be partially normalised by acupuncture treatment.
Autonomic Function in Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis and Acupuncture – an Experimental Pilot Study within a Randomized Trial. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(2):85-92. Epub 2015 Mar 20.

Meanwhile, the various mediators, receptors and signalling pathways associated with the anti-inflammatory and anti-hyperalgesic effects of acupuncture, and which may influence its mechanism of action in allergic rhinitis, have been reviewed by another group of Australian authors. These include down-regulation of pro-inflammatory neuropeptides, cytokines and neurotrophins, activation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway and proliferation of opioid-containing macrophages in inflamed tissues.
Mediators, Receptors, and Signalling Pathways in the Anti-Inflammatory and Antihyperalgesic Effects of Acupuncture. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:975632. Epub 2015 Aug 3.

24. September 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Acupuncture, Allergic Rhinitis, Allergies

The American Academy of Otolaryngology’s new Clinical Practice Guideline recommends acupuncture for patients with allergic rhinitis (AR) who are interested in nonpharmacological therapy. A Guideline Development Group (20 experts in otolaryngology, allergy, immunology, nursing, CAM and consumer advocacy) developed the recommendations based on supporting evidence (randomised controlled trials with limitations, observational studies with consistent effects and a preponderance of benefit over harm). Acupuncture was recognised as an effective alternative to medical therapies, and associated with a reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life for patients. Its advantages were listed as including the avoidance of medication use (with its associated potential side-effects) and better alignment with patient values. (Clinical practice guideline: allergic rhinitis executive summary. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015 Feb;152(2):197- 206).

A newly published meta-analysis of 13 papers (2365 participants) by Chinese authors further supports the use of acupuncture in AR, concluding that it can exert a significant reduction in nasal symptom scores, medication use and serum IgE levels, as well as an increase in quality of life compared with controls. (Acupuncture for the treatment of allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy 2015 Jan-Feb;29(1):57-62 doi: 10.2500/ajra.2015.29.4116).

Having a high diversity of bacterial species in the gut may protect babies against developing allergies, according to a comprehensive study of intestinal microflora in allergic and healthy infants conducted in Sweden. Stool samples were analysed at one month of age from 20 children with IgE-associated eczema, as well as from another 20 healthy controls. The researchers then used DNA sequencing to identify the bacterial species in the samples. The results showed that gut microflora diversity at one month was significantly greater in healthy children, compared to those children with atopic eczema. The authors results help substantiate the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which suggests that early exposure to environmental allergens reduces the risk of developing allergies. They suggest that the composition of intestinal microflora during the first weeks of life is critical to the development of the infant immune system. In the absence of sufficient stimuli from a wide variety of bacteria, the immune system may overreact against harmless antigens in the environment, such as foods. (Low diversity of the gut microbiota in infants with atopic eczema. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Dec 6. [Epub ahead of print]).

Results from a German pilot study show that acupuncture reduces itch intensity in patients with atopic eczema and that this correlates with reduced activation of basophils (histamine-secreting white blood cells). Ten patients with atopic eczema were randomised to receive acupuncture or no treatment. Mean itch intensity on a visual analog scale was rated significantly lower in the acupuncture group on day 15 (after five acupuncture treatments) and day 33 (after 10 acupuncture treatments). Compared with the control group, basophils from the acupuncture group showed significantly less in vitro activation following allergen stimulation, at all time-points. (Effect of Acupuncture on Allergen-Induced Basophil Activation in Patients with Atopic Eczema:A Pilot Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Apr;17(4):309-14.J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Apr;17(4):309-14).

Acupuncture can significantly reduce itching in patients with atopic eczema. A German study has investigated the effect of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and skin reaction in a crossover RCT. An allergen stimulus was applied to the skin of 30 patients with atopic eczema before (direct approach) and after (preventive approach) the following treatments: acupuncture at Quchi L.I.-11 and Xuehai SP-10 (verum acupuncture, VA), sham acupuncture at non-acupuncture points (placebo acupuncture, PA), or no acupuncture (NA). Subjective itch intensity was recorded using a visual analogue scale and an itch questionnaire (IQ). Objective measurements of wheal and flare size and skin perfusion (via LASER-Doppler) were carried out at the stimulus site ten minutes after application of allergen. The scientists found that acupuncture performed within minutes of initial exposure to the allergen (direct approach) appeared to soothe subjective feelings of itchiness – itch intensity and IQ scores were significantly lower with VA compared to NA and PA. They also found that, when patients were exposed to the allergen after acupuncture (preventive approach), not only did subjective itch intensity and mean IQ scores decrease (significantly lower with VA and PA compared to NA), but they also tended to have a less severe skin reaction. Mean wheal and flare size were significantly smaller with VA compared to PA and NA, and mean perfusion was significantly less with VA than with NA. The results additionally showed that the preventive effect of verum acupuncture on subjective itch sensation diminished over time, whereas its suppressive effect on skin-prick reactions increased over time. (Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Allergy.. [Epub ahead of print]).

A cohort of 4,146 pregnant Dutch women was asked about their frequency of consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish, egg, milk, milk products, nuts, and nut products during the preceding month. The children’s diets were assessed at age two years, and their asthma and allergy status was assessed yearly until eight years of age. Daily consumption of nut products by mothers during pregnancy was found to increase the risk of their children developing asthma symptoms by more than 50%, compared with women who rarely consumed nut products during pregnancy. (Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and the longitudinal development of childhood asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Jul 15;178(2):124-31).

Intake of apples and fish by women during pregnancy may reduce the risk of their children developing atopic conditions, according to the results of a longitudinal cohort study of nearly 2000 Dutch children. Mothers completed a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) during pregnancy, and children in the cohort were followed up at five years of age with a symptom questionnaire and FFQ. Food groups analysed were fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, whole-grain products, fish, dairy products and fat spreads. Maternal consumption of apples was found to have a protective effect on the children against asthma, while fish consumption was associated with protection against eczema. (Maternal food consumption during pregnancy and asthma, respiratory and atopic symptoms in 5-year-old children. Thorax. 2007 Sep;62(9):773-9).

Rowena Logie’s list of allergies is a long one, or at least it used to be. For the first time since she was a child, the Newcastle University student can go wherever she likes, without fear of puffy eyes, a runny nose and wheezing.

Instead of trying to stay away from animal fur, house mites, feathers, hay, rape fields and timothy grass, to name just a few of her allergies, Rowena is looking ahead to a different future, one which might involve a house near the country and a pet cat.

“I used to go and visit friends when I was growing up, but I could only stay for a short while because they had dogs,” says Rowena, 25.

“I was taking a lot of medication, but then about a year ago I started getting asthma attacks in addition to my other symptoms. That’s when I decided I really needed to try and do something about my allergies.”

Rowena’s symptoms were even more disruptive because her family in Perthshire, live on a farm. “Normally I’d be uncomfortable by the third day of my visit and put up with it or leave, but last time I stayed for three weeks.”

Needless to say Rowena is thrilled, not least because she has more freedom – everything from stroking her parents cats, Orca and Millie, to going for a walk in the countryside with friends. She has five sessions of acupuncture to thank for the change.

Acupuncture, a form of oriental medicine which has been around for nearly 3,000 years, is known to have the ability to affect all parts of the immune system, including those involved in allergic reactions.

In Britain the study of traditional acupuncture began in the 1950’s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that is really began to flourish and now there are 2,400 qualified acupuncturists registered with The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC).

Traditional Chinese philosophy states that  our health is dependent on the body’s motivating energy – known as Qi – moving in a smooth  and balance way through a series of meridians or channels beneath the skin.

For many reasons Qi may become unbalanced and lead to illness. By inserting very fine needles into the channels of energy or Qi, an acupuncturist can stimulate the body’s own healing response and help restore its natural balance. Feras Jerjis, the therapist who treated Rowena, initially assesses how energy is flowing through the body.

By noting the pulses on both wrists and the structure, colour and coating on the tongue, Feras is able to make a judgment about a person’s state of health.

“Traditional acupuncture takes on an holistic approach, treating the whole person to regain the balance between the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the individual,” he explains.

“The exact pattern and degree of disharmony is unique to each individual. Traditional acupuncture will treat it as such, with a personalised treatment plan, once a full diagnosis has been made.”

Feras, who studied acupuncture for three years and has treated most ailments, from cancer to a cold, says allergies can wreak havoc in people’s lives but acupuncture can help.

“Obviously ther are many different types of allergies and a scale of allergic reactions, from the life-threatening anaphylactic shock, to a skin reaction of inflammation of the nose and eyes, for example.

“The way acupuncture works is to strengthen the whole immune system, so that it can cope better with the allergy.”

With Rowena, Feras used needles at several points on the arms and legs. They are not painful, the needle itself resembling a ‘flick’ and nothing more. Afterwards she was able to rest in the treatment room fo up to an hour.

The increase in the number of people who are turning to complementary therapies  such as acupuncture doesn’t surprise Feras, especially with allergies which have increased fourfold in 20 years.

Common allergic disorders include asthma – affecting one in five children – and eczema, from which an estimated six million people suffer. But acupuncture can also be used to treat allergies to wasp stings, some medication and a range of foods.

“Acupuncture can be used alongside conventional medicine in the treatment of both acute and chronic disease,” says Feras. However it is important to take care to find a therapist who is qualified and registered with a professional body.