FOOD ALLERGIES & CHINESE MEDICINE

Allergy describes a hypersensitivity reaction in which the body displays an excessively or abnormal sensitive response. Sources of allergens vary from person to person and may include various foods, dander, pollens, molds and yeasts. In foods, some reactions are immediate while others do not take place for several hours. Asthma, itchy eyes, rash, swelling, tiredness and acute gastrointestinal distress are common presentations of this type of immediate response. Delayed food reactions are thought to be more common than immediate food response. Poor diet, stress, infection, chemicals, drugs, environmental toxins and genetic predisposition are possible contributing factors to the development of allergies.

 

In Chinese Medicine, food allergies can be both an excess and a deficient syndrome. It is up to the Spleen and Stomach to provide transformation and transportation of all foods which enter the body. I remember seventeen years ago one of my Taoist teachers said “if you don’t know what to treat you can always treat the Spleen/Stomach and get good results.” Hippocrates said more than 2000 years ago, “All diseases begin in the gut.” We have to look at the digestive system when we try to treat any degenerative disease no matter how unrelated it may seem to the condition. I have seen in my practice that the patients who have long standing problems, such as headaches, allergies and excess phlegm, have all been allergic to some food, which they eat almost daily. Several of them recently went through a food allergy test and one patient suffered form a severe allergy to garlic while the other one suffered from an allergy to milk. Since having the food allergy test both have done incredible with the results and changes they have made.

 

The role of the enteric nervous system is to manage every aspect of digestion from the esophagus to the stomach, small intestine, and colon. The connection between the brain lies at the heart of many woes both physical and psychiatric. Ailments like anxiety, depression, irritable bowel, ulcers and constipation manifest as symptoms at the brain and gut level. The majority of patients with anxiety and depression will also have alterations of their GI tract. In Western diagnosis, gut flora protects your immune system. In Chinese Medicine, the Spleen/Stomach suffers and then the immune system is thrown off and is responsible for the allergic reaction. When this occurs due to a deficiency with the organs, the reactions become hyperactive and the person starts reacting to foods and the environment. The emotion for the Spleen is over-worry and over-thinking and these two help create a deficiency in the organ system. I believe in our society that this is a common response to stress and work. The Stomach during these times cannot perform its function properly due to this type of emotion. The Spleen/Stomach has three basic physiological functions: digestion of food, absorption of nutrients into the body and keeping toxins out of the body.

 

It is my experience that people who have never had allergies often become allergic after sustained damage to their Spleen/Stomach. If a patient is eating something everyday that they are allergic to than these systems are becoming depleted over time. In Western Medicine, when the immune system is not functioning properly the mucous membranes start over-producing mucus and there is an overabundance of phlegm that just hangs out in the body. Because the system is breaking down, the Spleen/Stomach can no longer transform and transport this phlegm and it gets lodged in the body. Our immune system can malfunction in at least three ways. First, it can be weakened so that it cannot mount up an adequate response to fight off usual stresses as seen in cancer. Second, it can overreact in a way where it is hypersensitive to normal stimuli, as occurs in asthma, migraine or food allergies. This result is not only using up the immune reserves of the body, but it may cause immune reactions that create tissue injury. Third, it can go on as mentioned to create auto immune reactions against our own tissues. In either way, a food allergy test along with acupuncture and herbs can help rebalance the system back into a healthy, vibrant individual. I am continuing to be amazed at the transformation that my patients are experiencing due to these types of changes.

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