Getting healthy in 2018

Happy new year to all of you… I don’t know about you, but I certainly have a tendency to overindulge over the festive season – a bit too much chocolate and booze; late nights, long lies and much reduced activity! It has been a delicious indulgence…. However, I am now feeling the effects of these dalliances away from the path of healthfulness, and am eager to get myself healthy again. The key to getting yourself healthy in body and mind is balance in four main areas. This article will guide you through and is based on founding principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

  • A peaceful and contented mind. Keep your mind stimulated with things you enjoy and love. Spend time with friends and family, have a laugh, pursue a hobby or passion. But also get the right balance between stimulation. Keep your mind healthy by managing your stress using therapies such as acupuncture and practices such as mindfulness or meditation.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet filled with nutritious, real food. Eat real food including plenty fruit, vegetables and good quality protein. Avoid sugar, processed foods and reduced refined carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and white potatoes. Eat at regular intervals, don’t skip meals and don’t eat too late at night. Drink according to your thirst and activity. Enjoy your food and remember that the key to good health is moderation. Eating the occasional bit of chocolate is Ok (preferably dark organic), so long as you enjoy it in moderation and eat plenty of healthful, nutritious foods (see my previous blog for more information on healthy eating here). If you find you crave a lot of sweet foods, your digestive system is out of balance and acupuncture could help to address this along with some dietary adjustments.
  • Get moving – but don’t push your body beyond what you can manage. Find the right balance between exercise and relaxation. Some daily physical activity is essential for good health, but how much will depend on your individual constitution. Balance your exercise – cardio activities such as running and aerobics shouldn’t be the only type of activity you do, also do something more nurturing such as yoga, pilates or tai chi. And make sure you have some down time where you can rest and just be. If you have pain or physical injury – consider a restorative treatment such as acupuncture to help you recover.
  • Get enough sleep, but don’t over sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy mind and strong body. It is the time when our minds process the day’s events and our body repairs and regenerates. To get a good sleep, try to aim for 7 – 9 hours a night, ensuring you get to bed well before midnight. Avoid looking at screens before bed and don’t drink any caffeinated drinks after 5pm. Keep your room nice and dark and free from electronic gadgets. If you struggle with sleep, acupuncture can help.

Lifestyle and dietary advice form part of the therapeutic treatment in an acupuncture session. Acupuncture is a very versatile, safe and effective treatment that can be use to help treat not just symptoms but the underlying cause of those symptoms. It aims to help restore your natural balance and proper function in whatever way is needed. To find out more about living well, visit http://jillstorstein.com and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council working at Albany Street Clinic, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH and Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. To make an appointment go to the Contacts page or call: 07772 501810

A new year – a new health kick…

pitlochry-picThe new year can be a good time to take stock of life and consider what you want to achieve in the forthcoming year. However, new year’s resolutions are not necessarily the best way to bring lasting change as they can be easily broken. Instead it is better to set goals for the year, that way you haven’t failed if you have a wobble. If your goal for 2017 is to get healthier, this article based on founding principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine will help guide you.

The best way to improve your health and wellbeing is to take a holistic approach and aim to bring balance to the 4 pillars of your health:

  1. Your mind. The stresses of life can have a profound impact on health and wellbeing. Get the right balance between keeping your mind stimulated and being able to switch off your internal dialogue to be still and focus on the things you are doing. Make sure you keep joy in your life by doing things you enjoy and seeing people you love. Keep your mind healthy by managing your stress using therapies such as acupuncture and practices such as mindfulness or meditation.
  2. Your food and drink. Eat real food including plenty fruit, vegetables and good quality protein. Avoid excess sugar and processed foods. Eat at regular intervals, don’t skip meals and don’t eat too late at night. Drink according to your thirst and activity. Enjoy your food and remember that the key to good health is moderation. Eating the occasional bit of chocolate is Ok, so long as you enjoy it in moderation and eat plenty of healthful, nutritious foods (see my previous blog for more information on healthy eating here). If you find you crave a lot of sweet foods, your digestive system is out of balance and acupuncture could help to address this.
  3. Your body. Find the right balance between exercise and relaxation. Some daily physical activity is essential for good health, but how much will depend on your individual constitution. Balance your exercise – cardio activities such as running and aerobics shouldn’t be the only type of activity you do, also do something more nurturing such as yoga, pilates or tai chi. And make sure you have some down time where you can rest and just be. If you have pain or physical injury – consider a restorative treatment such as acupuncture to help you recover.
  4. Your sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for a healthy mind and strong body. It is the time when our minds process the days events and our body repairs and regenerates. To get a good sleep, try to aim for 7 – 9 hours a night, ensuring you get to bed well before midnight. Avoid looking at screens before bed and don’t drink any caffeinated drinks after 5pm. Keep your room nice and dark and free from electronic gadgets. If you struggle with sleep, acupuncture can help.

Lifestyle and dietary advice form part of the therapeutic treatment in an acupuncture session. Acupuncture is a very versatile, safe and effective treatment that can be use to help treat not just symptoms but the underlying cause of those symptoms. It aims to help restore your natural balance and proper function in whatever way is needed. To find out more about living well, visit http://jillstorstein.com and follow me on Facebook & Twitter.

Acupuncturist, Jill Storstein is member of the British Acupuncture Council working at Albany Street Clinic, 36a Albany Street, Edinburgh EH1 3QH and Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. To make an appointment go to the Contacts page or call: 07772 501810

Why do we get more colds in winter, and how can we prevent them (naturally!)

Why do we get more colds in winter – the modern science perspective

We all know that people seem to be more likely to catch colds in winter, – 80% more likely according to the NHS[i] – but scientists cold-canstockphoto17250512are less sure why. We also know that the weaker and more vulnerable a person is, the more likely they are for a cold (or flu) to affect them badly. This is why the NHS has its flu vaccine programme aimed at the young, the elderly, the immune-compromised, asthmatics and pregnant women. It has been shown that rhinoviruses (colds) survive better in lower temperatures. Our nasal passages tend be colder than the rest of our bodies therefore, it would seem to follow that it is easier to catch colds when it is colder. A study at Yale University[ii] looked at the relationship between the temperature and the body’s innate immune system’s ability to fight the cold virus in mice. It found the immune cells in the nasal passage were less effective at fighting the virus when the temperature was cooler.

 

Why we get more colds in winter from a Chinese medicine perspective

These are interesting findings because it supports ancient Chinese medical theories about the relationship between seasons, pathogens (e.g. viruses) and our immune system. Chinese medicine recognises the affect a virus has is relative to the strength of a person’s immune system and the strength of the invading pathogen. Chinese medical theory developed very many years ago and so understands the immune and respiratory system in a slightly different way to modern science. It is known as Wei Qi or “Defensive Qi” and is responsible for protecting the body from invading pathogens and regulates the body’s temperature. If a person’s Wei Qi and/or Lungs are weak, then a pathogen can invade more easily and the stronger the pathogen is, the more easily it can invade. Therefore the more we do to strengthen our Wei Qi and keep our Lungs and supporting systems healthy, the more resilient we will be and able to fight off invading viruses.

 

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is usually a “Wind-Cold Invasion”. It is the “Wind” which drives in the cold – the stronger the wind or cold or both, the stronger the pathogen. These invading pathogens are strengthened by the environmental weather – therefore, “Wind-Cold invasions” tend to be stronger in winter. Moreover, the body needs to work harder at keeping itself warm and well-nourished in the winter so our wei qi can be weaker at this time.

 

What we can do to prevent colds?

So, what can we do to keep our immune system strong in winter? According to Chinese medicine, the immune system is regulated primarily by Lungs with support from the digestive system and the body’s constitution. So keeping well and having a strong immune system depend on maintaining the standard pillars of health – with a few seasonally applicable modifications:

 

  1. Get enough sleep and relaxation time– and remember in the winter we need more sleep than we do in warmer, lighter months. But don’t oversleep – everyone needs a different amount of sleep – you should aim for 8-9 hours in winter. You can help your body’s natural sleep rhythm by making sure you experience the daylight – open shutters and curtains while it’s light and try to make sure you spend sometime outdoors everyday.

 

  1. Eat a good, healthy diet with a broad range of seasonal vegetables, good quality meat, regular mealtimes and warm foods (no cold salads in winter! – see my previous blogs about diet and keeping well in winter for more informVegetablesation). Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet – good quality produce will help. Nutrients particularly important for supporting the immune system include vitamins C, D and E and zinc.

 

  1. Keep active and your energy flowing:
    1. Physically: do some gentle exercise each day – we do need to slow down in winter so this shouldn’t be as much as you would do in the warmer months. And try to get outdoors – fresh air is good for strengthening the lungs (just make sure you wrap up well)
    2. Socially: although it can seem more of an effort in the colder weather, it is important to keep our family and friend relationships alive to nourish our souls – just make sure you also leave time for peaceful relaxation.
    3. Mentally: nourish your mind with interesting reading or self-study; avoid stress where possible and manage your response to stress you can’t avoid.

 

  1. Wrap up warm especially vulnerable parts – keeping warm takes more effort and energy in the winter – and putting additional strain on your body weakens its resources and therefore its defences. So help your body out by putting enough layers on and keep vulnerable parts of the body warm. Vulnerable parts are areas where wind invasions can get in more easily and include the neck, feet and back – so make sure you are all covered up using long thermal underwear, scarves and thick socks.

 

  1. Have acupuncture! Acupuncture can help to regulate and strengthen the body’s wei qi. If your immune system is working well, you will be less likely to catch a cold and have fewer symptoms that resolve more quickly when you do. Some studies have shown this in a research setting. It has been shown that acupuncture does appear to help modulate the production of immune cells to help prevent colds and can help to reduce the some symptoms of colds[iii][iv].

 

What if it’s too late and you’ve already caught a cold?

 

There are some remedies based on Chinese medicine that might help if you have already caught a cold. The quicker you take action the quicker and easier it is to ward it off.

Stage 1: slightly tickly or runny nose, sneezing mild headache:

  • Eat spring onions, ginger and garlic. Ginger tea with a little raw or manuka honey and lemon is a nice soothing remedy.
  • Eat lots of vitamin C and zinc containing foods such as berries, red peppers and green leafy vegetabginger-tea-canstockphoto22045274les
  • Have a hot bath then wrap up warm afterwards and sweat it out
  • Rest and keep warm!
  • Visit your acupuncturist who will be able to treat you to help the cold and give you some acupressure techniques to do at home

 

Stage 2: streaming nose, sneezing, shivering/chills, headache fatigue:

  • Keep up with the spring onions, ginger and garlic and include turmeric and horseradish
  • Have bone broth, chicken soup or congee (congee is rice that has been cooked for so long it has become like a porridge) – you can combine all of the above to make a tasty and nourishing meal.
  • Avoid mucous producing foods such as dairy, bananas, rich fatty meats, fried food, wheat (including pasta and bread), sugar and sugary foods.
  • Rest and keep warm!!
  • Visit your acupuncturist if you’re well enough – otherwise ask for some guidance about self-acupressure.

 

Jill Storstein DipAc, MBAcC is a traditional acupuncturist working in Aberfeldy, Perthshire and Edinburgh City Centre

[i] http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Healthywinter.aspx

[ii] http://news.yale.edu/2015/01/05/cold-virus-replicates-better-cooler-temperatures

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17432639

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649831

Live long, live well – lessons from the Nei Jing

The origins of Chinese medicine can be traced back at least 4000 years when the seminal text, the Neijing was written. Its wisdom and teachings are still just as relevant today as they were back then. At its core is the search for the formula for a long and healthy life – now, as then, we all want to live to a ripe old age in the best of health and avoid chronic illness. 4_chinese ornament

 

In the opening chapter the Neijing discusses the lifestyles of “the ancient people” in contrast to the contemporary population. According to it, the ancient people lived for 100 years because they “understood the principle of balance”. The book notes however, that contemporary people of 4000 years ago, lived their lifestyle as follows:

 

“They drink wine as though it were water, indulge excessively in destructive activities, drain their… body’s essence…. Seeking emotional excitement and momentary pleasures, people disregard the natural rhythm… They fail to regulate their lifestyle and diet, and sleep improperly. So it is not surprising that they look old at fifty and die soon after” [p. 1, translation by M. Ni, 1995]

 

This could just as easily be the lifestyles of those living today. In our modern times, skipping meals or overeating, regularly going to bed too late, over or underdoing exercise and regular overindulgence are commonplace and contribute to many of the chronic pains and illnesses suffered today.

 

Prevention of illness and longevity is fundamental to Chinese medicine principals and is explained in the Neijing. People should look after their health by living a harmonious balanced lifestyle and thus avoid the need for acupuncture treatment or other medical intervention. This balance, followed by the “ancient people” was achieved by not overdoing anything (food, sleep or activity), by doing the right amount of exercise and relaxation, by eating a balanced diet at regular times, with a regular sleeping pattern, and the avoidance of excessive physical and mental stress. The need for exercise and a healthy diet is increasingly recognised in modern health advice but frequently it fails to mention the importance of balance within that.

 

Living a life out of balance can affect health in a huge variety of ways but similarly health can be improved by finding the right balance. There are four key areas where appropriate balance needs to be found to help optimise health.

  1. Nurturing of the mind
  2. Regulation of food and drink
  3. Nurturing of body through work, rest and exercise
  4. Regulation of sleep.

 

Examples of ailments due to imbalance that I often see in my acupuncture clinic are general feelings of stress which may be accompanied by symptoms such as insomnia or anxiety. When discussing their lifestyle it becomes clear that they are overdoing things. They may be working long hours and still squeezing in regular trips to the gym or jogging, they may be skipping meals, eating late and perhaps they are also checking emails and social media late in the evening. They often are not having enough true relaxation time where they allow their mind and body to be still. The result can be that the mind goes into overdrive, overthinking things and unable to switch off at bedtime. Acupuncture can help by helping to restore the balance and enable improved sleep as well as reducing the stress and help to calm the mind. This helps to reset things to build a renewed foundation of health. However, improvements will be better felt and longer lasting alongside adjustments towards a more balanced lifestyle that is more appropriate to the constitution of the individual.

 

There is a lot that can be understood about modern day afflictions and their causes and cures through the studying of ancient Chinese medical wisdom. Practitioners of the branches of Chinese medicine (including acupuncture) have a unique understanding of ill health and its deviation from optimal health through imbalance. Acupuncture treatments are carefully selected according to the individual’s diagnosis, to restore balance. This diagnosis is arrived at through understanding in what way different areas of normal function are out of balance and learning what in the individual’s lifestyle and constitution could have caused this. Acupuncture gets to the root of the cause by improving the balance and therefore improving the symptoms. However, part of the treatment will also include dietary and lifestyle advice, which will help the individual to maintain that balance.

 

 

Reference: The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (Neijing Suwen), translated by M. Ni, (1995), Shambhala, Boston, MA.

 

Jill Storstein is an acupuncturist and member of the British Acupuncture Council. She works at Offizone, Kenmore Street, Aberfeldy PH15 2BL. Website: http://jillstorstein.com, Tel: 07772 501810

Improving your health with food and how you eat it

Feeling wellAfter all the excesses of the festive seasons, you may be thinking about getting a bit healthier again… Perhaps you’ve been feeling a bit rubbish lately – sluggish and tired, have put on a pound or two more than you’d like or perhaps you have something a bit more troublesome going on. Acupuncture can be a great help to restoring your health and it can also help improve your motivation to make changes. I have seen some great changes in my patients following a course of acupuncture. The best results, I find, come from people who also follow some of the dietary and lifestyle advice I give to complement their treatment. Advice given is tailored for each individual, depending on the presenting conditions and present lifestyle. However there are some generic rules that can help to improve everyone’s sense of wellbeing. In this blog I offer some timely wisdom from Chinese medicine to help you in the initial stages of improving your sense of wellbeing through diet and eating habits.

Our digestive systems are sensitive and can easily be damaged by eating the wrong types of foods, eating in the wrong circumstances or by emotions such as stress, anger and worry.  In Chinese medicine, our digestive system is responsible for a wide range of bodily functions and also maintains the intellectual and cognitive function of our minds. Its function is understood to have the key role of transforming food and fluids into the nutrients our bodies need and transporting them to the places they need to go. If the digestive organs are not working properly, foods and fluids are not transformed and transported as needed and can cause a variety of different symptoms and ill health – some more prominent than others. Following some basic guidelines can help to keep things working well.

How to eat

Chew: Your stomach has no teeth, so remember to chew your food well. This begins to break the food down making digestion easier for your stomach and gut.

Relax: Sit down to eat and have proper meal times at a table away from work or other distractions wherever possible. Be mindful of what you are eating and take pleasure in it. This helps to stimulate your digestive process making it more effective.

 

Cook your food whenever possible as cooked food is easier to digest than raw food. Have your food warm whenever possible and never have or at least at cold food straight from the fridge. This cools yourdigestive system and inhibits the action of your digestive enzymes and means your body has to work much harder to warm the food for any digestion to take place. If eating cold food really is unavoidable, have a warm drink with it – either warm water or herbal tea such as ginger tea. But preferably, never have cold food.

Don’t drink large quantities of fluids with a meal (especially cold drinks). This floods and cools your digestive system. If you like to have a drink with your meal, have a small cup of luke-warm water or a small herbal tea.

Don’t over eat, it is better to leave a meal feeling a little hungry than to overload the digestive system.

The Chinese have a saying, “eat like a King for breakfast, like a Prince at lunch time and like a pauper at dinner time“. Your digestive system is strongest earlier in the day, so breakfast time is the best time to have your biggest meal. We have a tendency to think that we have to have a milky/cereal based breakfast or stick to traditional breakfast foods. But actually, you can have anything you like for breakfast. Try heating up left overs for example. If you start the day with a good hearty breakfast, you will feel fuller through the day, function better and need to snack less.

What to Eat – (and what not to eat!)

Eat natural foods as much as possible, and if you can afford and source it, buy organic meat and fresh, seasonal produce. If you must buy pre-packaged/pre-preprared food always read the label and avoid foods with preservatives and additives. Ready-meals and other pre-packaged foods claiming to be low in fat are not usually healthier options. These foods are often loaded with sugar and salt – so check the lables.

Reduce your sugar intake

Sugar causes all sorts of problems. In Chinese medicine terms, it has a very heating effect on your stomach and throughout your body. It undermines your digestive system and therefore energy production and absorption of essential nutrients. Sugar is not just the sugar you have in tea, coffee and sweet treats, but also refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta.

In western medical terms sugar (in any form) upsets your body’s delicate homeostasis and balance of hormones. Your hormones are responsible for regulating everything from mood, metabolism of food (and therefore energy), balancing your reproductive health and gender hormones, to your heart and brain function. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the amount of sugar in your blood, too much sugar in the diet leads to too much sugar in the blood and therefore an increase of insulin in your system. This is enough to push your system out of balance. Having too much blood sugar causes health irritations such as energy slumps, headaches, mood swings, skin breakouts and more serious health problems such as inflammatory diseases, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Eat lots of Vegetables and Fruit

Eat a wide variety of different vegetables and fruit every day. They are packed full with a broad range of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre, which is essential for good digestion. There is a saying “eat the rainbow” which means eat vegetables and fruit of every colour. The 5 a day guideline is really the minimum we should be eating of fruit and vegetables – so have more if you can! Remember, light cookVegetablesing (steamed or stir-fried) of vegetables is best for your digestion. Vegetables are better than fruit because of the sugar content in fruit. Fruits to be eaten in moderation with a particularly high sugar content are bananas, citrus fruit, mangoes and pineapple. In Chinese medicine terms overconsumption of these fruits can also damage the digestive system by cooling it and generating an over abundance of fluids and therefore swelling and mucus. Fruits that are particularly good are berries and pears. All vegetables are good (for most people), but especially the green leafy ones like spinach, kale and brussel sprouts.

Get enough Protein

Make sure you have some protein with every meal. Some good sources of protein include: fish, chicken, red meat, eggs and nuts (peanuts are best avoided, but other nuts are very nutritious).

**Remember to have free range & organic where possible and definitely not processed**

Eat Fish

Fish is very important to include as a regular part of your diet because it is the best and highest source of omega 3 oils. Omega 3 is very important for your brain and heart and helps to reduce inflammation. Try to have fish at the very least 3 times a week – more is better. Try to include oily fish like mackerel and salmon. And have shellfish too – it is high in zinc and other vital minerals. Seafood is also an excellent source of protein.

What to Drink…

Water is essential – we all need water for healthy functioning. However, how much we need depends on person to person, because we get some of the water we need from food and other liquid intake. The best guidance is to drink when you are thirsty and don’t ignore your thirst! Your urine should be straw colour – if its darker drink more, if it is very pale drink less. Generally speaking you shouldn’t have ice cold water – it is best to have water at room temperature or warmer. However, if you are prone to feeling hot, it is a hot day or you have been exercising cool water is better – but not with a meal.

Reduce coffee and caffeinated teas. Coffee in particular is very heating. Some people can tolerate a little coffee well, but others may find it doesn’t suit them at all. Too much coffee can cause stomach problems, insomnia, headaches, anxiety and increase recurrence of UTI’s. Sometimes people can fall into a trap of using coffee as a prop to give you a boost when feeling sleepy, but it will just leave you feeling even worse when the caffeine hit wears off. If you are feeling drowsy at work or another time when you need to be active try walking around a bit, taking a short break and getting some fresh air.

Herbals and green teas are good to drink as an alternative to water. However, what is best depends on your particular health pattern. For example someone with weak digestion and prone to feeling the cold should avoid peppermint tea which is cooling, and someone who is very stressed or has hot flushes should avoid warming teas such as ginger or cinnamon. Speak to your acupuncturist for advice on what teas are best for you.

Don’t drink fizzy drinks like cola and lemonade – even if they are the diet versions. Sugar and sweeteners are equally as bad for you.

Fruit juices and smoothies have very high sugar content and no fibre. Fruit juices made from concentrate have no goodness in them – just fruit sugar which, is as bad as any other kind of sugar. So, if you do drink fruit juices, keep them to a minimum, dilute them with at least 50% water and don’t drink those made from concentrate.

Essential Rules:

  • In the winter and on colder days, it is important to eat warm foods that are easy to digest like soups and stews.
  • Don’t eat too late at night
  • make sure you have a substantial (warm) breakfast and lunch that includes protein.

A Final Word on Healthy Eating

The key to healthy eating is balance! Approach these modifications in a way that you can sustain. For some it will work best to make these changes gradually and for others, it works best to dive straight in. If you do make the changes you will start to feel the benefit in your health. The more you follow the guidance the better you will feel. Ultimately, it is your health, your body and your food choices so do what feels right for you and tune in to how your body reacts when you eat foods that are ‘good’ for you or ‘bad’ for you.

Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs. Chinese dietary therapy, like all Chinese medicine is tailored for the individual and their particular needs. For example, sometimes it is appropriate to reduce dairy, but for others, increasing protein and iron rich foods may be more important. Your acupuncturist will be able to advise you based on your diagnosis and symptoms. To make an appointment visit http://jillstorstein.com, Email: jillstorstein@gmail.com or telephone: 07772 501810

Jill Storstein, DipAc, MBAcC

‘Like ́my Facebook pages for more healthy eating and living tips www.facebook.com/JSAcupuncture or http://www.facebook.com/aberfeldyacupuncture/

 

Summer Allergies – An Acupuncturist’s Perspective

Woman sneezing
Woman sneezing (Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The warmer weather and longer days makes such a welcome change after the long dark and wet Scottish winter. It is glorious to see all the flowers and blossom blooming. It seems decidedly unfair that this can mean the arrival or exacerbation of allergies. An allergy is an overreaction of the body’s immune system to something in the environment which would normally be harmless. Its this reaction that causes the irritating and even debilitating symptoms. Allergies can present in a variety of different ways. Most commonly people associate the Spring with hayfever (allergic rhinitis) and its symptoms of runny/blocked nose, incessant sneezing, red itchy eyes and headaches. However, other allergies such as eczema, asthma and even migraines can also get worse for some in the summer months. These allergic reactions can be caused by allergens which is the collective term for anything provoking this reaction and includes pollen, man-made environmental pollutants, dust and animal dander which also increases as furry animals shed their winter coats.

A recent study (Acupuncture in Patients with Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: A Randomised Trial) showed acupuncture can be an effective treatment. So how does acupuncture help? Chinese medicine evolved over several millennia with an Eastern philosophical framework and without the use of microscopes and blood tests to identify environmental pollutants or measure increased immunoglobins. Nevertheless, it recognised and identified the invasion of pathogenic factors causing the symptoms we call allergies. The impact these pathogenic factors can have depends on the individual person’s constitution and the relative strength of the pathogen. Its for this reason that Chinese medicine (which encompasses acupuncture and Chinese dietary therapy) recognises that people can be more susceptible to allergens depending on what’s been going on in their lives, what their constitution is like, what the surrounding environmental conditions are and what foods they have been eating. What’s more, Chinese medicine has a diagnostic framework that combines these factors allowing practitioners to formulate a treatment that will not only address the immediate symptoms for example, itching or sneezing, but also the underlying causes. Using the appropriate acupunctures points can help to expel the pathogen, alleviating the symptoms and can help to strengthen the body’s defences and constitution to minimise future attacks. Moreover, using the principles of Chinese dietary therapy, traditional acupuncturists can provide easy to follow general dietary advice that will help further reduce sensitivities to allergens.