Thursday, 28 November 2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Allergic Rhinitis (Part 4)

This is Part 4 and also the last part of the series on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and allergic rhinitis. I hope you have a better understanding of how TCM works on allergic rhinitis condition after reading this series. In case you have missed the earlier parts: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. In this last series, we will take a look at how we can use Acupressure to provide relief for allergic rhinitis over time. 


ACUPRESSURE AND ALLERGIC RHINITIS 
Away from the treatment room, you can try some acupressure on your hand or by your nose. It’s not as effective as with a needle but it may give you some relief.


Hegu




Fengchi

Yingxiang

Use the pictures as a general guide to help you locate the points, and then feel for where it feels sore. Press down for 30 seconds to a minute, firmly but not so hard that you leave a fingernail mark.

Acupuncture may not seem like the most practical way to relieve allergic rhinitis and it does take dedication and commitment from the patient but what many find is that over time, the course of treatment shortens i.e. around the third consecutive year of treatment they may require fewer treatments or the symptoms are less severe.

Credit: Images from A Manual of Acupuncture with acupressure indications by Ka Hang Leoungk

More about Ka Hang Leoungk: Ka Hang practices traditional acupuncture at the renowned Hale Clinic near Regent’s Park in central London, and Neal’s Yard Remedies on King’s Road, Chelsea. She trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from Middlesex University in the UK, and completed a Bachelor of Medicine from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She is a Registered Acupuncturist, member of the British Acupuncture Council (MBAcC) and one of few practitioners in the UK to use the Balance Method style of acupuncture. She is also an Academic Associate of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) You can find her on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Monday, 25 November 2013

How To Choose A Vacuum Cleaner For Allergy Sufferer


If you are allergic to dust mite or pet dander, it is very important to vacuum your house regularly to keep your allergy in control. But some allergy sufferers find that their allergies worsen or flare up AFTER vacuuming. Why is this so? The problem lies in the vacuum cleaner. Here's some tips on what to look out for when buying a vacuum cleaner for allergy sufferers:

True HEPA filter
HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA-filters trap fine particles that trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, like pet dander and dust mite faeces. This is the first and most important feature to look out for when purchasing a vacuum cleaner for an allergy sufferer.

There are many grades of HEPA filtration. The higher the HEPA filter grading, the higher the filtration. Example: 

A HEPA 10 filter screens out 85% of the airborne particles

A HEPA 13 filter eliminates 99.95 % of these particles

A True HEPA filter, by definition, must remove 99.97% of particles at least 0.3 microns in size. This is as small or smaller than pollen, pet dander and mold. Ideally, this is what an allergy sufferer should opt for. In Europe, this is the equivalent of S-Class filter.

Well Sealed Unit
It is important that you choose a vacuum cleaner that is well sealed, so that it does not leak air out before it gets filtered. Otherwise, the vacuum cleaner is just stirring the dust/air and spewing the allergen particles back into the environment, causing the allergy sufferer to experience allergic symptoms.

There are many channels air could possible leak out e.g. poor hose connections, leaking canisters etc. It is best if you can purchase a vacuum cleaner that certifies the ENTIRE vacuum cleaner to be well sealed. If it is not certified that the entire vacuum cleaner is well sealed, check with the salesman or retailer how it works to prevent air from escaping. This is a big ticket item, if they cannot give you a satisfactory answer, pass.

Other Considerations
Of course there are other factors to consider as well, like living space, budget, flooring, ease of use and other frills/features one would like to have. But for an allergy sufferer, those two features: True HEPA and well sealed unit are most important.

There are some vacuum cleaners offered by Allergy Store that are excellent for allergy sufferers and fulfils these key criteria. Check them out if you are looking for one to protect yourself from allergies.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Allergic Rhinitis (Part 3)

This is a continuation of Part 2. In this post, we explore how acupuncture works with allergic rhinitis and what you can expect during acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture and Allergic Rhinitis
Acupuncture helps in relieving the allergic rhinitis by strengthening the body’s system, tonifying the Spleen and qi, supporting the exterior so that it’s not so vulnerable to attack by external factors, and scattering wind-cold.

Acupuncture for allergic rhinitis works best as a preventative measure rather than wait for it to happen then expect a cure. Treatment often starts 8 weeks to 3 months beforehand, so in the case of hay fever, I suggest starting in February to build up the system. Most patients find weekly sessions adequate up until the season is over but they will require maintenance sessions again in the following year.
The most important thing about an acupuncture treatment is that you are comfortable, both physically and that you can communicate freely and well with your acupuncturist. Sterile, disposable needles will most likely be inserted in your face, arms, back and legs. You may feel a sharp prick upon insertion but afterwards there should be no more sharpness. However you may feel a sense of achiness, heaviness or soreness which is called de-qi, otherwise known as needle-grasp or needle-sensation. This is fine but do let your acupuncturist know if it’s too strong and they can tone it down.
Generally the nasal congestion should be relieved during your treatment, however it is still recommended you avoid allergens. In the first year, acupuncture aims to help improve your quality of life with allergic rhinitis, some patients are able to stop using their antihistamines or nasal sprays but others find that they still need it albeit less frequently. You may also be prescribed herbal remedies and that would supplement your acupuncture treatment and in all honesty this two-pronged approach is probably best when it comes to relieving allergic rhinitis, combined with a healthy lifestyle.
More about Ka Hang Leoungk: Ka Hang practices traditional acupuncture at the renowned Hale Clinic near Regent’s Park in central London, and Neal’s Yard Remedies on King’s Road, Chelsea. She trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from Middlesex University in the UK, and completed a Bachelor of Medicine from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She is a Registered Acupuncturist, member of the British Acupuncture Council (MBAcC) and one of few practitioners in the UK to use the Balance Method style of acupuncture. She is also an Academic Associate of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) You can find her on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Allergic Rhinitis (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Part 1. In this post, we look at what causes allergic rhinitis from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. 

Allergic rhinitis is generally described as a congenital problem (you were born with it) or due to some kind of deficiency or dysfunction of an organ(s). Simply said, it’s usually a chronic condition that has had a long time to build up. Most people don’t have an acute bout of sneezing due to allergies for one day and then never have it again.

In TCM we tend to characterise allergic rhinitis as a problem of the Lung, Spleen and Kidney, with some added external factors like damp, wind-cold, or stress.

The sneezing, itching, nasal congestion and clear, watery nasal discharge of an acute attack of allergic rhinitis are all classified as a wind-cold attack (exactly like the common cold). In your body’s defensive system, the Lung is the first one to encounter any invaders and that is the case here. All the wind-cold evils (here it may be pollen, dust, spores or animal dander etc) come rushing in causing the uncomfortable symptoms. If this happens for long enough the Lung’s function gets compromised and it fails to diffuse the fluids which results in damp and phlegm. 

Damp and phlegm in TCM can mean both the visible viscous discharge or mucus, but when referred to in a TCM diagnosis it is a pattern that describes a cause or effect of illness. Like the damp found in houses, damp and phlegm are relatively easy to have (especially in today’s western lifestyle), really disrupts the body’s function and get be quite hard to truly get rid of. Unlike wind-cold which attacks but doesn’t really hang around for long, damp can be the cause of long term harm to your wellbeing by causing lethargy, fatigue, headaches and general “fuzzy-head”. 

Regarding allergic rhinitis, the damp accumulation due to the Lung’s dysfunction results in nasal discharge and congestion. The itchiness that is often associated with allergies is due to the wind. One can say that all sufferers of allergic rhinitis have deep-lying or hidden phlegm in the Lung which then becomes vulnerable in the presence of an external aggravant. 

However, for the external factors to invade and affect the system, there must be an underlying deficiency in the body’s defense system. Enter a second character, the Spleen. The Spleen’s main function is to transform the nutrients from the food you eat and transport them throughout the body. If the Spleen is malfunctioning, the transforming and transporting doesn’t happen properly and the most common result of that is damp accumulation. 

Here is the catch though: unlike the Lung where damp caused nasal congestion and discharge, damp in the Spleen weakens the Spleen which then affects its transform and transport function even more, creating more damp which then perpetuates the problem. It’s a catch-22, which is why damp can be so hard to remove from the body. 

So what creates this Spleen deficiency? It can be due to ageing, which is inevitable, but also over-worrying, stress, fatigue, medication like antibiotics or most commonly a poor diet. A poor diet in TCM doesn’t only mean malnutrition or eating fried, fast food exclusively. It includes eating on the go, rushing through your meals, arguing during meal-times and eating too many sugar, sweets, uncooked, chilled or cold food and drinks. The Spleen likes things warm and cozy so anything that feels like being dunked in a cold water tank while wearing a multi-layered ballgown is going to feel awful.

 
More about Ka Hang Leoungk: Ka Hang practices traditional acupuncture at the renowned Hale Clinic near Regent’s Park in central London, and Neal’s Yard Remedies on King’s Road, Chelsea. She trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from Middlesex University in the UK, and completed a Bachelor of Medicine from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She is a Registered Acupuncturist, member of the British Acupuncture Council (MBAcC) and one of few practitioners in the UK to use the Balance Method style of acupuncture. She is also an Academic Associate of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) You can find her on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

You're Not Alone...Celebrities With Allergies

Behind all the glitter and glamour, these celebrities are just as human, like you and me. They too, suffer from the sniffles and sneezes due to allergies.  Here are 10 celebrities with allergies:

1. Tiger Woods - Pollen Allergy









2. Nicolette Sheridan - Flower Allergy

3. Jessica Alba - Cat Allergy

4. Scarlett Johansson - Hay fever
credit: dcimovies












5. Kim Kardashian - Cat Allergy

6. Alanis Morissette - Cat Allergy

7. Alicia Silverstone - Cat Allergy

8. Gillian Anderson - Cat Allergy

9. Diane Kruger - Flower Allergy
credit: whatculture.com












10. Melanie C - Hay fever


Are you surprised that some of them suffer from allergies and yet still able to excel in their area of work? I am! Amazing how Tiger Woods has pollen allergy, but is a world-class golfer; The beautiful and sexy Scarlett Johansson - can you imagine her sexy sneezes while acting outdoors?!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Allergic Rhinitis (Part 1)

As you know, I've always been interested in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). But its beyond me to explain how TCM works in dealing with allergies. It is my pleasure to invite Ka Hang Leoungk, a TCM practitioner, to share more on this topic in this series of guest post. Read more on her credentials below. 

What is Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is one discipline under the umbrella of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which includes Chinese herbal medicine, tuina (Chinese remedial massage) and nutrition. At its simplest, acupuncture is the insertion of sterile needles in a particular area or point on the body. To determine the areas needled, your acupuncturist would diagnose you through a physical consultation that includes questions on your current state and past medical history which helps him or her arrive at a diagnosis using TCM theory. It is this diagnosis using TCM that differentiates the school of traditional acupuncture from the more recent “western medical acupuncture” practiced by physiotherapists, osteopaths etc, which primarily focuses on using acupuncture for pain conditions. 

An Introduction to TCM 

TCM can seem paradoxically vague and complex to the layman, and that is partly due to the terms and definitions which can be translated into the English language but don’t necessarily correspond to its English counterpart. You may have heard about phrases like, “Anger causes Liver dysfunction” which can seem quite alarming. I know my non-TCM brain automatically associates Liver dysfunction with Hepatitis or cirrhosis. Or you may have picked up that “low back pain is due to poor Kidneys and problem with the Bladder”. Again, what does that mean? If I have low back problems am I eventually going to need dialysis and be incontinent?  

You may have noticed that I spelt Liver, Kidney and Bladder with capitals, as if I were describing John, May and Watson. And I could be. The best way to begin to understand TCM is to see the organs described as a character with functions and duties, likes and dislikes. Think of TCM as a Game of Thrones saga (without the backstabbing and dragons).  

TCM originated thousands of years ago in China and a lot of the theory was based on anatomical studies on cadavers along with observations of patterns and syndromes on living patients. A simple example: they noticed that if you were caught out in the rain and then had no dry change of clothing you would end up cold and wet, shivering even if you were by a fire. The ancient Chinese didn’t have the tools and understanding we have today to describe bacteria and viruses but they could observe and note down what they saw. If something happened enough times, the ancient doctors sought to give explanations, and as this happened in ancient China, a lot of the explanations were poetic and abstract, which sometimes makes it difficult for the western mind to understand. 

However, all the observations made by the ancient Chinese happened in the natural world, and the world is the same everywhere. The seasons may be different depending on which hemisphere you’re in but seasons will still change. Leaves may not go a beautiful golden red if you don’t leave in parts of north America but you still know if it’s autumn. Here in the UK where I live, summer doesn’t necessarily happen just because the calendar says it’s June, but when summer does eventually show up, you can definitely feel a change in the air. This is what the ancient Chinese and practitioners of TCM describe as yin and yang.  

The very simplistic definition of yin and yang is opposites, as in day and night, heavy and light, female and male. However in TCM, a better way to understand yin and yang is to think of changes and cycles. Just like the cold, dark days of winter cannot last forever because spring is always going to be around the corner, when it comes to our health there will be peaks and troughs. Yin and yang is the very opposite of the mentality that believes in yo-yo dieting or binges. A curry lover may love spicy-hot food but they can’t eat it every single day without it doing harm to their body. Eventually somewhere they will crave (or be ordered to) eat some fresh vegetables that are mildly flavoured. 

I tell my patients to imagine themselves as being on a x-y graph where the goal is to hover around zero-balance. Zero does sound so boring and unimaginative, after all who wants to be zero? I do! We will all inevitably fluctuate, perhaps up to +5 then down to -3 then back to +2 but either way our bodies are naturally trying to rebalance and recalibrate around the 0-mark. That is the ultimate yin-yang.  

Your body is like the government: there is the local government at city hall, then representatives of the county, then higher up is the state or province leading ultimately to the big shots. The president doesn’t generally interfere with the city hall’s recycling policy and the city hall officials tend to not really affect the workings of the province, but sometimes a decision from high up can have strong effects on the grassroots projects. 

In the same way, those five extra cookies you had at lunch shouldn’t really make a difference on your overall health, but overindulge at every meal every day for three years and your body will definitely feel it. This is where those organ names like Spleen, Kidney, Stomach etc enter the picture.  

Remarkably the ancient Chinese didn’t attribute body functions and characteristics to randomly picked names like Lotus, Dragon and Tree. They picked actual names of anatomical organs and appointed functions which sometimes actually corresponded with its respective anatomical functions, you can imagine the confusion this causes. So do bear in mind when reading anything TCM-related that we are talking about the TCM organ, the general practice is to capitalize the first letter.


More about Ka Hang Leoungk: Ka Hang practices traditional acupuncture at the renowned Hale Clinic near Regent’s Park in central London, and Neal’s Yard Remedies on King’s Road, Chelsea. She trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from Middlesex University in the UK, and completed a Bachelor of Medicine from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. She is a Registered Acupuncturist, member of the British Acupuncture Council (MBAcC) and one of few practitioners in the UK to use the Balance Method style of acupuncture. She is also an Academic Associate of the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) You can find her on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Kinesiology Tape To Provide Hay Fever Relief?



A few days back, my other half bought Kinesiology Acti-Tape for sports use. These Kinesiology Tape are used to relieve pain and support injured muscles whilst enabling movement. They were very popular amongst the athletes during 2012 Olympic games. I was very surprised when my other half showed me this video link printed in the product brochure. It demonstrates how you can use the tape to provide Hay Fever relief!? Quite unbelievable, isn't it? I can't really link up how this tape works with Hay Fever, until I dig deeper.


What is Kinesiology?
It is a holistic way of detecting and correcting imbalances in your body’s energy. According to The Australian Women's Weekly, Kinesiologists believe each muscle group is related to other body parts, such as digestive organs and nerves. Thus these imbalances may relate to allergies, stress, injury, anxiety or some other causes.


How does Kinesiology Tape provide Hay Fever relief?
This is how I think it works: By placing a tape at areas of imbalances for Hay Fever (as shown in video above), it helps to enhance blood flow to the muscles concerned and clear energy blockages. As these energy blockages are the root cause of your Hay Fever allergy, once they are cleared, your allergy will also improve. This, in my opinion, works very much like Acupuncture, where needles are used to help unblock your meridian points and let Qi flows better.

Would love to hear if anyone has tried this method before for Hay Fever relief? Quite an unconventional way I must say. But if it works, then its much better option than popping antihistamine pills isn't it?