Health Column July 2018
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Spring Allergies & The Spleen: Looking at Pattern Differentiation
By Craig Williams, L.Ac., AHG

As the season of Spring fades away and we shift into the warm summer months, many patients suffer from chronic allergies. This is by far one of the most common issues I see in the clinic as well as often mistreated and misdiagnosed. It is not uncommon for practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to blindly administer "anti-histamine" herbal medicine from a TCM dispensary or a supplement based naturopathic approach.

Pattern Differentiation

While this generic approach may help some patients, the majority of my patients suffering from chronic allergies present complex TCM pattern presentations. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine must not blindly ignore the pattern differentiation and simply hand out patent medicines for "sinus issues" while ignoring the examination of the tongue, pulse, and other presenting symptoms which form the unique pattern presentation of each patient. Perhaps the most common presentation I see ignored in cases of chronic allergies which appear in the spring and continue into the summer season is Spleen Qi Vacuity. Time after time I see patients in my office who appear with bottles of generic "allergy" TCM patent medicines which do not fit the patient's tongue, pulse, and/or underlying symptom presentations.

Yes, the patient may present with a runny nose or sinus congestion, yet a generic TCM allergy patent medicine or a generic herbal / vitamin supplement does not address issues such as a pale swollen tongue with teeth-marks, a red swollen tongue with teeth marks and a sticky coat, a slippery or wiry pulse, and chronic sluggish digestion. Practitioners must address any signs of underlying Spleen Qi Vacuity and any concomitant complicating issues of Damp-Heat which commonly occurs with chronic Spleen issues. If these foundational underlying issues are ignored, allergies will continue to cause issues and even more, complications can ensue. The goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to treat the root and the branches, not simply put band-aids on the branches. Therefore, clinicians should look closely for underlying Spleen issues in chronic allergy issues and administer the appropriate TCM patents/formulas. One of the most important complicating side-effects of the chronic use of antihistamines, allopathic and herbal alike, is dryness. Patients suffering from chronic allergies commonly take antihistamines daily.

Issues With the Spleen

This chronic long-term use of antihistamines, whether herbal or allopathic, dry up mucus membranes throughout the body. This often results in Blood Vacuity from a TCM perspective. If there is an underlying Spleen Qi Vacuity, a concomitant Blood Vacuity will be a predictable outcome. This is one of the fundamental reasons why ignoring an underlying Spleen Qi issue while administering generic antihistamine formulas can cause so many long-term complications. Besides issues of drying resulting in or complicating TCM Blood Vacuity patterns, long-term use of antihistamines also does not address underlying complications of patterns of TCM Heat patterns. Such patterns as Depressive Heat, Damp Heat, and Vacuity Heat commonly appear along with underlying Spleen Qi Vacuity. Generic antihistamine formulas do not address complicated TCM Heat issues, and if combined with an underlying Spleen Vacuity / Blood Vacuity, then symptoms will only worsen on a deeper root-level.

Considerations to Make

It is extremely important for TCM practitioners and clinicians to consider these important details when encountering presentations of "spring allergies" or "summer colds" / "summer allergies." Such presentations often are the fruit of seeds of imbalance which were planted in the winter season when diets were heavy on fatty foods and sugar-laden foods. Diets heavy on protein, fat or sugar, so common in the cold holiday winter season, can be extremely taxing on the Spleen Qi. I have written a past article on the importance of the Spleen in a high-protein diet. This issue is extremely important to consider when patients present with spring allergies which are chronic or spring allergies which continue into the summer season. I hope this short article encourages clinicians to look deeper in cases of supposed simple allergies. Although this installment is short, the message is long overdue in the world of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Retrieved from: Acupuncture Today 


Prevention: Stop Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections
By James P. Meschino, DC, MS

The recurrent urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of those nuisance conditions that can play havoc with a quality of life, and this particular infection is much more common than most people realize. In fact, one in every two women develop a urinary tract infection during their lifetime, and 20-30 percent suffer recurrent urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections are known to be the most common bacterial infection in humans in developed countries. In the U.S., UTIs account for nearly 7 million office visits and 1 million emergency-department visits per year, resulting in 100,000 hospitalizations.

So, What Causes Urinary Tract Infections (and What Are the Risks)?

UTIs can be triggered by intercourse and other sexual activity, but are also common during pregnancy, in diabetics, and in patients with multiple sclerosis, history of kidney stones, stroke, and spinal cord injuries, and any condition that affects normal urine flow. (Use of a catheter and weakened immunity also greatly increase the risk of urinary tract infections.) For pregnant women, urinary tract infections can pose an important risk to the mother and the fetus. Pediatric UTIs can also become quite serious. For most adults, urinary tract infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but in some cases, an infection can move up the urinary tract and infect the kidneys, which is very serious, and/or can spread into the bloodstream, causing life-threatening sepsis.

What the Latest Research Says About Natural Prevention

Fortunately, a daily cranberry drink, or intake of cranberry capsules or tablets, has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent urinary tract infections in a large meta-analysis study. In this 2017 study, data from 1,498 women indicated that daily cranberry intake reduced recurrent urinary tract infections by 23 percent, as presented by researchers from Tufts University, UCLA and Biofortis Research at the Experimental Biology 2017 event in Chicago. They stated that limited data from subgroup analysis suggested cranberry was more effective when taken in the form of a cranberry capsule or tablet, whereby you are most likely to get a more concentrated dosage of the medicinal ingredients. However, a recent study involving the consumption of a cranberry drink (250 ml/day) did show a 27 percent reduced risk of UTI recurrence in women who had been recently treated with antibiotics for a UTI.

Clinical Takeaway

Over the years, it has been shown that certain ingredients in cranberry, and cranberry extract capsules and tablets, can reduce the ability of E. coli bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract. This makes it easier to eliminate these bacteria during urination. So, the takeaway message is that if a patient is prone to UTIs, daily consumption of a cranberry drink or supplement may be a prudent way to help prevent the onset of future UTIs. However, it's important to note that during an active urinary tract infection, cranberry products cannot be used as a substitute for antibiotic therapy, but can be taken concurrently with an antibiotic to help enhance the efficacy of the antibiotic treatment. It is also wise to consume a probiotic supplement concurrently with antibiotics to preserve the gut and vaginal microflora.

Retrieved from: Acupuncture Today