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Acupuncture and TCM for Allergies: Revisited

This morning I went to--or rather I went back to--an acupuncturist I'd gone to over six years ago. I initially sought acupuncture treatment for allergies after having very little success from years and years of seeking treatment from Western-medicine practitioners. Those years ago, I met with Dr. Leyun Shao, and we did an initial consultation. She told me about her treatment method, which combined acupuncture and energy healing from Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM. The specific allergy program is called NAET, which stands for Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (more about the origin of NAET here). From her practice's website:

NAET - a program which treats allergies or sensitivities to any substance that the body reacts to, such as foods, pollens, dust, animals, chemicals, etc. NAET is also effective in treating chronic disease states such as MS, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Other treatable conditions include Irritable Bowel Syndrome, headaches, and asthma. The treatments are easy, and avoidance of the treated substance lasts only hours, not weeks or months.
Dr. Shao combines the concept of Energy Healing and the therapies listed above to rejuvenate her patients, and to strengthen her patients' natural toleration for allergens.

I went for this treatment for many months back in 2005/2006, and I was treated for a wide variety of allergens: wheat, dairy, sugar, pollen, dust, chemicals, and probably others I can't remember. Over time, I did notice significant improvement, and I eventually just stopped going. It also got expensive, as this type of treatment is not covered by my insurance, but for what you get, the price is pretty reasonable ($65/session).

Recently I've experienced an influx of allergic symptoms, mostly sinus/nasal, but also skin irritations. I've also been training outside more, with running and CrossBoot, so I had a good idea that the allergens were environmental. I decided it was time to go back to Dr. Shao. I wasn't sure she'd remember me, as it's been quite some time. Also, she has moved to a new practice and location since I previously went. But after some searching, I was still able to find her online, at Florida Acupuncture Solutions (warning: this site can take a long time to load), and I made my appointment.

I showed up a little early for my 7:45 a.m. appointment time, and the office was not yet open. But after a few minutes, a car pulled in next to mine with three individuals, one of whom (not the one I knew) was waving to me in a very friendly manner. We all got out of our cars, and the three of them--Dr. Shao, the other practitioner, Dr. Lian Xue, and a man who I believe is Dr. Shao's husband (though I'm not certain) and also the office manager, who'd made my appointment. They all seemed so genuinely happy to see me as they opened the door for me and let me in.

Dr. Shao said she remembered my face and asked if I'd cut my hair since last time I saw her (I had, significantly). She then led me directly into one of the treatment rooms and began recalling my history--frighteningly accurately. I knew the new office hadn't carried over files from the old office, so the fact that she remember all of my conditions and anxieties from before, and in detail, was stunning to me. She also remember where I worked. She had me lie down on the exam table and looked up my nose and took my pulse. She then asked me why I worked every day, even on the weekends. I was again stunned that she could tell this from her very quick exam. When I saw her previously, I was not yet copy-editing on the side of my full-time job, so it wasn't something from her memory. I explained to her why I work two jobs, and very shortly after that, the allergy treatment was underway.

Dr. Shao began the energy-medicine portion of the treatment, which went like this: she had me hold my thumb and ring finger together (pictured below), and then she had me hold a small jar with a vile of some allergen substance inside in the other hand. Next, she asked a question to my body (for lack of a better way to describe it), but not out loud. And then she told me to resist as she tried to pull apart my finger-thumb connection. And she went through a series of these Q&As and muscle testing for several different allergens: wheat, dairy, sugar, fungus, and pollen. What's interesting is that I felt like I was trying my hardest to keep my finger and thumb connected each time, but my ability to resist her pulling was different depending on the allergen. I could feel when my ability was weaker, and that meant that I had more sensitivity to the particular substance I was holding at that time. Through this exercise, Dr. Shao determined that I was most sensitive to pollen and fungus, so that's what she began to treat me for.


The next phase is difficult to describe, but here's my effort: Dr. Shao had me hold the two jars with viles containing pollen and fungus of some sort, one jar in each hand. Then she did more specific Q&A and muscle testing to determine how much treatment was needed. (This is the part I don't fully understand, but I accept it anyway.) That resulted in a number, today it was nine, which was the number of times she would do the following: she had me sit up on the table and then performed a series of spinal tapping with her hand while I first took in a deep breath, then exhaled, then breathed in and out in quick succession, then relaxed. That was one set. We repeated eight more times. We did that exercise for each of the two allergens we were treating. I guess a good way to describe it is clearing or opening my energy pathways. That's what it seems like, anyway.

Next came the acupuncture portion of the treatment. Dr. Shao had me lie back down on the table and prepped me for the needles. I'm not bothered by needles in general, and these needles were particularly benign, as they were very thin and didn't go into the skin very far. She adjusted my clothing so that most of my body was exposed (and then expressed concern that the back of my dress might wrinkle, to which I replied I didn't mind). She quickly swabbed the following places with alcohol in preparation for the needles: the very top of my head, between my eyebrows, on either side of my nose, behind each ear, on each hand, on about four places on my abdomen, several places on my legs, and one area on each foot. Once the needles were in place, she then shined a couple of warm heat lamps on my body and left me alone in the room to "bake" for 20 minutes or so. That part is rather relaxing, and I usually start to doze off right before my time is up.

After the timer went off, the other doctor at the practice came in and removed my needles. I re-placed my clothing and went to check out. She offered me a couple of homeopathic allergy medications (a tablet and a nasal spray, both manufactured by Adrisin), which I took just to see how they work. I may not continue doing that, as it does add significantly to the cost. But I felt like I should oblige during my first visit. I rescheduled for the same time and day next week, and all three of the staff wished me a happy farewell and a good weekend.

This type of treatment may not be for everyone, and I think it helps to have an open mind when undergoing it, so right away that eliminates a lot of people from even trying it out. But personally, I have found it beneficial, and I hope to reap the benefits for a few more weeks to come. The idea is that your body becomes used to the allergens and eventually no longer reacts to them, so you're not supposed to go for the rest of your life. But I probably should have gone for a few tune-ups over the past six+ years.

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