The Problem with Antihistamines, An Acupuncturist View
A letter to people with “allergies” and their Acupuncturists.
Antihistamines are drying by nature. Their job is to dry the inflammatory secretions released by the immune system to deal with allergens. They work really well to dry up mucous, phlegm, nasal secretions, tears etc. As drying agents they damage the yin aspects of the body. The yin aspects are the wet, cooling, moist, mucous membranes, fluid secretions, blood, fat and lymph. I general yin essence encompasses the fluids of the body.
The problem with antihistamines is that over time they dry out the membranes of the body they are not supposed to dry. In my patients I have seen side effects from their overuse such as dry bleeding vaginal tissue, leaky gut, pain between the shoulder blades, insomnia, agitation, dry cracked eyes, damage to the myelin sheath of nerve endings, damage to the lining of the lungs, the sinuses, drying of the skin, constipation, anal fissures, thirst and damage to joint tissue.
How are these symptoms related to antihistamines? Anti-histamines dry up all of the delicate tissues of the body including most mucous membranes, including the gut lining, the eyes and the myelin sheath of nerve endings. In Chinese Medicine we call this yin deficiency.
Let’s take them one by one. But in essence the actions of the drug are the same in different parts of the body. Because antihistamines target the head, sinuses and upper part of the body and because the yin is weakest in the upper part of the body we often see the symptoms begin in the upper regions of the body. Often I will encounter a patient that has pain in the medial upper scapula. In terms of acupuncture points, Small Intestine 13, 14 are common as well as the Lung and Heart Back Shu points. But the yin deficiency and cascading qi stagnation will also cause the extended liver meridian in the SCM to become tight creating muscle spasm and TMJ.
The theoretical mechanism works this way: The drying action of the antihistamines attack the lung and heart nerves causing deficiency heat or minor inflammation of the nerves. When the nerves become inflamed they create pain. The antihistamines drying action travels from the Zhong qi, (the heart and lung qi) directly to the Back Shu but also from the heart meridian via the small intestine meridian to the back inner scapula and upper back.
I have seen many patients come in my door complaining of fibromyalgia and sharp upper back pain thinking it was related to lifting or stress. In away it is related to stress. I have experienced this pain between the shoulder blades, myself, due to drinking too much coffee. Caffeine stimulates the heart. Drinking coffee is like fake exercise. Like excess exercise, caffeine stimulates the heart qi, eventually creating heat, drying up the yin and created heart yin deficiency. The hot dry heart nerves become inflamed because their cooling yin, fatty sheaths get “burnt out.” The irritated nerves are inflamed and can cause yin deficiency symptoms like insomnia, agitation, anxiety, pain in the heart and lung nerves of the upper thoracic region. Caffeine does the same to the kidney and adrenals, causing more yin deficiency fatigue. All of these symptom lead to stress.
Antihistamines dry out not only the upper thoracic nerves, they dry out the whole body. I have had clients tell me they have dry, cracked and bleeding vaginal wall tissue when they take too many antihistamines. I have other clients who suffered dry eyes and literally cracked eyes due to a life long use of antihistamines.
The drying of the mucous membranes of the gut lining causes leaky gut leading to further inflammation and allergic responses. As the intestinal mucous membranes get thin, large molecules get through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream causing irritation, allergic and auto immune reactions through out the whole body. This is a nasty cycle that needs to be stopped. But how do you break the cycle?
The answer lies in reducing the number of inflammatory processes in the body. The first way is with diet. Having your patients eliminate wheat, dairy, sugar, soda, caffeine, corn, soy, peanuts, and sometimes eggs. Eliminate all processed foods. Eat organic protein, vegies, non-glutinous whole grains, low glycemic fruits, and fermented foods. Eat high quality oils such as olive oil, light sesame oil, coconut oil, avocados and seeds.
If you reduce all of the inflammatory and allergic foods from the diet, many times the allergic reaction of sneezing, wheezing, itchy red, puffy eyes and clogged sinuses will go away. Once the phlegm and mucous has been reduced and eliminated then the need for antihistamines is reduced or eliminated. I’ve seen it work many times in countless patients.
People with permeable leaky gut lining have to heal their gut. We do that with diet and supplements and the elimination of antihistamines. Once you remove the antihistamine’s drying action and you reduce the inflammatory foods in the diet, the immune system has a chance to calm down and return to normal.
Once the body is no longer busy defending it’s self from allergens, and inflammatory foods the body can regain strength and heal. Once the antihistamines no longer dry up and heat up the body, the nerves can calm down, the pain disappears and the tissues rebuild.
Other factors can cause inflammation, an unbalanced micro-biome, toxins, mold, emotional factors, structural stresses, electromagnetic stress, nutritional deficiencies, dental issues, genetic weakness and as we mentioned allergies.
If you start with food, 70-80 % of the time the need for antihistamines will reduce and symptoms will resolve. The other 20-30 percent of people need to do further detoxification to eliminate inflammatory factors. In most cases this is the secret to healing. Eliminate all factors that cause inflammation and rebuild the system.
Acupuncture goes a long way to helping to reduce inflamed nerves and pain. It will reduce the patient’s pain, balance out the nerves, clear heat and re-nourish the yin. But the client must make the proper dietary and life style changes to address the root issue and cause.
Helping your clients understanding of the root cause and mechanisms of the disease or dysfunction may help to motivate change.
Ask your patients if they are taking antihistamines. The typical patient will show damp heat and yin deficiency signs. The tongue could be pale, pink, red, dry, delicate, with no coat or sometimes a thin or thick coat. It depends on the relative spectrum of yin deficiency and phlegm. Pulses can be strong or weak, thin or wiry and bounding, taught etc.
The yin deficiency with damp condition is known as a knotty condition. Like a Gordian knot, it is a difficult pattern to resolve. One has to reduce phlegm and inflammation and nourish the yin. Treating each one exacerbates the other.
The best way to do this is with diet and acupuncture and herbs. Reduce all inflammatory foods, re-nourish with clean foods, add herbs when necessary and give acupuncture. This will give the best results.
Follow these protocols and have your patients speak with their doctor about reducing their need for antihistamines. In this way you will find many answers and helpful resolutions to you and your clients’ conditions.