Allergies are diagnosed through testing in which the practitioner exposes the patient to the allergen and then examines the reaction. Conventional medicine offers a spectrum of medication for treating allergies, such as over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription nasal steroid sprays to reduce inflammation in the mucus membranes. Often the condition is treated with “allergy shots” through which the allergen itself is administered with the goal of eventually desensitizing the patient to it. Erekosima believes that sublingual (under the tongue) preparations—which are available but not yet FDA-approved—will ultimately replace the injection method.
If treating the allergy with the substance that causes it sounds familiar to alternative wellness professionals, that’s because it is a classic example of homeopathy, the hundreds-year-old discipline still commonly practiced in Europe. The founding principle of homeopathy is that “like cures like,” a strategy widely embraced in treating allergies.
“When allergens such as pollen are distilled down and potentized, they will actually relieve the symptoms,” explains Dr. Richard Hiltner, a family practitioner and doctor of homeopathy who practices in Ojai, California—a valley rich in vegetation and surrounded by mountains and, therefore, a breeding ground for outdoor allergies. The homeopathic remedies that he prescribes come in many forms, including sublingual pellets, liquid drops, sprays, eye drops and more.
Acupuncture can also be a powerful treatment for alleviating allergy symptoms. “Through acupuncture we can work on the lung channel,” Hiltner explains. “Also, there are channels around the nasal area that correspond to the stomach and digestive systems, which can relate to allergies. We look at the whole and holistic picture of the individual—mental, physical, emotional, it’s all related.”
Stress and negative emotions may also play a role in exacerbating symptoms, as they can weaken the adrenal glands, says Hiltner. Therefore, treatments and supplements that support the adrenal system can have a positive effect on the lungs and, as a result, respiratory allergies.
Hiltner also stresses the importance of an anti-allergy diet. “It has long been known that dairy [and other foods] can adversely affect sinus problems,” he points out. “If someone is suffering from allergies and they’re drinking milkshakes and eating processed foods, of course that will have an effect.” He also cites alcohol, caffeine and exposure to toxins as added stressors on the proverbial camel’s back, working cumulatively to cause it to break. Ultimately, Hiltner says, chronic allergies are a constitutional weakness.