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Thu, Nov 27, 2014

LIVING WELL: News about allergy, asthma treatments holds promise

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There have been several interesting news stories circulating about asthma and allergies in the past few weeks.

Allergy and asthma symptoms are closely related, and both reflect an apparent dysfunction involving the immune system.

One of the most fascinating is the story this week in the media concerned a new study that has found acupuncture helps allergy patients in terms of quality of life and decreased need for medication.

In this study, it was found that patients who received acupuncture care for 12 weeks fared significantly better than control groups that did not receive the treatment.

In my experience, acupuncture produces positive outcomes for a majority of patients. This includes those with allergies, frequent sinus problems, headaches, chronic pain, hot flashes, arthritis and other conditions.

Just like any other treatment regimen, there are some patients who do not respond as readily as others. However, most patients are very pleased with their outcomes and actually look forward to the relaxing treatments.

Dr. Benno Brinkhaus, a physician and acupuncturist who co-authored the study, is quoted as saying, “I would recommend trying acupuncture if patients are not satisfied with the conventional anti-allergic medication or treatment or they suffer from more or less serious side effects of the conventional medication.”

Considering that research into the effects of acupuncture is still in its relatively early stages, this is a surprisingly strong recommendation. Given the fact that I have found acupuncture results can be surprisingly positive and because the treatment is relatively free of side effects, I echo his statement.

While the study about acupuncture illustrated a treatment that is proven safe and available today for allergy sufferers, other news points to a possible future solution to asthma patients.

Researchers in the United Kingdom have discovered that our lungs are chock full of microbes, including fungi. In fact, the researchers learned that on average, a person has more than 130 different varieties of fungus dwelling within their lungs.

While this finding may give comfort to some in the realization that they are never alone thanks to their fungal friends, for most people the thought of so many co-inhabitants is somewhat revolting.

The more interesting aspect of the research is the fact that the researchers discovered asthma patients typically had at least 46 different types of diverse fungus compared with the profile of variants found in non-asthmatic patients.

Although the researchers are not sure what the findings mean at this point, especially in terms of developing treatment strategies for asthma, the study is a remarkable contribution to understanding the condition.

This new finding opens up an extremely wide path in the search for answers to the asthma puzzle. For example, is it possible that asthma might respond to anti-fungal medications? Because over usage of antibiotics can lead to unrestrained overgrowth of fungi, is this an implication that antibiotic use can lead to asthma?

This study could even lead to unconventional treatments, such as with certain light frequencies that are known to be anti-fungal.

Note that apparently most species of fungus found are either benign or perhaps even beneficial. It is not likely that any treatment will be intended to destroy all microbial fungi in the lungs, just the ones that make asthmatics sick.

It is also not clear whether the finding suggests fungi are a cause of asthma symptoms or the result of an internal disorder that is associated with condition.

Many patients have found that asthma responds positively to taking probiotic supplements. Probiotics are essentially beneficial bacteria that are ingested by the billions when taking the supplements. The addition of beneficial bacteria into the body tends to help stave off overgrowth of fungi and harmful bacteria. Perhaps, these new findings may lead to a better use of probiotic supplements, even one that could be inhaled.

Although compelling, this new study is just the first step in the long process of developing new treatments, which may be decades away from becoming a reality.

For now, patients may find that a trial of acupuncture brings significant improvement in their lives.

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Dr. Kestner
Tags: 
Allergies, Asthma, Health, Health Care, Living Well, Science
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