Friday, March 20, 2015

Why Traditional Chinese Medicine for Food Allergy Treatment

Why seek treatment at all

For a year after James's diagnosis, we followed the allergist's advice, which was to avoid his allergens, carry an epi-pen and come back in a year for a food challenge. When he failed a food challenge at the first dose, requiring epinephrine, I began to go into research overdrive. And, I was convinced that he should seek treatment.

James, on the other hand, wanted no part of it. And, age 11 at the time, I respected that he needed to want treatment. I won't say I dropped it, but we weren't going to enroll him in something against his wishes.

June 30, 2014 

James had a two system reaction to a new food (it turned out to be honeydew melon, although it was diagnosed by Urgent Care as mango - always seek treatment from a Board Certified Allergist!). We did not have an action plan from the first allergist we saw. However, having done tons of research by this point, I knew enough that James need to use an epi-pen, which he administered himself. Being diagnosed with a new food (ultimately two, honeydew and tomatoes, although OAS, rarely anaphylactic, 1-2%. James tends to get GI symptoms in addition to throat tightness so we avoid raw forms strictly), convinced James that he was ready to seek treatment. At this point, it took a few weeks and a therapy visit for him to convince me, because I did not want him to decide under the stress of a reaction.

Why Traditional Chinese Medicine (and Dr. Li)

James has a complex allergic history

July 4th, 2004, 3 days after he turned 3, we brought James in after watching fireworks and soon he was covered in head to toe hives the size of my husband's palm. They lasted (controlled by medication) for the next 3 years. This condition is know as chronic idiopathic urticaria (chronic hives, cause unknown). Even when he outgrew it, he still does occasionally get hives from overheating or from the wrong environmental allergen.

The goal of TCM is to heal the immune system. Although there is no correlation between having chronic urticaria and food allergies, in one person, it indicates to me a  basic issue with his immune system. It's the underlying healing that I am focused on.

James does not want to ingest his allergens

Ultimately, that is the goal. However, with OIT, you ingest them while still allergic. There seems to be debate about how common reactions are during OIT. It is generally agreed that most reactions are not severe. For the purpose of this post, I'm going to use this quote: "Wasserman (a private OIT doctor) says that about 15 percent of his patients drop out of OIT for reasons including severe reactions; stomachaches or vomiting hours after dosing; an aversion to the foods to which they are allergic; and anxiety." 

Whatever the rate and whomever you believe, I believe James would have been one of the percentage to drop out, for the anxiety if not the actual reactions. His journey with TCM has not been completely reaction free (GI upset and shortness of breath) but he is able to both tolerate it and work past it, which I don't think he could have done eating his allergens.

Dr. Li

Dr. Li is the only TCM practitioner/researcher/western Dr. in the U.S. that is researching the effects of TCM on allergic conditions. In addition, all of her herbs are tested for safety, both by a WHO lab in China and her lab at Mt. Sinai. You quite simply won't find another Dr. like her.

For more information on TCM and Dr. Li, please read Henry Ehrlich's book (affiliate link)

And more

While there are many more differences between the multiple treatment options, our decision boiled down to those two main factors. The following chart includes some of the factors I considered. You might read the evidence and come to entirely different conclusions, so please understand the chart is based on my opinion, not meant to replace your own research!


  1. This is very enlightening information about treating food allergies with Chinese Medicine. My son suffers with food allergies and we were searching for alternative ways to handle his food allergies. Some of my friends think that I'm crazy to consider other treatments. Your post convinced me that there are other methods that are worth considering!

    Marco @ U.S. HealthWorks Columbus (GA)

    1. Best of luck to you. Please let me know if there are any questions I can help you with.