Studies Show How Acupuncture Reduces Stress

Want to smooth out those frayed edges, lower you stress level that natural way or just plain feel good? Good news, acupuncture fans: It really does help relieve stress. And now, a new study is giving a closer look at why. The new study explores the biological mechanisms involved in acupuncture’s stress-relieving abilities, something science has yet to fully understand. The researchers discovered that stress hormones were lower in rats that had received electronic acupuncture. Results were published in the Journal of Endocrinology.

“Many practitioners of acupuncture have observed that this ancient practice can reduce stress in their patients, but there is a lack of biological proof of how or why this happens. We’re starting to understand what’s going on at the molecular level that helps explain acupuncture’s benefit,” study researcher Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, an associate professor of nursing at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, said in a statement.

For the study, Eshkevari and colleagues designed a series of tests with electronic acupuncture to ensure that each rat received the exact same dose of pressure. Eshkevari targeted the spot below the knee, or the “Zusanli” point, with the needle. This area is the same in rats and humans and it is reported that stimulating it can alleviate stress and other conditions.

For the 10-day experiment, researchers split the rats into four groups. One group was a control group with no added stress and no acupuncture; one group was made to be stressed out for an hour each day but didn’t receive acupuncture; one group was made to feel stressed for an hour each day but received “sham” acupuncture by their tails; and one group was made to feel stressed and received the genuine acupuncture treatment at the Zusanli area.

The body secretes an assortment of hormones into the bloodstream as a reaction to stress, which the researchers were then able to measure in the rats. They assessed blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland (HPA axis). They also measured a peptide involved in creatures’ “fight or flight” responses, called NPY.  Researchers discovered that the “...electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway,” Eshkevari said in the statement.

Few procedures work 100 percent of the time. That includes acupuncture, but it does have benefits that conventional treatments like psychotherapy and medication do not, Eshkevari says. She explains that side effects, such as bruising and dizziness, are minimal and uncommon, whereas some prescription drugs can have serious side effects and can lead to dependency. 

Unlike with counseling, people treated with acupuncture often see results after one session, and the results improve with continued treatment. Acupuncture is particularly helpful for people who want to limit or stop drug use — prescription or otherwise. Because it regulates the body’s chemical balance naturally, acupuncture can even prevent people from needing medication at all.

When it comes to trying acupuncture, you have nothing to lose.  With a licensed acupuncturist, the risks are almost nonexistent and are far outweighed by the potential benefits. The majority of Eshkevari’s patients have told her they sleep better and have a stronger sense of overall well-being after just a few sessions. 

Treating Autoimmune Disease With Acupuncture

Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease; an autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, Addison's disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and Guillain–Barré syndrome. Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions including acupuncture and Oriental medicine have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture is specifically noted for its use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
What Causes Autoimmune Disease?

Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one's own body. In certain cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. They encompass a broad category of over 100 diseases in which the person's immune system attacks his or her own cells and tissue.

The exact mechanisms causing these changes are not completely understood, but bacteria, viruses, toxins, and some drugs may play a role in triggering an autoimmune process in someone who already has a genetic (inherited) predisposition to develop such a disorder. It is theorized that the inflammation initiated by these agents, toxic or infectious, somehow provokes in the body a "sensitization" (autoimmune reaction) in the involved tissues.

As the disease develops, vague symptoms start to appear, such as joint and muscle pain, general muscle weakness, possible rashes or low-grade fever, trouble concentrating, or weight loss. The following symptoms may also indicate that something is wrong with the immune system: numbness and tingling in hands and feet, dry eyes, hair loss, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or repeated miscarriages.

How Acupuncture Treats Autoimmune Disorders

According to Oriental medicine, autoimmune disorders occur when there is imbalance within the body. Imbalance can come from an excess or deficiency of Yin and Yang that disrupts the flow of Qi, or vital energy, through the body. Acupuncture is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while specifically addressing the symptoms that are unique to each individual.

Clinical research has shown that acupuncture causes physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by these actions, acupuncture affects blood pressure, body temperature and the immune system.

In addition to acupuncture, your treatment program to manage your autoimmune disorder may involve a combination of therapies including stress reducing exercises, moderate physical activity, herbal medicine, nutritional support and bodywork.

6 Food Tips For Autoimmune Disorders

A class of plant chemicals -- known as bioflavonoids -- has been found to dramatically reduce inflammation and improve symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders.

Tea: Both green and black tea contain the flavonoids catechins and theaflavins, which are beneficial in autoimmune disease.

Apples: Apples (with the skin on), contain the flavonoid quercetin, which can reduce allergic reactions and decrease inflammation. Quercetin also occurs naturally in other foods, such as berries, red grapes, red onions, capers, and black tea.

Carrots: Carotenoids are a family of plant pigments that include beta-carotene. A lack of carotenoids in the diet is thought to promote inflammation. Good sources of carotenoids include apricots, carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, kale, butternut squash, and collard greens.

Ginger: Recent studies show that ginger reduces inflammation by inhibiting prostaglandin and suppresses the immune system's production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, reducing disease severity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3: Omega-3 essential fatty acids can counter the formation of chemicals that cause inflammation. Good natural sources include flaxseed oil and salmon.

Fiber: A healthy and active colon can decrease food sensitivity, which, in turn, can lighten the burden on your immune system.

Come in for a consultation to see how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can assist you with your immune health and help you to live a long, healthy life.

Cultivate Optimal Endocrine Health

The endocrine system is responsible for hormonal functions in the body and produces 30 distinct hormones each of which has a very specific job to do. This system controls your physical growth, mood, hormone output, reproduction, mental functionality, and immune system. When not working properly, you become more susceptible to disease and your ability to fight off infection is weakened. Endocrine glands and their functioning impact every area of your health.