Acupuncture Regulates the Immune Response Helping it to Achieve a State of Balance
I recently read several research studies on the impact of acupuncture on inflammation and autoimmune diseases, including this report. A study published in 2013 in Evidence-Base Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated:
“Classical literature indicates that acupuncture has been used for millennia to treat numerous inflammatory conditions, including allergic rhinitis. Recent research has examined some of the mechanisms underpinning acupuncture’s anti-inflammatory effects, which include mediation by sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been reported to mediate the antioedema effects of acupuncture, but not anti-hyperalgesic actions during inflammation. Other reported anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture include an antihistamine action and down-regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines (such as TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-10), pro-inflammatory neuropeptides (such as SP, CGRP, and VIP), and neurotrophins (such as NGF and BDNF), which can enhance and prolong inflammatory response. Acupuncture has been reported to suppress the expression of COX-1, COX-2, and iNOS during experimentally induced inflammation. Down-regulation of the expression and sensitivity of the transient receptor potential vallinoid 1 (TRPV1) after acupuncture has been reported. In summary, acupuncture may exert anti-inflammatory effects through a complex neuro-endocrino-immunological network of actions.”
I sat down with my teacher, Naae Kim L.Ac., to ask her about what this means and her view of how acupuncture helps heal and prevent inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Me: I’ve read some fairly technical research on the impact of acupuncture on autoimmune disease and inflammation. Can you please help us understand in layman’s terms how acupuncture impacts the healing and prevention of these health problems?
Naae: Simply stated, acupuncture provides a way to guide inflammation to where you want it to be and away from where you don’t want it to be. For example, if a person has chronic systemic inflammation in their knees, my goal would be to guide it away from the knees and to the site of the needles, which trigger minor acute inflammation.
Me: What happens when we experience chronic inflammation?
Naae: Typically, due to underlying problems in the body, either the immune system lags in getting to the site of an acute illness or injury or it doesn’t react strongly enough to heal the problem. This can create a chronic low-grade inflammation that leads to flare ups in weak areas of our bodies.
Me: Can you provide an example?
Naae: For example, if a chronic low-grade inflammatory response settles into the blood vessels, it can make them hard and rough, rather than their healthy state of elastic and smooth. This is atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. When they are hard and rough, they will not let cholesterol freely move throughout the body. This creates blood clots, which lead to a whole host of health problems, including strokes and heart attacks.
Me: How does acupuncture help heal or prevent these serious health problems?
Naae: Using acupuncture we can either up-regulate or down-regulate the immune system, depending on what is going wrong. In this way, we can stop the immune system from performing unnecessary and damaging attacks, and guide it to where the body needs it, back to its natural state of boosting the healing process. In effect, it resolves stagnation in one location, and brings nourishing blood to where its needed.
Me: What are the traditional principles involved in this treatment modality?
Naae: Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body, the Chi. Using acupuncture, we can direct the flow of the chi and help the body achieve balance.
Naae Kim’s practice is called Austin Family Acupuncture. She has two offices in Austin, Texas. Learn more about Naae’s here.