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Using Acupuncture To Support Against Infectious Disease
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Acupuncture for Infectious Disease Support

Acupuncture’s history dates back thousands of years, and during that time, the practice has been used to treat a variety of health conditions. This form of Chinese medicine is at its most effective when used to support systemic, whole-body health. By bringing the body’s systems back into balance, acupuncture provides patients with a strong foundation to build their health on.

This is why many Chinese medicine practitioners recommend acupuncture for patients who need to fortify their immune system. Acupuncture’s effects on the immune system have been reasonably well documented – though more research is needed – and researchers have uncovered several immune-centric benefits of the practice.

How Acupuncture Supports Better Immune Function

We’re still working to completely understand how acupuncture nudges patients toward better health, but one compelling theory is that acupuncture needles, when inserted into the skin, innervate local and distant nerves. The body responds by releasing a cocktail of beneficial compounds into the bloodstream, some of which support immunological health and performance.

Benefits of acupuncture for immune health include:

An increase in T-cell counts

Research shows that regular acupuncture treatments can boost T-cell counts. T-cells are a critical element of the immune system - the adaptive immune system, specifically. When an invader enters the body, it’s the adaptive immune system that takes notice and mounts a defense against the threat. This defense is tailored to the pathogen, and when the threat is over, the adaptive immune system “remembers” the invader so it can be fought more effectively next time.

T-cells, also termed lymphocytes, are primary drivers of the adaptive immune system. They come in several varieties, including cytotoxic, helper, and memory T-cells. Cytotoxic T-cells identify and destroy infected cells - and the pathogens inside them. Helper T-cells coordinate an immune response among other immune cells, including B-cells, cytotoxic T-cells and macrophages.

Acupuncture increases the number of these vital T-cells, improving their ability to respond to potential pathogens. It’s possible that inserting acupuncture needles into the patient provokes a low-level immune response, keeping the body’s systems on alert.

An increase in interferon

Interferons are another vital layer of immunological defense. They belong to a large class of proteins termed cytokines - proteins responsible for signaling and modulating many of the immune system’s functions.

Interferon’s job is to directly interfere with viral replication once a virus enters the body. When a health cell is infected by a virus, it’s immediately stimulated into releasing interferons that alert nearby cells of the threat. In this way, interferons first act as the body’s alarm system. Nearby cells stimulated by interferon immediately begin synthesizing additional proteins that improve cellular defenses against viruses. For example, one of the many proteins synthesized in this way (RNAse L) targets and destroys RNA in the cell, making it difficult for the virus to “hijack” the cell and produce copies of itself.

Acupuncture has been shown to increase interferon levels in people for up to 24 hours following treatment, giving those patients an edge against viral invaders for a short time.

Decreased inflammation and better healing response

Through many biological pathways, acupuncture is effective at modulating the immune response in people. One benefit of this is to control inflammation. When kept in check, inflammation is one of the body’s most important tools in fighting infection. Essentially, it’s the process through which immune cells are directed to an infection site and activated to fight pathogens.

However, chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for many forms of disease, including chronic diseases like arthritis and cancer. Further, unchecked inflammatory responses - cytokine storms - can endanger the patient as the immune system causes damage to the body’s own tissues.

Inflammation is signaled using an array of compounds produced by the body. Acupuncture helps modulate these functions and protect against unchecked inflammatory responses.

Decreased stress

Research shows that chronic stress has an effect on the body similar to that of chronic inflammation. Cortisol, the stress hormone, also interferes with immune function and is difficult to control when ongoing stresses are present.

Acupuncture is an emerging adjunct therapy for anxiety, depression, and other conditions where stress is a primary symptom. It’s likely that acupuncture has physiological and psychological effects in this area. Physiologically, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the vagus nerve, a major nerve pathway that regulates many elements of the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is responsible for reversing the stress response and returning the body to a relaxed state.

Further, acupuncture is a clam, relaxing experience that patients may use as a psychological pit stop. In fact, some patients may fall asleep during treatment as they are encouraged to rest and decompress.

Decreased burden from drug-related adverse effects

Some medications may alter immune function or cause burdensome side effects that damage health in other ways. Acupuncture is frequently recommended as a way to offset those adverse effects for a wide range of medications. This can help patients stay on their treatment or maintain whole-body balance even as they undergo drug therapy.

Better Immune Function Means Better Overall Health

Our immune systems are the body’s watchdogs. They’re on the front lines providing surveillance and a targeted response to invaders. As such, an effective immune system is critical in preventing acute illness and reducing the impact of chronic conditions.

Better immune function is therefore important in preventing or improving the following conditions:

  • Acute respiratory illnesses – the common cold, for example
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hepatitis
  • Some GI conditions, like Chron’s disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Multiple sclerosis

This list is just an overview, as there are many more conditions that acupuncture can help with. In short, your immune system plays a major role in how well your body manages any significant health condition. Supporting it means giving yourself the best chance possible to preserve overall health as you age.

If You’re Ready for an Immune System Boost, Houston Acupuncture Can Help

As the body’s defense network, the immune system has a massive impact on overall, whole-body health. It includes a complex set of functions – perhaps only second in complexity to the nervous system – and it has a presence in every organ in the body. Given its widespread and essential role against disease, supporting better immune health is a wise investment.

Houston Acupuncture can provide that support. Licensed acupuncturists are trained to target the right acupuncture points for better immune health and ensure treatment itself is immune-friendly, with proper sanitation and treatment controls.

Looking for better immune system health? Acupuncture is a natural option with proven research behind it.

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