Acupuncture and Renal Health: How Treatment Can Support the Kidneys
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are an important pair of organs. They aren’t just responsible for scrubbing the blood clean of toxins as they are also essential for maintaining all of the body’s fluids. Practitioners also believe the kidneys are responsible for balancing the body’s energies – yin and yang specifically. When the kidneys are properly functioning, the body remains in balance and overall health is easier to protect. When the kidneys are out of balance, symptoms like fatigue and loss of vitality are prominent.
The kidneys are also a frequent target of treatment for western physicians. According to the CDC, almost 40 million Americans are living with some form of chronic kidney disease (CKD) – a condition that can be debilitating as it progresses.
But there is hope for those suffering from kidney problems, beyond what western modalities can offer. Acupuncture, for example, is a promising form of treatment that Chinese medicine practitioners have used for centuries to treat a massive variety of conditions. In addition to herbal therapies and western treatment approaches, acupuncture can support kidney function and, by extension, whole-body health.
What Renal Conditions or Symptoms Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Help With?
When the kidneys are affected by an acute issue, they can produce a range of symptoms that are difficult to isolate and explain. This is also the case with CKD, which tends to develop slowly enough that the kidneys may not be the obvious culprit. In many people, such symptoms are often written off as a product of too little sleep, a poor diet or stress.
However, when the kidneys are hit with an acute infection, stones, or cysts, the resulting symptoms can severely affect quality of life. These symptoms may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Unusual urination patterns (urinating more or less)
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle cramps
- Feet and ankle swelling
- Difficulty breathing
As you can see, these symptoms are non-specific and may be attributable to many other health conditions. As such, it’s difficult for western medicine to consistently identify the kidneys as the source of a patient’s symptoms.
This problem is often worse in patients experiencing CKD as sometimes it progresses so slowly that symptoms may also emerge slowly. By the time CKD is rendered as a diagnosis, it may be too late to reverse some of the damage. Eventually, CKD patients may develop total kidney failure that necessitates regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine aim to resolve many of the symptoms associated with kidney dysfunction. However, acupuncture services may also improve some of the underlying signs of kidney dysfunction – such as how efficient the kidneys are at filtering the blood of waste products.
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers split a 59-member patient group into two smaller groups. One received true acupuncture at noted kidney acupuncture points, while the other received sham acupuncture (a placebo stand in).
The researchers found that the group receiving true acupuncture had lower levels of serum creatinine in their blood, compared to the sham acupuncture group. Creatinine is a waste product created by the muscles and is filtered out of the blood by the kidneys. The lower serum levels in the true acupuncture group suggested that stimulating noted acupuncture points may have improved underlying kidney function.
Acupuncture’s Role in Supporting Whole-body and Renal Health
Acupuncture remains a strong focus for medical researchers looking for explanations behind the ancient practice. Along with herbal therapies, acupuncture has shown to help in a range of conditions, from headaches to cirrhosis. In the case of kidney dysfunction, acupuncture may help in the following ways:
Stimulating the nervous system into self-healing
When acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin, they activate nearby nerves. For centuries Acupuncturists have documented where medically relevant points are and target these points during treatment. A trained practitioner can target the kidney channel using the right points. Once inserted, the needles placed in these points will improve energy flow through the kidneys and vitalize them.
Balancing hormone levels
Acupuncture and herbal formulas can both influence hormone levels in the body, including hormones manufactured by the kidneys. These hormones are responsible for the production of healthy red blood cells and to help modulate blood pressure. By bringing these hormones into balance, acupuncture and herbal therapy can help the kidneys support whole-body health.
Research into acupuncture has shown that it can improve circulatory efficiency, perhaps by stimulating the body into releasing certain bio compounds. One of these compounds is nitric oxide, a known regulator of local circulation. When present in the cardiovascular system, nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels, which allows them to dilate and permit additional blood flow.
Better circulation helps the kidneys do their job with greater efficiency and is therefore an effective way to support kidney health.
Plenty of research also shows that acupuncture can assist with stress relief. This is perhaps due to nervous stimulation, again, and it has been used to treat anxiety and depression.
Stress is an additional health burden on kidney patients, and minimizing stress can minimize that burden on the kidneys.
Stress directly impacts circulation at the physiological level, so reining in excess stress can help keep circulation in acceptable ranges.
A Licensed Houston Acupuncturist Can Help Those Struggling with Renal Health
As the primary blood filtering units in the body, the kidneys are responsible for maintaining the medium through which the body’s energy flows. That’s an important job, but millions of Americans struggle with their kidney health.
Chinese medicine practices, in concert with western therapies, can protect kidney function and improve patient outcomes in people with kidney dysfunction. They can also offset some of the adverse effects associated with drug therapy, which can help patients stay on their medication.
It’s important for patients to work with a licensed Houston acupuncturist to ensure treatment is administered properly and using sanitation controls. Licensed practitioners are trained to deliver the best possible outcomes during acupuncture, and can support their patient’s renal and whole-body health.