Can Acupuncture Help Improve Immunity?

Previously we looked at how Reiki can help modulate and improve one’s immunity. Today let’s look at acupuncture. Acupuncture is not an unknown treatment method but it definitely is one of the more commonly misunderstood ones.

Many people who have had some anecdotal experience with acupuncture tend to think that it is only effective for pain reduction and external injuries. And some on the other end of the spectrum actually think acupuncture (or other traditional medical therapies) are the silver bullet that can cure everything. Traditional and non-conventional medical therapies are definitely a great addition to one’s health regime and as their official classification suggest, complement and support conventional medical therapies very effectively.

In fact, the whole perspective of traditional Chinese medicine; of which acupuncture is a part of; is to act as part of a holistic health maintenance and preventative regime rather than merely as a response to an illness or injury after it happens.

So how does one strengthen the human body to resist diseases simply by puncturing needles at certain points? This is actually very closely related to the immune system, which functions in defence, homeostasis (basically balance) and surveillance. There is actually a lot of research data to suggest that acupuncture works very well in enhancing the regulation of the body’s immune system, including the enhancing of anti-cancer and anti-stressor immune functions as well as exerting anti-inflammatory function.

So How Does Acupuncture Enhance Immunity?

As I mentioned in my previous post on Reiki and Immunity, the immune system has two main parts, the innate and the adaptive. Here’s a quick recap:

The innate immune system is your first responder. Its response is immediate and nonspecific, attacking any foreign substance.

Your adaptive immune system kicks in a little bit slower. as It needs to learn more about the invader and targets pathogens with specific, complex strategies – hence the name “adaptive”. It is also responsible for balancing your inflammatory response so you don’t suffer from runaway inflammation, the worst of which; a cytokine storm; can be lethal.

And the adaptive immune system can confer long term immunity or at least help you be better prepared to address a repeat pathogen.

Acupuncture works on improving both the body’s innate and acquired immunity, particularly in these three areas:

  • The Reinforcement of Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells)
    NK Cells are a type of white blood cell (technically called a lymphocyte) and a component of innate immune system. NK cells play a major role in the host-rejection of both tumours and virally infected cells.
  • Modulation of Th1 and Th2 Cell Responses
    An overreactive response from the Th cells are a major cause of autoimmune related diseases and infections. Acupuncture has been shown to rebalance the Th cell responses by activating certain cytokines while suppressing others in order for the body to fight off infection in a regulated and balanced manner.
  • Improving Neural-Immune Communication
    Acupuncture has been shown to activate the hypothalamus in the brain which causes the release of beta endorphin hormones from the pituitary. This acts on the body’s opioid receptors and acts as a naturally occurring painkiller in the body. The activation of the hypothalamus also acts to regulate the body’s autonomic nervous system that results in a more effective function of our internal organs and glands.

Again, I’d like to state that while many people are aware of the importance of a good immune system, more is not necessarily better.

What you actually want is a balanced immune system that is part of vibrant health. What you don’t want is an inadequate immune response, or an uncontrolled immune response, and not an inappropriate self-directed immune response, as is seen autoimmunity.

That is why natural immune supports are generally better than manufactured chemical supplements as they help the body address inflammation rather than attacking it directly as a pharmaceutical product would.

Balance is a primary value in natural, traditional health care. Everyday, we want to help the body restore balance so it can digest, detoxify and self-heal. That is why almost all traditional health care methods – Acupuncture, Guasha, Moxibution, Reiki healing (and that’s just to name a few) – have balance as their primary focus.

Immunity is complex and fluid, but the simple facts are your immune system is tied to your overall health and well-being, and there’s much you can do to keep your immune system humming. When you receive treatments like acupuncture, you feel better, function better and that helps you stay happy and healthy. It’s that simple.