Acupuncture for immunity

How do you boost your immune system while awaiting COVID-19 vaccine? Can you prevent getting this virus? Does acupuncture help?

Acupuncture has a powerful effect on immunity. It can save lives*!

 

In 2014, a study on sepsis and acupuncture appeared in the most prestigious medical journal – Nature.

Sepsis is highly deadly. But in the acupuncture study, 50% of recipients stayed alive. Great, no? One little detail.  *The subjects of the study were mice! :)

Sepsis depresses the immune system to the degree that it can lead to systemic inflammation, multiple organ failure, and, unfortunately, death. No current drugs are approved to counteract failing immunity for these patients.

So two clever scientists from America explored the effect of acupuncture. Of 40 mice with sepsis, 20 got treated with real acupuncture. Another 20 rodents also had needles, but not on acupuncture points.

 

Half of the acupuncture mice group survived, whereas ALL the fake acupuncture-treated mice perished.

To sum it up, the mice who had correct electro-acupuncture had an infinity times higher chance to stay alive.

 

Now. No other therapy studied on this planet achieved this.

In 2017 another group of scientists studied a similar treatment on the elderly (human) patients and the results were good.

Take-away message? Unless you’re a mouse, don’t use acupuncture for sepsis alone. We don’t have sufficient evidence acupuncture can cure sepsis or COVID-19 in human. But these experiments show that acupuncture is hugely successful at modulating the immune system. And is pretty darn good at it even in such extreme conditions, as sepsis.

Can acupuncture boost immunity to prevent COVID-19?

Before we dive into how acupuncture supports immunity, let’s have a quick 101 on how your immune system works.

How your immunity works

The immune system is precisely that — a system, not one single thing. To function well, it needs balance and harmony. A well-working immunity is like a sports team. To have a good defence, it takes a joint effort. Various organs and cells play a part in your immune response.

Physical barriers:

These are skin and membranes that cover your digestive, respiratory and reproductive tracts. All combined, those areas are as big as about two tennis courts. This a sizeable area to protect. Washing hands and covering the coughs reduces the risk of viruses slipping through your physical barriers.

Innate immunity

It’s a team of immune cells you gain before you are born. With COVID-19, we are in a bit of terrible luck. None of us has any protection from this virus. Once it enters the body your immune cells’ usual protection tricks don’t work.

Learnt or adapted immunity

It’s a so-called “adaptive team” of immunity cells that your body teaches new tricks in response to diseases you had in the past.
Vaccines help you develop adapted immunity. They trick your body into recognising the viruses as an enemy and fighting them.
We hope that soon there will be a vaccine to teach your immunity on how to deal with COVID-19.

 

 

Bone marrow produces most immunity cells. The blood transports them everywhere we need them. They will move in and out of tissues and organs defending your body against hostile invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. They also like to exterminate cancerous cells.

Your nervous system modulates immunity. But the immune system also modulates your nervous system, including brain activity, like body temperature, sleep, and eating patterns.

Your immunity is like an octopus that has one leg in each body system. If it senses something is wrong, it sends a cloud of immune cells.

Keeping your immune system running smoothly is not a matter of drinking turmeric tea, it’s a matter of all your body systems working well.

What weakens your immunity?

Poor Sleep

Lack of sleep can weaken your immunity. For instance, the less sleep you get, the more likely you will catch a cold.

Just one night? It makes a difference. One-night of four hours of sleep can dramatically reduce Natural Killer cells. NK cells kill virus-infected and cancerous cells.

Chronic insomnia? Sleep deprivation compromises your immunity. For instance, a flu vaccine becomes less effective if you suffer from this.

Chronic pain and medications for it

Chronic pain may wear you out to the point it reprograms how your immunity genes work. And ongoing pain triggers stress. Chronic stress is also taxing on immunity.

Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen can reduce your immune system response to vaccines.

Stress

Think of the stress response as a combination of neurologic, hormonal, and immune systems that come together to help the body ward off perceived danger or threat.

Long-term chronic stress keeps your cortisol levels high, and that eventually compromises your immune system.

 

How acupuncture can support your immune system

 

The sepsis experiment shows how acupuncture has a powerful effect on immunity. It also reduces stress and improves the quality of your sleep.

Will you get acupunctures immunity-boosting effect if we treat your neck pain or fertility?

The comprehensive/holistic approach is the very fibre of our acupuncture philosophy.

We don’t just fix one condition. We seek a systemic effect on your entire body so it can heal itself faster. No matter if we treat headaches or help with fertility.

We have seen IBS symptoms vanish as a side effect of treating PCOS. Or sleep improve even though the key focus was fertility. We have seen chronic headaches stop when treating neck pain.

When used correctly, acupuncture doesn’t heal just one ailment. It treats the entire body. Holistically.

How does a pill know to only do the one thing you take it for?

If you pop Ibuprofen for a headache, how does it know to treat just that?

Even the most common over-the-counter drugs affect all of your body. They have side effects and can have deadly interactions. As mentioned, Ibuprofen reduces your immunity by compromising the effects of vaccines.

How acupuncture’s “side effects” support immunity

Acupuncture is different. It is a biological stimulation. Think exercise and sunlight. Use them correctly, and all body systems benefit simultaneously. Let’s say you go for a brisk walk. Even the focus of this exercise is your leg muscles, there are thousands of chemical reactions happening in your body. As a result, your blood pressure changes, your heart rate goes up, your body responds by modulating the hormones.

 

Acupuncture is similar. Stimulating the acupoints is like a feel-good floodgate release. The result is less stress, anxiety, and better sleep. These are the common “side effects” of our treatments.

 

Acupuncture supports your immunity by helping you sleep better, improving your energy, optimising your digestion, reducing stress and inflammation. Acupuncture helps to cope with any illness. Both physically and emotionally. Or, hopefully, acupuncture will help to prevent you from getting sick altogether.

How does acupuncture work for immunity?

 

By stimulating the correct acupoints, we can reach the parts of the nervous system that modulate immunity.

 

ZuSanLi, an acupoint just below your knee, is one of these special locations. On acupuncture, ZuSanLi relays a signal to the spinal cord and then the brain. Once processed there, the signal goes to the vagus nerve, and finally reaches the adrenal glands. Adrenals produce the dopamine, the key agent in reducing inflammation.

 

The above example shows how simple stimulation causes a response and interaction between your nervous and immune systems.

Besides the anti-inflammatory effect, acupuncture causes a rise of interferon, one of the immune system’s messenger hormones, modulates natural killer cell activity.

How to prevent COVID-19?

 

Despite accumulating knowledge, we know extraordinarily little about COVID-19 and how to treat it. Coronavirus patients in China routinely receive  experimentally. But from a scientific perspective, it’s unknown what part acupuncture plays in recovery or prevention.

As for COVID-19 prevention, the best strategy, for now, is to avoid getting the virus in the first place: wash your hands, practice social distancing, follow the recommendations of the NZ Ministry of Health.

Boost your immune system

Keep your health and immune system in top-notch condition. If you are in better health, should you get COVID-19, you’re bound to have the best chance to recover smoothly.

 

  • Sleep enough
  • Exercise
  • Enjoy safe sunshine
  • Have regular acupuncture
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight
  • Minimise stress

Acupuncture vs dry needling

Learn why it is best to choose acupuncture practised by a qualified practitioner rather than dry needling.

Acupuncture – how it works

“Does acupuncture work” – asked an orthopaedic surgeon, whom I met at a social gathering. I told him there were numerous studies to show it did, and as an example mentioned a new study published in the current issue of Nature magazine.

“Of forty mice with induced sepsis, all 20, who received acupuncture lived. Another 20 received fake acupuncture and half of them died” – I said. [Sepsis is a deadly condition caused by whole-body inflammation.]

“I don’t believe this” – he said. “Sepsis! How could acupuncture ever touch sepsis!”

“It’s all legit, published in the current issue of Nature magazine” – I fired back.

“I don’t believe this” – he insisted.

I pulled out my smartphone to show him the study.

“Well, it’s just one study. I don’t believe this. Maybe, I’d believe it, if a recommendation came from the World Health Organisation or NHI”.

I put my phone to good use again and a minute later, I’m on WHO website with the list of condition acupuncture has been shown to work for.

“I still don’t believe it works!”

At that point, I make a joke “if you were a real doctor, but not an orthopaedic surgeon, you would have more appreciation for the studies” I teased him. Then I changed the subject. It was not my business to convince him. It was just a chat at a party.  He asked I answered kind of thing.

But later my mind brought me back to this. How to convince the sceptics. I need an image, that would just explain it in a split second. FMRI brain scans!

FMRI or functional magnetic imaging can visually show increased activity in various centres of the brain by measuring the blood flow. There are numerous studies on acupuncture published in peer-reviewed magazines. An image below is a good example, showing the specificity of various acupuncture points. You can see different areas of the brain get activated depending on the acupuncture points being usedref 1. The image above this article shows activation of visual cortex in response to treatment of BL60, an acupuncture point associated with visual healingref 2.

acupuncture fmri