Whilst many people know of acupuncture as a treatment for many specific conditions and effective pain relief, it can also be used to strengthen the immune system.
The main functions of the human immune system are to protect against infection from pathological micro organisms (foreign invaders like bacteria, parasites and other microbes that can cause infections), to clear damaged tissues and to provide constant surveillance of potentially malignant cells that grow within the body.
The skin, cornea, and mucosa of the respiratory, GI (Gastrointestinal) and GU (Genitourinary) tracts form a physical barrier that is the body’s (or immune system’s) first line of defence.
Frequent infections, autoimmunity, digestive complaints and fatigue are all common symptoms that may indicate a struggling or weakened immune system.
Acupuncture therapy can treat a wide range of health conditions, including immune deficiency, by stimulating and balancing the immune system. Acupuncture can strengthen a weakened immune system by increasing red and white cell counts, T-cell count and enhancing humoral and cellular immunity in patients with immune-related illness.
The causes and effects of weakened immune system
A compromised or dysfunctional immune system is a major component of most chronic diseases. Poor nutrition, stress and exposure to harmful agents all lead to a declining immune system. Once compromised, a weak immune system results in frequent colds, allergies, and reoccurring infections.
Immunity related disorders include:
- Common colds
- Chronic fatigue
- Autoimmune disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Immune deficiency syndrome
Treating Symptoms Not Causes
Most allopathic health care is directed toward relieving symptoms rather than treating the underlying cause of the disease, which may include toxins, chronic viral infections or a combination of the two. Conventional treatments used in traditional Western medicine for overactive immune system disorders, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases like arthritis, often include treatments aimed at suppressing the immune system through medication. Although that method is useful for limiting symptoms and managing pain, it does not result in a cure. Side effects and other adverse symptoms may develop after long-term use of these suppressive drugs.
Restoring the Immune Function
So how does someone suffering from an immune disorder find relief? Acupuncture can regulate immune function and treat the underlying cause of the disease by reducing symptoms, speeding up the healing of infection and normalizing the body’s immune response. It works by stimulating specific portions of the autonomic nervous system through selected acupoints, which in turn causes responses in the immune system. Acupuncture can cause a rise in levels of interferon, one of the immune system’s messenger hormones. Regular acupuncture therapy can support and strengthen immunity and is very effective in treating asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, colds and infections.
Lifestyle Measures to consider to boost your immune system
- Stress – Research indicates that psychological stress and trauma can dysregulate the human immune system and increase the possibility of developing chronic illnesses long-term or exacerbating existing ones.
- Excercise – Studies support the view that regular moderate to high intensity exercise most days for 30 to 60 minutes enhances the immune system performance however research also demonstrates increased immune system dysregulation and inflammation amongst athletes with intensive training schedules i.e. over training
- Sleep – Humans need between 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep every night and anything less than this has been proven to detrimentally affect the immune system.
- Alcohol – There is much research highlighting the immunosuppressive effect alcohol has. Alcohol impacts on all aspects of the immune system, including structural host defence mechanisms in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract. The immune system is affected both by the direct impact of alcohol and through dysregulation of other components caused by alcohol for example malabsorption of nutrients.
- Nutrition – Micronutrients to consider for supporting the Immune system, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) and Zinc are important to maintain a good immune system.
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