Acupuncture & The Immune System: A Holistic Approach



Through the lens of holistic medicine and acupuncture, the best thing to help your body fight off pathogens is to keep your immune system strong and healthy. We come into contact with viruses and bacteria on a regular basis. Why do we get sick some of the time but not others?


The short answer is, if our immune system is strong enough and our body is in balance, we will be able to fight off the pathogen. There are of course some pathogens that would overwhelm even the healthiest of immune systems, but as a general rule, if our body is stronger than the pathogen, our body wins the battle.


There are many ways that acupuncture can help to boost immunity. Our immune system is a complex, integrated system consisting of multiple layers.


The first lines of defense are the physical and chemical barriers - including the skin, saliva, mucus, tears, and stomach acid. If these fluids and barriers are healthy and functioning, they will trap the pathogen and either keep it out of our body, or the stomach acid will dissolve it and kill it. There are multiple acupuncture points that help stimulate the production and functionality of these fluids thus increasing the ability to halt pathogens from entering our system.


If this first line of defense fails at destroying the pathogen, the internal, cellular part of the immune system takes over. A healthy immune system will identify the pathogen and coordinate amongst its various cells to launch an immune response. In a healthy immune system, the cellular response will correctly identify the pathogen, contain it, suppress it, and ultimately keep it from spreading.


By working closely with the nervous system, acupuncture can help stimulate the communication of cells within the immune system, thus allowing for a more concise, coordinated attack. If the immune system fails to contain the pathogen, the next and final part of the battle is to continue producing and launching a powerful white blood cell attack. There are various white blood cells which each have their own specific functions. Through various maneuvers, they each combat pathogens differently to create an intricate, systemic removal of the external threat.


Acupuncture can increase blood circulation and reduce unnecessary inflammation, aiding the body’s natural ability to fight quickly and efficiently. There are multiple acupuncture points that stimulate the spleen, the lymph system, and the bone marrow which are all vital tissues for the immune response.


Along with being able to stimulate and strengthen the body’s immune system, acupuncture is also extremely valuable when it comes to managing stress. At a time like this, the tensions are high and we can feel the fear, panic, and anxiety that’s humming through our communities. It’s hard not to be swept up in it all. Unfortunately, when our body is under a lot of stress, one of the first things that suffers is our immune system. Prolonged stress and increased cortisol levels (“the stress hormone”) trigger a decrease in the white blood cell production, as well as deplete our bodies of important vitamins such as B3, B5, B12, and vitamin C.


Stress, anxiety, and panic also indicate that our body is in a “fight or flight” response. When we stay in a prolonged state of “fight or flight”, our immune system is dampened. In response to perceived danger, resources that would otherwise be used for our immune response are channeled away, as our body prepares for imminent attack. In this way, it is vital for us to maintain healthy stress levels and consistent sleep in order to increase our immunity. Acupuncture works remarkably well at calming the nervous system and taking us out of the “fight or flight” response. It works closely with the nervous system to “reset” our homeostasis and bring us back into balance.


Acupuncture has been shown, time and time again, to excel in preventative medicine. If you feel uncomfortable leaving your home for treatment, please stay home and take care of yourself. I’m also available for over-the-phone herbal and nutrition consults. Otherwise, please know we are here to support you during this time if you choose to do so. The stronger our immune systems are, the better chance we have of fighting off - and not spreading - foreign pathogens.


Please note, we are taking serious precautions to maintain the health and wellness of all of our practitioners and clients. I will be taking your temperature before treatment and anyone with a fever will be asked to return home and contact their primary care physician. Upon making an appointment, there will be further guidelines we will need to follow to ensure everyone’s safety. We will discuss these individually prior to your appointment.


Check out this article if you'd like to learn more about important diet recommendations that aid the overall immune response.

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