Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease; an autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and Guillain–Barré syndrome. Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions including acupuncture and Oriental medicine have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture is specifically noted for its use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one’s own body. In certain cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. They encompass a broad category of over 100 diseases in which the person’s immune system attacks his or her own cells and tissue.
The exact mechanisms causing these changes are not completely understood, but bacteria, viruses, toxins, and some drugs may play a role in triggering an autoimmune process in someone who already has a genetic (inherited) predisposition to develop such a disorder. It is theorized that the inflammation initiated by these agents, toxic or infectious, somehow provokes in the body a “sensitization” (autoimmune reaction) in the involved tissues.
As the disease develops, vague symptoms start to appear, such as joint and muscle pain, general muscle weakness, possible rashes or low-grade fever, trouble concentrating, or weight loss. The following symptoms may also indicate that something is wrong with the immune system: numbness and tingling in hands and feet, dry eyes, hair loss, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or repeated miscarriages.
According to Oriental medicine, autoimmune disorders occur when there is imbalance within the body. Imbalance can come from an excess or deficiency of Yin and Yang that disrupts the flow of Qi, or vital energy, through the body. Acupuncture is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while specifically addressing the symptoms that are unique to each individual.
Clinical research has shown that acupuncture causes physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland, and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by these actions, acupuncture affects blood pressure, body temperature and the immune system.
In addition to acupuncture, your treatment program to manage your autoimmune disorder may involve a combination of therapies including stress reducing exercises, moderate physical activity, herbal medicine, nutritional support and bodywork.
The endocrine system is responsible for hormonal functions in the body and produces 30 distinct hormones each of which has a very specific job to do. This system controls your physical growth, mood, hormone output, reproduction, mental functionality, and immune system. When not working properly, you become more susceptible to disease and your ability to fight off infection is weakened. Endocrine glands and their functioning impact every area of your health.
The keystone of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has always been awakening the body’s natural intelligence to heal itself and restore balance to the system of energy pathways (called “meridians”) in the body. If the meridians within your body have become depleted, you can suffer from tiredness, infertility, weight gain, depression, digestive problems, hair loss, arthritis, and feeling chilled no matter the temperature.
What are the endocrine glands and what do they do?
The major endocrine glands include the adrenals, pancreas, pineal, pituitary, reproductive and thyroid glands.
Adrenals – Adrenal glands regulate the body’s response to stress and are made of two parts, each of which secretes a separate set of hormones. The outer part produces corticosteroid hormones that regulate the balance of salt and water, stress response, metabolism, immune function, and sexual development and function. The inner part secretes adrenaline hormones that increase blood pressure and heart rate in response to stress. Over time, chronic elevated stress levels can lead to weight gain, decreased resistance to infections, fatigue, muscle aches and low blood sugar.
Pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin and glucagon–two hormones that work together to provide the body`s cells with a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose.
Pineal – The pineal gland is also known as the epiphysis cerebri, epiphysis or the “third eye.” It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.
Hypothalamus and Pituitary – A collection of specialized cells that provide the primary link between the endocrine and central nervous systems. Nerve cells and hormones signal the pituitary gland to secrete or suppress the release of various hormone messages to the other glands. The pituitary gland is also responsible for secreting growth hormones.
Reproductive – These glands secrete hormones that control the development of male and female characteristics. In males these glands secrete androgen hormones, most importantly, testosterone. In females they produce estrogen, progesterone, eggs and are involved in reproductive functions.
Thyroid – Thyroid hormones control the growth, temperature and function of every cell in the body. The gland acts as the metabolic engine of the body – if it secretes too little hormone, the body slows and dies; if it secretes too much, the body burns out and dies.
When treating a suspected endocrine condition with acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the practitioner seeks the root cause of the patient’s imbalance. The endocrine system is closely tied to the internal balance of the Yin energy and the Yang energy. Imagine that the Yang energy is like gasoline that fuels a car, and Yin energy is the engine coolant. Without the coolant, the engine overheats and burns out. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine work to make sure the Yin and Yang are equal within the body to restore balance. The root of the body’s energy in Oriental medicine is the Kidney meridian so strengthening that meridian also restores nourishment to your endocrine glands. Acupuncture can be used to restore hormonal balance, regulate energy levels, smooth emotions and help manage sleep and menstrual problems.
Many patients benefit from an integrated Eastern and Western medical approach to endocrine health. The strong point of Western medicine is intervention in life-threatening illness, whereas the strong point of Eastern medicine is increased quality of life. Therefore, it is optimal to have both Eastern and Western medicine options available for the most comprehensive care.
A healthy endocrine system that continues to secrete adequate amounts of hormones will slow the aging process and keep you vibrant and healthy as you age.
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