Every so often, I find that there is a shift in the collective subconscious and suddenly everyone is talking about the same thing. Maybe it has something to do with the change of season and the endless winter we’ve had to endure here in NYC, but it seems that everyone’s mind has been on their health and immunity and what can be done to improve it. Questions like “When did my health get out of control?” or “How can I improve myself overall?” have been cropping up again and again in my acupuncture sessions. Of course, the answer from acupuncturists and other medical professionals will typically involve something like “Come in for another session this week,” but that doesn’t necessarily explain the root cause of what exactly is going wrong and how exactly acupuncture or herbs will improve things.
To start, let’s first understand what immunity is with some definitions:
- Immune System: a system of cells and organs designed to protect you against “foreign” invaders or “bad” bacteria
- Immune Response: the chain reaction of events that occur when your immune system detects those foreign invaders
- Immunity: the body’s overall ability to create immune responses to the appropriate things
Why is that important to know? Your general health and wellbeing relies on how well your immune system works in initiating the proper immune response. When we talk about immunity, are typically referring to the response and how it may be affecting how you feel. Some people find that their immunity is poor because they either have over- or underactive immune responses. The reasons for this are plentiful (and too long to get into here!), but it should be noted that this atypical can be responsible for a myriad of health issues ranging from allergic reactions and allergies to gut and intestinal problems.
Two big factors that play a part in our immunity are lifestyle and diet. Getting some regular exercise, establishing healthy sleep habits, and maintaining a “clean” diet with few inflammatory foods and the right balance of macronutrients are all ways in which you can boost your immunity naturally by creating the right environments for our body to produce the correct response. In addition to those changes, things like reducing stress, consuming immune-supporting herbs, and spending quality time outdoors to soak up sun are also some manageable and simple ways to pump up your immunity this spring.
While we can’t predict the sun here at Naturna, we can certainly help with the stress reduction through acupuncture and immune-supporting herbs and supplements. Acupuncture has been proven to decrease leukocyte (white blood cell) values (Kou et al., 2005). What this tells us is that through the use of acupuncture, we can support a healthy and well-circulating immune system which supports appropriate immune responses. The research shows: acupuncture really works!
The other benefit of acupuncture in the immune response is that it reduces stress, which has a huge effect on health. When you are stressed, your body enacts its most innate fight or flight response, which introduces cortisol and all sorts of stress response hormones into your body. Over time this will damage your body and put you in a chronic state of “flight” where secondary functions – such as digestion or reproduction – are thrown out of whack since they are not considered essential.
Herbs are the pharmaceutical arm to Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM), and they allow us to accelerate the acupuncture response through careful selection of herbs and supplements. Some people are curious about what single herbs will help alleviate fatigue or ease allergies, but to that I say there is no “one size fits all” approach in TCM. It’s a matter of working with your body to create the proper formula. For most who need an immunity boost, that usually involves herbs like ginseng and astragalus which are good for reducing fatigue and increasing immunity.
The key to using acupuncture for immunity is the knowledge that good health requires maintenance and upkeep, just like staying in shape. Using a three prong approach of diet, lifestyle, and stress reduction via acupuncture is an excellent course of treatment that has been proven to work.
We can’t wait to see you to talk about this further! Call today to schedule an appointment.
Kou, W., Bell, J. D., Gareus, I., Pacheco-López, G., Goebel, M. U., Spahn, G., … & Dobos, G. J. (2005). Repeated acupuncture treatment affects leukocyte circulation in healthy young male subjects: a randomized single-blind two-period crossover study. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 19(4), 318-324.