Keeping your Immune System Strong with Acupuncture
By Ingrid Masi (B Ec), (B.Hsc (Acupuncture), Dip RM
Ingrid Masi is a registered acupuncturist and has been in practice since 2002. Working initially under the guidance of several practitioners, including Helen Gordon for three years, she has had a solid grounding in many areas and treats many conditions, including immune based conditions, pain management, stress and anxiety. She is joining CORE in late May and looks forward to working with a highly professional and experienced group of practitioners.
Are you the type that catches everything? Or do fend off everything with ease? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has an approach that, although different to western diagnosis and medicine has been proven successful over thousands of years to improve immunity. Acupuncture in particular is a popular therapy offered by TCM practitioners and is recommended by the World Health Organisation to treat many disorders.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a branch of TCM that has been used for thousands of years. Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific sites (acupuncture points) along the body’s meridians to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of qi (or energy) through the individual. The practitioner may also stimulate the acupuncture points using other methods, including moxibustion, cupping, laser therapy, electro-stimulation and massage, in order to re-establish the flow of qi. Acupuncture can be used on the very young and the very old without fear of any interaction with any substance.
What is immunity in TCM?
Our ‘wei qi’ is our external defensive qi and is the equivalent of the immune system. It is particularly susceptible to changes in the weather, when external influences can enter our system and cause disease, usually in the terms of respiratory disease. Defensive qi can be weakened by a number of things: stress, improper diet, overexposure to the elements like cold or wind, overwork, lack of exercise, emotional distress, or a general imbalance between the yin and yang energies in the body.
In TCM our immunity is also strongly associated with the function of the internal organs, mainly the Lungs and Spleen. If these organs are functioning and healthy, our defensive qi will be strong.
Acupuncture and Immunity
In recent years, researchers have been able to determine the role acupuncture plays in boosting the body’s immune system by enhancing the production of natural killer cells, which is the primary defense mechanism against organisms that causes illness. A recent Japanese study found that there was a significant increase in these cells after acupuncture.
Another study in a group of women with anxiety and a depressed immune system showed significant improvements after a course of acupuncture. A variety of immune parameters was measured in each blood sample. Immune functions that were reduced in anxious women (chemotaxis, phagocytosis, lymphoproliferation and natural killer cell activity) were found to be significantly improved by acupuncture, while those that were over active (superoxide anion levels and excessive lymphoproliferation) were lowered significantly. Researchers have thus found acupuncture has a regulating effect on the immune system – increasing those parts of the immune system that improve our defences, and decreasing those parts of the immune system that are too responsive, and cause allergies and autoimmune disorders.
When is Acupuncture Beneficial?
Acupuncture can be used for those with a susceptibility to colds and ‘flu to strengthen and consolidate defensive qi. You also do not need to wait until you are sick – if you know you are susceptible during the colder months consider a couple of treatments to strengthen your body before the season is underway and then a few ‘tune up’ treatments throughout the season.
Acupuncture can also be used for those with more serious autoimmune diseases and those with a compromised immunity.
With complex immune disorders, often a multidisciplinary approach is best. Acupuncture can easily be incorporated into your treatment plan, working well with any type of medicine. If you are interested in a natural way to boost your immune system, you may want to consider an integrative treatment option like acupuncture.