How Stress Affects the Immune System and What Can Help
According to the APA Stress can reduce the number of natural killer cells or lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient medical practice that provides an effective treatment for stress related issues. Acupuncture treats the symptoms and signs of stress as well as the underlying causes of the body’s imbalances. In TCM, there is no separation between the mind and body – they are interconnected and affect each other in health.
In Chinese medicine, chronic stress causes a blockage of the energy flow in our bodies at various points. When the energy is not moving freely, painful sensations appear in places where the energy is congested. Migraines, abdominal bloating, cramps, tennis elbow, and any kind of pain without cause is more than likely due to stress-related energy blockage.
Chronic stress is related to many unhealthy symptoms, including high blood pressure, migraines, digestive problems, pregnancy complications, and even stroke. According to many research studies, the blood sugar increase caused by cortisol has also been found to lower the efficiency of our bodies’ immune systems, and can result in even more problems for people with diabetes. In the most extreme cases, panic attacks, periods of a debilitating sense of extreme distress or fear, can occur.
From a Western viewpoint, acupuncture works to alleviate stress by releasing natural pain-killing chemicals in the brain, called endorphins. In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.
TCM is somewhat new to the United States and seems very mysterious. I gave up a long time ago trying to understand it. I trust the practitioners I see to understand what they find in my body and to apply the appropriate treatments and remedies to help. In addition to the insertion of tiny needles into appropriate points in the body, Chinese medicine also utilizes Chinese herbs, cupping, Chinese therapeutic massage (tuina), qì-based practices such as qigong and taichi, and dietary recommendations to restore and maintain health, and to treat patients with specific disorders.
Here is an interesting piece of history. Henry Kissinger, in 1971, while in China was treated for acute appendicitis. You can read about his experience here.
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