September marks the end of summer, fall is just around the corner and this is the time when we start thinking – or at least should be – about giving our immune system a boost to prevent viral respiratory; from the common cold to more harmful conditions such as pneumonia and COVID. The best way to stay ahead of the game, stay healthy and strong is to kick up and support your body’s own defense: your IMMUNE SYSTEM!
Your immunes system is an intricate and complex system, designed to protect the body from harm, whether external or internal. The immune system needs to be anywhere and everywhere all the time. Therefore, immune cells can be found throughout your body, including your skin, blood, bone marrow and intestine. However many of these immune cells are concentrated in your lymph nodes, your spleen and the thymus gland. Speaking in military terms, these are the intelligence offices and the training ground where new immune cells are created.
And just like the military is an organized system with many branches and functions, so is the immune system. I could get lost in all its inticracies and mechanisms here, but I would end up writing a novel. So for simplicity, lets just focus on the system’s two main branches:
The innate immune system is the one you are born with. It consists of many different immune cells and immune reactions with various functions. It is also non-specific, attacking, engulfing and eating anything that is not friendly – from cancer cells to viruses and bacteria. In addition there is the fever response, stomach acid, mucus production and beneficial bacteria, all of which play an important roll in eliminating the enemy.
Then there is the acquired or adaptive immune system. This more sophisticated and specific system is developed and expanded over time through the exposure to pathogens. It is the system that remembers the enemy and constructs so-called antibodies that are activated as soon as this previously identified invader tries to break through the front lines. This happens in your body all the time and the battle may be won without you even realizing that you were sick.
Unfortunately, there are many things that can weaken our immune system. Most of them are related to lifestyle and nutrition. Here are some of the ways your immune system can be “zapped”:
• Sleep Deprivation
• Poor Diet (processed food, sugar)
• Smoking, Alcohol
Lifestyle changes and supplementation with vitamins are one way to improve immune function, but so can regular acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture addresses the above listed challenges: sleep, stress, digestive function and withdrawal symptoms.
This claim is not just based on anecdotal evidence but on scientific research!
Studies have shown that REGULAR acupuncture treatments can actually increase the number of T-cells (a type of white blood cell) the body produces.
How does this work??? The acupuncture needle, upon insertion, activates the nervous system to contact the brain and alert it of the “intruder”. This, in turn, causes the brain to signal an increased release of T-cells – so basically sending more soldiers into the field! This increased cellular response lasts for several days after the treatment.
Aside from poor sleep and diet, chronic stress and fear play a huge role in the weakening of the immune function. Acupuncture has repeatedly been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
A 2007 study on the effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women, demonstrated how acupuncture can positively affect immune function by treating underlying emotional disturbances. Blood was drawn 72 hours after each treatment and examined for changes in chemotaxis, phagocytosis, lymph proliferation and Natural Killer cell activity. The participants in the study received 10 sessions during a one-year period until complete remission of anxiety. The results showed that immune function of the participants was significantly improved and these effects persisted for one month after the treatment.
The nature of acupuncture is to bring the body back into balance, and thereby improving the functions of all body systems, creating an environment in which health and wellness thrive!
And while acupuncture can be instrumental in eliminating/reducing pain and inflammation, treat many diseases and calm the mind, it is most effective when used regularly and preventatively.
To reap maximum benefits, I recommend to all my patients to come in for a “tune-up” at least once per month!
Ref. Arranz L, Guayerbas N, Siboni L, De la Fuente M. Effect of acupuncture treatment on the immune function impairment found in anxious women. Am J Chin Med. 2007;35(1):35-51. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X07004606. PMID: 17265549.