In a recent post, Trust Your Gut, we talked about the importance of gut health, and how a healthy gut is important to the immune system and balancing the gut-brain axis and nervous system. We have gotten so used to tummy troubles that a lot of people suffer daily, even without a diagnosed digestive disorder; at times, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of the discomfort. Americans are inundated with articles about food sensitivity, overconsumption, and other factors that lead to gastrointestinal problems. The good news is, acupuncture is a safe, effective approach to improving overall gut health, which has a positive impact throughout the body.
Acupuncture can help improve the performance of the different organs in the abdomen, as well as the nervous system, and balance hormonal imbalances – all of which impact gut health. An overactive nervous system alone decreases digestive function, which has a negative impact on how effectively our bodies absorb nutrients and process waste.
The Major Players
Generally, when we think about gut health, the stomach gets all of the attention. There’s more to how the digestive system works.
Chewing, beginning of food breakdown through saliva
Peristalsis – the movement of organ walls, allowing food and liquid to move through the GI tract
Where food and digestive juices meet
Produces digestive juices that help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
Processes nutrients absorbed by the small intestine
Recent studies show that acupuncture can help promote or decrease peristalsis and reduce certain acid outputs.
Some of the areas acupuncture can impact:
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Acupuncture has been effective in treating areas of digestive distress for thousands of years. Your acupuncturist will look at the body as a system, rather than a sum of individual parts, in developing a treatment plan specific to you and your needs.
It’s May, and everything in Nashville is covered in a layer of pollen. We go through it every year, but the scratchy throat, itchy eyes, and runny nose are still an unpleasant harbinger of spring. Some allergens are around us all the time in the form of dust mites, pet dander, or food sensitivities.
Allergies trigger histamines, which are incredibly helpful for the body – they help the body get rid of something bothering you, like an allergy. They’re part of the body’s defense system and want to get rid of the stimulant, which is why you might sneeze, tear up, or itch. When your body is triggered by an allergen, your immune system signals mast cells in the skin, lungs, nose, mouth, gut, and blood to release histamines. The histamines boost blood flow in the affected area, causing inflammation and inviting other parts of the body’s defense system to engage.
Sometimes, the histamine response is dramatic and prolonged, such as when a tick bite triggers an Alpha Gal response and an allergic response to animal products. Acupuncture is one of the only techniques that can effectively reduce the severity of an Alpha-Gal response – there are no drugs, vaccines, or allergy shots available.
Acupuncture Treatments with Affinity Acupuncture
Acupuncture treatments can help with other environmental, seasonal, and food allergies also – by up to 80-95%. A simple protocol involves an exam, one visit, and one needle. We help identify the allergen, place a small needle in the ear for several weeks, and then allergens can be carefully and systematically reintroduced. For allergies severe enough to anaphylactic shock – the goal is not to intentionally reintroduce, but to lessen the severity of response if the body is exposed to the allergen. If you’re interested in finding out if you’re a good candidate for acupuncture to help relieve your allergy symptoms, call 615-939-2787 today, or click on this link.
Acupuncture is effective for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. Researchers find acupuncture effective for normalizing hormone levels and improving the overall health of patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. Scientific data demonstrates that acupuncture produces significant improvements in menstrual regularity, restores ovulation pattern regularity, increases pregnancy rates, regulates hormonal secretions, normalizes basal body temperature patterns, and increases embryo survival rates. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF (in vitro fertilization) patients.
Research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion entitled Advances In Clinical Research On Acupuncture Moxibustion Treatment For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome cites several clinical studies. Let’s take a look at the finings. Chen et al. applied stimulation with acupuncture at sacral plexus acupoints and paraspinal acupoints. Acupuncture treatment sessions were regularly administered over the course of three menstruation cycles. Upon completion of all acupuncture therapy, follow-up examinations (including ultrasound imaging) demonstrated significant improvements in menstrual regularity, ovulation frequency, and cervical mucus consistency. In addition, the pregnancy rate of patients in the study increased significantly.
The research published in the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture reviewed the work of Wang et al. That study demonstrated an 80.8% total effective rate for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome with acupuncture. The acupuncture points used in the study included the following acupoints:
Two additional acupuncture points were added, based on symptomatic presentations and differential diagnostic considerations: Taichong (LV3), Fenglong (ST40). In another investigation, Huang et al. combined moxibustion with traditional Chinese medicine massage (Tui Na) and medications. The controlled investigation demonstrated the ability of traditional Chinese medicine to regulate ovulation and secretion of sex hormones to normal levels when compared with the control group that received only drug therapy. Moxibustion was applied to the following: Sanyinjiao, Guanyuan, Zigong. The researchers conclude that moxa and Chinese massage enhance the efficacy of drug therapy for the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Xie et al. combined traditional Chinese herbal medicine with acupuncture and achieved significant clinical results. Patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome had an 80% total treatment effective rate using the combined therapy protocol. An herbal pill (Zi Shen Yu Tai) was administered to nourish the kidneys and reinforce fertility. On the fifth day following menstruation, acupuncture was applied to the following acupoints:
Guanyuan, CV4 Sanyinjiao, SP6 Taixi, KD3 Taichong, LV3 Zigong, extra
The pattern of basal body temperatures significantly normalized using the herbal medicine combined with acupuncture therapy approach to patient care. In addition, hormone levels significantly normalized, including the following hormones: LH (luteinizing hormone), testosterone, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone). The work of Xie et al. was published in the Guiding Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Qiu and Xu administered electroacupuncture to patients that had a combination of polycystic ovarian syndrome with obesity. Electroacupuncture was applied to body style acupuncture points. In addition, auricular (ear) acupuncture was added. Important clinical improvements were documented by the researchers. Patients had significant improvements in the reduction of polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms, including improved menstruation regularity. In addition, many patients experienced a healthy reduction a bodily fat. The total treatment affective rate was 89.7%.The auricular acupuncture points used in the study were as follows: Zigong, Neifenmi, Pizhixia, Pi, Shen, Luanchao. Body style acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
Li et al. administered acupuncture therapy to determine whether or not it is successful for the improvement of in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo survival rates. Inclusion criteria for the study predetermined that all patients were of kidney deficiency type (according to Chinese medicine principles) and had a confirmed diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome. The results demonstrate significant clinical improvements, including higher embryo survival rates. The following acupuncture points used in the study were as follows:
Guanyuan, CV4 Zhongji, CV3 Sanyinjiao, SP6 Zigong, extra Taixi, KD3
In related research, Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers investigated ovulation and pregnancy rates for patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome. The study involved two groups. Group one received acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises. Group two received drug therapy (cyproterone acetate / ethinylestradiol tablets and metformin). The acupuncture, herbs, and exercise group slightly outperformed the drug group.
The combination of acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic exercises produced higher rates of ovulation and pregnancies in PCOS patients, producing a 46.92% ovulation rate and a 32.16% pregnancy rate. The drug therapy protocol produced a 40.61% ovulation rate and a 30.16% pregnancy rate. The researchers concluded that drug therapy and Chinese medicine produce similar positive patient outcomes for patients with PCOS.
References Zheng HM, Lv GY, Wang YJ, Hou WG, Chen YL, Zeng YJ. (2013). Advances in Clinical Research on Acupuncture moxibustion Treatment for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 32(9).
Wang XY, Zhang YJ, Wu FD, Lu Y & Huang GQ. (2007). Acupuncture Treatment for 26 Cases of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of acupuncture, moxibustion & Tuina. (05).
Chen D, Chen SR, Shi XL, Guo FL, Zhu YK, Li Z, Cai MX, Deng LH & Xu H. (2007). Needle pricking therapy in treating polycystic ovary syndrome. China Journal of Acupuncture & Moxibustion. (02).
Huang M, Lai H, Lv FB & Pan BQ. (2007). Moxibustion in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome. Massage methodology. (01).
Qiu HN & Xu J. (2006). Acupuncture, moxibustion and auricular point sticking in treating obese polycystic ovarian syndrome. Chinese Community Doctors. 8(14): 86-87.
Li J, Cui W, Sun W. (2009). Electroacupuncture in treating patients with kidney deficiency type of PCOS and receive IVF-ET. China Journal of Sexual Science. (07).
Bai, S. L., Jiang, X. H., Li, Y. L., Huang, W. Q., Wang, L. & Liu, X. Z. (2014). The effect of weight-loss herbal decoction combined with acupuncture and exercise on endocrine markers and pregnancy outcomes in non-obesity patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Chinese Journal of Family Planning. 22(8).
Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Papavassiliou AG. Molecular mechanisms of insulin resistance in polycystic ovary syndrome. Trends Mol Med JT – Trends in molecular medicine, 2006, 12(7):324.
Sun, J., J. M. Zhao, R. Ji, H. R. Liu, Y. Shi, and C. L. Jin. “[Effects of electroacupuncture of” Guanyuan”(CV 4)-” Zhongji”(CV 3) on ovarian P450 arom and P450c 17alpha expression and relevant sex hormone levels in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome].” Zhen ci yan jiu= Acupuncture research/[Zhongguo yi xue ke xue yuan Yi xue qing bao yan jiu suo bian ji] 38, no. 6 (2013): 465-472.
Why Doctors Approve Acupuncture For Medical Ailments Treatment
The American College of Physicians formally recommends acupuncture for the treatment of back pain. Published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine, clinical guidelines were developed by the American College of Physicians (ACP) to present recommendations based on evidence. Citing quality evidence in modern research, the ACP notes that nonpharmacologic treatment with acupuncture for the treatment of chronic low back pain is recommended. The official grade by the ACP is a “strong recommendation.” 
The Medical Goal of Acupuncture
A major goal of the recommendation is for acupuncture and other nonpharmacological therapies to replace drug therapy as a primary source of pain relief. Treatment with opioids is only recommended, with an official “weak recommendation,” when other modalities do not provide adequate relief. A strong recommendation is also made by the American College of Physicians for the treatment of both acute and subacute lower back pain with heat, massage, acupuncture, and spinal manipulation.  The recommendations were approved by the ACP Board of Regents and involves evidence based recommendations from doctors at the Penn Health System (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Minnesota), and the Yale School of Medicine (New Haven, Connecticut).
The American College of Physicians notes that approximately 25% of USA adults have had, at the very minimum, a one day lower back pain episode within the past three months. The socioeconomic impact of lower back pain in the USA was approximately $100 billion in the year 2006 . The costs include medical care and indirect costs due to lost wages and declines in productivity.  Recommendations for treatment options, including those for the use of acupuncture, include considerations of positive medical patient outcomes, the total number of back pain episodes, duration between episodes, alleviation of lower back pain, improvement in function of the back, and work disability reductions. Recommendations are for both radicular and nonradicular lower back pain.
The target audience for the American College of Physicians recommendations includes all doctors, other clinicians, and the adult population with lower back pain. The ACP notes, “Moderate-quality evidence showed that acupuncture was associated with moderately lower pain intensity and improved function compared with no acupuncture at the end of treatment .”  In agreement, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (National Institutes of Health) notes that acupuncture is an effective treatment modality for the relief of chronic lower back pain. 
These findings are consistent with those published in Mayo Clinic proceedings finding that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of lower back pain. The same Mayo Clinic report notes that acupuncture does not cause any significant adverse effects.  The Mayo Clinic findings apply to both nociceptive and non-nociceptive pain. Nociceptive back pain includes musculoskeletal inflammation and pain involving nerve cells wherein nociceptors are activated. Nociceptors are afferent neurons in the skin, muscles, joints, and other areas. For example, nerve impingement (often referred to as a “pinched nerve”) produces one type of nociceptive pain.
Non-nociceptive pain does not involve inflammation and is more relevant to pain processing in the central nervous system. One type of non-nociceptive pain condition is fibromyalgia and acupuncture has been confirmed as an effective treatment modality for this condition. The Mayo Clinic proceedings note, “Martin et al. found a significant improvement between electroacupuncture vs sham electroacupuncture. Differences were seen on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ) scores for fatigue and anxiety.” 
The Mayo Clinic and American College of Physicians findings are consistent with additional quality research. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York) and University of York (United Kingdom) researchers note “We have provided the most robust evidence from high-quality trials on acupuncture for chronic pain. The synthesis of high-quality IPD found that acupuncture was more effective than both usual care and sham acupuncture. Acupuncture is one of the more clinically effective physical therapies for osteoarthritis and is also cost-effective if only high-quality trials are analysed.” 
Doctors understand the true need for effective pain management. Nonpharmacological solutions are important for a variety of reasons including prevention of addiction, effective relief of pain, and prevention of adverse effects. This is often of heightened concern during pregnancy and for children. As a result, university hospitals integrate acupuncture into usual care settings to improve patient outcomes. For example, pediatric doctors at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco provide acupuncture to children, including non-needle laser acupuncture. At the University of California hospital, acupuncture is made available for both inpatients and outpatients. Dr. Kim notes that acupuncture reduces nausea up to 70%. She adds that acupuncture is also effective for significant reductions in post-surgical pain and chronic headaches. 
Recently, researchers have discovered how acupuncture stops pain and provides other forms of relief for patients. Breakthrough research conducted by University of South Florida (Tampa) and Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (Fuzhou) researchers documents how acupuncture stops pain. The researchers note, “acupuncture exerts a remarkable analgesic effect on SCI [spinal cord injury] by also inhibiting production of microglial cells through attenuation of p38MAPK and ERK activation.” 
Microglia are central nervous system immunity cells that secrete proinflammatory and neurotoxic mediators. Acupuncture reduces pain by attenuating this response. The researchers also document that acupuncture provides neuroprotection. The researchers note that acupuncture prevents brain damage in the hippocampus by “preventing microglial activation.” The University of South Florida members of the research team were from the Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair and the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Funding was provided by the United States Department of Defense, University of South Florida Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Foundation.
The aforementioned research reveals an important biochemical mechanism involved in acupuncture’s ability to alleviate pain and reduce harmful inflammation. Researchers focus on other mechanisms activated by administration of acupuncture treatments. For example, laboratory investigations reveal how acupuncture regulates blood pressure.
University of California (Irvine) researchers find acupuncture effective for the treatment of high blood pressure. In a controlled laboratory study, University of California researchers have proven that electroacupuncture at acupoint ST36 (Zusanli) promotes enkephalin production, which dampens proinflammatory excitatory responses from the sympathetic nervous system that cause hypertension. Specifically, electroacupuncture regulates preproenkephalin gene expression, a precursor substance that encodes proenkephalin, which then stimulates the production of enkephalin. 
The formal recommendation for the use of acupuncture in cases of lower back pain by the American College of Physicians is based on modern research. Mayo Clinic findings and research from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York) and the University of York support this recommendation. In response to the needs of patients, doctors have already implemented acupuncture into several hospitals throughout the USA and both inpatient and outpatient acupuncture treatments are available.
Now, modern scientific investigations reveal how acupuncture works. University of South Florida and Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine researchers confirm acupuncture’s ability to attenuate microglial activation. University of California researchers have quantified acupuncture’s ability to control inflammation by regulating enkephalins. In addition, the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) provides professional certification for acupuncturists, which ensures standards of excellence for licensed acupuncturists. Given the large body of supportive research and the administrative support for providing safe and effective acupuncture to the general public, expect to see greater implementation of acupuncture into usual care settings.
References 1. Qaseem, Amir, Timothy J. Wilt, Robert M. McLean, and Mary Ann Forciea. “Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of PhysiciansNoninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain.” Annals of Internal Medicine (2017). 2. Qaseem, et al. Annals of Internal Medicine (2017).
3. Katz J.N. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences.J Bone Joint Surg Am200688 Suppl 2214. 4. Lam M. Galvin R. Curry P. Effectiveness of acupuncture for nonspecific chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Spine (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1976) 201338212438. 5. ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet. Low Back Pain Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. 6. Nahin, Richard L., Robin Boineau, Partap S. Khalsa, Barbara J. Stussman, and Wendy J. Weber. “Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States.” In Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 91, no. 9, pp. 1292-1306. Elsevier, 2016. 7. Martin DP, Sletten CD, Williams BA, Berger IH. Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006;81(6):749-757. 8. MacPherson, H., A. Vickers, M. Bland, D. Torgerson, M. Corbett, E. Spackman, P. Saramago et al. “Acupuncture for chronic pain and depression in primary care: a programme of research.” (2017).
9. Leslie Lingaas. ucsf.edu/news/2014/04/113966/acupuncture-helps-young-patients-manage-pain. Acupuncture Helps Pediatric Patients Manage Pain and Nausea, 2014. 10. Lin, Lili, Nikola Skakavac, Xiaoyang Lin, Dong Lin, Mia C. Borlongan, Cesar V. Borlongan, and Chuanhai Cao. “Acupuncture-induced analgesia: the role of microglial inhibition.” Cell transplantation 25, no. 4 (2016): 621-628. 11. Cevic, C and Iseri, SO. The effect of acupuncture on high blood pressure of patients using antihypertensive drugs. Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research 2013; 38(1-2): 1-15. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724695.
Researchers find acupuncture effective for the relief of cervical spinal syndrome. This condition involves irritation of the spinal nerves located in the neck. Spinal nerves transmit sensory, motor, and autonomic nervous system signals between the spinal cord and the body. Inflammation and impingement present in cervical spinal syndrome results in head, neck, chest, shoulder, or arm pain and dysfunction. The results of the research demonstrates that acupuncture plus moxibustion yields a high total recovery rate. In addition, nearly every patient receiving acupuncture plus moxibustion demonstrated significant improvements.
Researchers from the Hubei Hongan Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital examined 200 cervical syndrome patients in a controlled investigation. The research team discovered that targeted acupuncture treatments produce an extremely high total effective rate and a high complete recovery rate. Targeting involved the application of a primary acupuncture point prescription for all patients plus an additional set of secondary acupuncture points based upon diagnostic variations in clinical presentations. Using this semi-protocolized targeted approach to patient care, the research team achieved a 97% total effective rate across all tiers of improvement. The breakdown into levels of efficaciousness produced surprising results. The total recovery rate was 64%, the significant improvement rate was 17%, the minimal improvement rate was 16%, and 3% had no improvement.
Dr. Ruth Jackson, MD, notes, “The nerve roots leave the spinal cord at an angle which approximates a right angle, and they fill fairly snugly the foramina through which they pass. This makes them very vulnerable to irritation from any mechanical derangement of the cervical spine.” Cervical syndrome is often triggered by a small event, such as leaning over a sink while brushing teeth or turning the head. However, the initial cause may have been prior, including whiplash injuries, mechanical deformities, or other chronic irritations. The tight spacing of the intervertebral foramina (IVF) through which the nerves pass is easily encroached by both chronic and acute conditions that produce inflammation and morphological changes.
A primary set of acupoints was administered to all patients in this acupuncture continuing education study. A total of 3 – 4 acupoints from the primary set were applied during each acupuncture session. Each acupoint, including customized secondary acupoints, were needled with standard manual acupuncture protocols for insertion and manipulation. Total needle retention time during each acupuncture session was 20 minutes. One acupuncture session was applied daily for a total of 10 days, followed by a two day break and then another 10 days of acupuncture therapy. For moxibustion, a moxa cigar was used to warm the cervical Jiaji acupoints for 30 minutes per day. One 30 minute moxibustion treatment was conducted daily for 10 consecutive days. The next treatment cycle of an additional 10 days of moxibustion care commenced after a 2 day break from treatment. The primary acupoints were selected from the following selection:
Fengchi (GB20) Dazhui (GV14) Jianjing (GB21) Tianzong (SI11) Lieque (LU7) Zhongzhu (TB3) Houxi (SI3) Ashi (located beside spinous processes) Secondary acupoints were selected based on the type of cervical syndrome presentation for each patient. For nerve root compression cervical syndrome affecting the shoulders and arms, the following points were applied:
Jianyu (LI15) Tianzong (SI11) Binao (LI14) Yanglao (SI6) For vertebral artery related cervical syndrome, the following acupoints were applied:
Taiyang (MHN9) Touwei (ST8) Baihui (GV20) Sishencong (MHN1) Neiguan (PC6) Sanyinjiao (SP6) Taichong (LV3) Zusanli (ST36) For sympathicus cervical syndrome involving excess stimulation of the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, the following acupoints were applied:
Taiyang (MHN9) Jingming (BL1) Qiuhou (MHN8) Yifeng (TB17) Neiguan (PC6) Zusanli (ST36) Sanyinjiao (SP6) Jiaoxin (KD8) Yinjiao (CV7) Patients were evaluated before and after the treatment course of care. The treatment efficacy for each patient was categorized into 1 of 4 tiers:
Recovery: Complete recovery of neck function. Complete absence of clinical symptoms. Significantly effective: Alleviation of localized pain. Clinical symptoms largely absent. Effective: Localized pain present. Basic physiological function achieved. Main clinical symptoms absent. Not effective: No improvement. The total treatment effective rate was derived as the percentage of patients who achieved at least an effective tier. The data shows that acupuncture combined with moxibustion benefits nearly every cervical syndrome patient to some degree, with a 97% total effective rate across all tiers of improvement. The 64% complete recovery rate is equally important.
The researchers gave a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) background to the treatment of cervical syndrome, often manifesting as cervical spondylosis. According to TCM, cervical syndrome is common starting in middle-aged individuals and older. Often, cervical nerve impingement is due to osteoarthritis and cervical disc protrusions or extrusions. Radiculitis is common in all cases. According to TCM principles, left untreated, cervical syndrome is a degenerative disorder. Calcification of related ligaments due to chronic strain and inflammation may lead to oppression of the cervical vertebrae, nerve roots, and blood vessels. There may also be pressure onto the spinal cord in more serious cases. These conditions lead to cervical dysfunction and pain.
In TCM, cervical syndrome is often categorized in the class of Bi Zheng. External pernicious influences giving rise to cervical syndrome include external injury, exhaustion, wind, cold, and dampness. Zang-Fu and deficiency related conditions include deficiency of the liver and kidneys or tendon and bone malnutrition. The aforementioned conditions result in poor qi and blood circulation in the Taiyang meridians and imbalances of the Ying and Wei. Symptoms such as severe neck pain, shoulder pain, numbness, headache, dizziness, and nausea ensue as a result of the condition. The results of the research demonstrates that acupuncture combined with moxibustion is effective for the relief of cervical syndrome.