Currently there are five prevailing theories why Acupuncture works.
- Acupuncture raises the levels of specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood count, gamma globulins and over-all antibody count.
- Acupuncture has a unique ability to stimulate endorphin production in the body. Endorphins act as the body’s own natural pain killer. It is a “feel good” hormone. If you arefeeling food, you will heal faster.
- Acupuncture affects certain neurotransmitter levels, such as Serotonin and Noradrenaline.
- Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body’s release of Vasodilators (such as Histamine) in response to treatment.
- According to the “Gate Control Theory”, the perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. If the gate is overloaded with impulses, it becomes overwhelmed and it closes. Acupuncture prevents some of the impulses from getting through, thereby reducing pain.
Neuro /Chemical effects of Acupuncture have been scientifically proven for well over fifty years. I find it fascinating that the Enteric Nervous System, which is a branch of your nervous system that controls digestion plays a vital role with our relationship with food and how it effects our emotions and conversely how our emotions affect our digestive nervous system. Following is an excerpt from a website that clearly explains the role serotonin plays in our digestion process.
Serotonin: The Brain-Gut Connection
Another vital aspect of our digestive system is its role in the production of serotonin – the body’s natural “Feel Good Hormone”. Over ninety-five percent of the body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which has been called the body’s “second brain”1 because of its role in serotonin production and so many of the body’s vital functions. In fact, serotonin levels have been linked to everything from autism to constipation.
Serotonin is a key player in the functioning of GI tract muscles, causing the contraction of our intestines, and triggering the gut nerves which signal pain, nausea, and other GI problems. As well, it influences the functioning of the cardiovascular, immune, and renal systems. This amazing hormone also regulates aggression, appetite, cognition, mood, sexual behavior, and even sleep.
A neurotransmitter (chemical by which nerve cells communicate with each other or with muscles), serotonin is manufactured in our bodies from the amino acid tryptophan, which is derived from the food we eat. Diet, then, influences not only the state of our digestive system and overall physical health, it also has a profound impact on memory, mental clarity, mood, and even the foods we crave; these functions are all regulated by serotonin.
- The Mayo Clinic found that serotonin plays a key role in controlling depression.2
- The Brain, Behavior, and Immunity journal reports that tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin is manufactured, assists in memory retention as well as maintaining a good mood, especially among people with a family history of depression.3
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center research sheds light on how serotonin works to suppress appetite.4
Optimal nutrition and digestion is crucial to the production and function of serotonin and that, in turn, plays a vital role in everything from our mental health to our ability to get a good night’s sleep.
I find that most people who come into my office are confused about what to eat. They are bombarded by the vast amount of information on the internet. Patients complain about opposing information from one website to the next. I tell them that, “The study of Nutrition is evolving constantly just like many branches of healthcare”. A simple diet is still the best prescription. Cooking that is lightly seasoned, organic,steamed and sautéed with water come to mind firstly. Portion control can be done by simply using a smaller plate. Wow, a simple common-sense solution to healthier eating and a healthier life.