Many studies have shown that acupuncture has an incredible ability to regulate hormones in the body – in particular, the hormones related to the stress mechanism. The adrenal glands are premier in their hormonal capacity to regulate the stress response in the body and acupuncture has a particularly effective ability to balance them. Studies have shown that acupuncture regulates chemicals such as serotonin, endorphin, dopamine, adrenaline, and other hormones that regulate mood and stress.
The endocrine system is a complex biofeedback system that involves many organs/glands that secrete hormones in response to many biological actions. These include the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid, mammary, placenta, thymus, ovaries in women, gonads in men, pineal gland, the adrenal medulla and adrenal cortex, and liver. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the “master gland” as it has direct influence on much of the other glands. How this system works, is when there is a stimulation of one hormone, another is released to control it, to bring it back down again, or stimulates another gland. It is quite complex, as some glands inhibit function while others stimulate function. A change in one hormone, results in a domino effect with most of the other hormones in the endocrine system.
When this system is out of balance, disease can result. Blood sugar, for instance, is regulated by the adrenals, pancreas and liver, primarily. If any of these organs are stressed, or not functioning up to par, imbalances in sugar regulation occur. So if the person is drinking coffee or eating sugar (two functions that deleteriously affect adrenal function), the adrenals can be weakened. We call this adrenal fatigue. The person becomes more and more tired, requiring more and more stimulants to keep going. Conventional medicine does not generally recognize adrenal fatigue. To them, the adrenal glands are either fully functioning or in adrenal failure. Adrenal fatigue lies in the grey area between the two extremes. Not failed, but not happy either. These people may have a difficult time managing stress, tend towards depression or have anxiety, or have blood sugar regulation issues.
Acupuncture regulates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA). This system is greatly affected by surgeries, stimulants, and stress. When out of balance, there is suppression of the immune function, leading to more infections, elevated blood sugar levels, problems with blood pressure regulation and worsening ability to cope with stress. Acupuncture helps regulate the HPAA by regulating glucose and cortisol levels in the blood. Ironically, acupuncture has been shown to simultaneously encourage the production of cortisol (converts to cortisone) in situations where inflammation is present to bring it under control, while reducing it at just the right level to prevent tissue damage and weight gain by enhancing its elimination through improved liver and kidney function.
Acupuncture is effective in reducing the stress response, helps enhance relaxation, reduces anxiety and improves mood. A happy endocrine system, especially happy adrenal glands, translates into a happy person!
©2015 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D