Guillain-Barre¢ Syndrome (GBS) is a neurological disorder that is somewhat rare, affecting about 1-2 people per 100,000 in the US annually. It can occur at any age, any gender and any ethnicity. It is one of those diseases that we understand very little about, but all seem to concur that it is an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nerves (nerves at the ends of fingers and toes), that gradually weaken the muscles and move inward towards the organs of the body. GBS can become very serious, very quickly, so prompt medical attention is crucial.
What is known about Guillain-Barré Syndrome, is that it generally follows an infection, mostly gastrointestinal or respiratory. The most common infections associated with GBS include Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and Cytomegalovirus (CMV), (both herpes viruses), Campylobacter jejuni (gastrointestinal), Mycoplasma pneumonia (respiratory) and Influenza virus. I also worked with someone who handled raw chicken without washing well who contracted it. Other things associated with triggering GBS include vaccinations, surgeries and trauma.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome can be anywhere from mild to life-threatening. Because it generally progresses quickly, early diagnosis is important. Medically, the treatment includes immunoglobulin therapy or plasmapheresis.
How can the alternative medicine community help? Mostly in supporting the immune system, controlling pain, and reducing inflammation.
Acupuncture is one of the best ways to manage the pain which can significantly impact the individual. Acupuncture stimulates the release of hormones called endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving chemicals. They can help reduce the perception of pain through its regulation of the autonomic nervous system. It helps promote a state of relaxation and a sense of well-being. Acupuncture may activate nerve fibers that inhibit the transmission of pain signals, modulating how the nervous system perceives pain. Acupuncture has also been shown to improve peripheral nerve function.
In addition, acupuncture improves blood circulation, helps with muscle relaxation where they get tightened up, reduces stress which naturally goes up in such a potentially serious condition and helps regulate the immune system.
Acupuncture supports the immune system by modulating the pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, which balance the immune signaling molecules. Acupuncture has been shown to regulate immune cells such as lymphocytes and macrophages, which are part of the body’s defense against pathogens. Acupuncture has shown to regulate the communication between the nervous, immune and endocrine systems, via neurotransmitters, neuropeptides and hormones, helping to restore balance in health and disease. In fact, acupuncture is known for its ability to restore homeostasis or equilibrium between all systems of the body. By improving circulation of blood and lymph, acupuncture helps to facilitate delivery of immune cells, nutrients and oxygen to areas of the body in need, to potentiate the body’s ability to heal.
If you are suffering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, there is help.
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©2023 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.