Research Update: TCM and the Immune System A study published by the National Institutes of Health evaluated the efficacy of acupuncture for stimulating or regulating the immune system by comparing the results from several studies that each used different methods of acupuncture. Through the use of electroacupuncture, moxibustion, herbs and acupuncture, the studies concluded Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, can be helpful for the immune system. The combined studies demonstrated that moxibustion helped repair the gut mucosa of rats suffering from ulcerative colitis, electroacupuncture can increase the number of T cells in the body and that general acupuncture can decrease inflammation, which plays a vital role in the immune system. Your immune system is what keeps you healthy and helps you ward off pathogens like the flu or a cold. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time worrying about our immune system until we’re sick. Then we reach for the over-the-counter medications to help relieve our symptoms. By looking to TCM instead, we can be proactive about supporting our immune systems in a safe and natural way. According to TCM, the body is protected by something known as the Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). The Wei Qi, or defensive Qi, is comparable to the immune system in conventional medicine. It acts as the first line of defense when the body is under attack from external pathogens. If the Wei Qi is strong, then the body is capable of fighting off bacteria and viruses. Extreme stress, lack of sleep and a poor diet can all play into how strong the body’s Wei Qi is and how well it performs. There are multiple tools in the TCM practitioner’s tool box that can assist in keeping the immune system strong and healthy, including acupuncture, moxibustion, electroacupuncture, herbs, cupping and nutrition. Each of these tools has a similar effect on the body. TCM can regulate immune function, while also treating the underlying causes of the disease. This is done by reducing the symptoms, speeding up the healing, decreasing excess phlegm, decreasing inflammation and boosting the immune-mediated cells in the body that help ward off invasions. Studies show regular acupuncture treatments can actually increase the number of T cells the body produces. T cells destroy harmful bacteria and viruses in the body. Acupuncture needles stimulate the brain into thinking an invader (virus or bacteria) has entered the body. The brain signals the increased release of T cells and white blood cells to fight off the intruder. The amazing part is the increased cellular response lasts for several days after the acupuncture treatment. Thus, receiving regular acupuncture treatments can actually prevent the body from getting sick. New York Sports Acupuncture
Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac., C.SMA
Why do I get sick so easily?
From an acupuncture perspective, your body is made up of
lots of different kinds of Qi, or energy. These different types of Qi have
specific physiological functions in the body. One essential type of Qi is the
Wei Qi. Roughly translated as “immunity,” the Wei Qi is your body’s natural
strength and ability to fight off pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
The Wei Qi, also called “protective Qi” flows in the space
between the skin and muscles, and is the first line of defense against sickness
(after your skin). The Wei Qi also controls the opening and closing of the
pores, so spontaneous sweating is a sign of a weakness in your protective Qi.
When the Wei Qi is not strong enough, we are not able to
fight off outside pathogens, and we get sick.
A number of other energetic imbalances can weaken our Wei
When there is Qi Stagnation in the body from
stress or mental tension, this interferes with the flow of Qi throughout the
body, so the area where the Wei Qi flows is not supported properly and the Wei
When the digestive energy is weakened through
poor diet, overwork or stress, it fails to transport the nutrients from food
around the body, leading to a deficiency of the Wei Qi.
When the lung Qi is weakened through too much
talking, grief, pollution, illness or allergies, it cannot effectively turn our
breath into the Qi we need to protect ourselves. The lungs are also said to
control the Wei Qi, so when they are weakened, the Wei Qi automatically
When our jing, or essence, isn’t strong due to
constitutional and genetic factors, all of our body’s systems suffer, including
the Wei Qi.
So, how do you make sure your Wei Qi is healthy and strong?
Eat right. The food we eat is transformed into
useful Qi by our digestive energy. This Qi - “Gu Qi” is further refined and
part of it is turned into Wei Qi by our body’s natural resources. If you are
not eating properly, your digestive energy won’t be able to pull the necessary
components out of your food to make efficient and strong Wei Qi. This means it
is essential to limit processed foods, eat warm and hearty meals, eat at
regular times, get enough protein and to eat a balanced diet.
Get outside. The air we breathe is also turned
into Qi within our bodies by the lung. Try to spend at least 10 minutes of
every day outside, regardless of the weather. This could mean taking a walk in
the sun, or standing on your porch and watching the rain.
Get enough sleep. Your body replenishes many
deeper levels of energy during sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep and
some of the more internal energies of your body are weak, the Wei Qi has to
work overtime to keep you healthy – and it won’t be able to do that for long.
Also, the Wei Qi actually moves internally in the body during sleep, to nourish
and protect your internal organs, and not getting enough sleep will not allow
it sufficient time to migrate inwards and then get back to the exterior of your
body where it is needed during the day.
Bundle up. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, many
pathogens enter the body through the back of the neck during cold weather. So
help out your Wei Qi and don’t leave your neck exposed to cold or wind – wear
scarves or jackets with collars to keep that area protected.
Get acupuncture! There are specific points on
the body that nourish the Wei Qi to help prevent sickness. Acupuncture can also
strengthen your other energy systems if they are not supporting the Wei Qi
New York Sports Acupuncture
Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac.
3 AcuPoints for Anxiety
One of the most wonderful things about being an acupuncturist is the ability to stimulate points on my own body when I need to. If I get a headache, or feel a cold coming on, I can always hop up on my table for a quick tune-up with some needles. Even when I’m not at the office, the magic of acupuncture can still work for me – as long as I know where the points are and what they do, I can press on them and get results. So, what points do acupuncturists use when they need to chill out? There are so many points on the body that help to calm the mind and bring us down from our stresses and anxieties. My top three, however, are pericardium 6, liver 3, and stomach 6.
Liver 3 is a point located between the first and second toes. If you slide your finger between the toes up until you hit the junction of the two bones, you will find a very tender spot. This is a great point for so many things: irritability, headaches, TMJ, anxiety...the list goes on. If you think about these four issues, they all have one thing in common: they result from the energy in the body rising upward. Liver 3 is a very grounding point. It channels the energy downward. When we are in a state of anxiety, it’s so hard to get out of our heads, but this point will help.
Pericardium 6 is a point that is commonly used for stress and nausea. You have probably seen the bands some pregnant women use around their wrist for morning sickness. These are designed to put pressure on this point, quelling the queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if your anxiety comes with a side of chest tightness or shallow breathing, this is your point.
Stomach 6 isn’t typically on the top 10 list of acupuncture points for stress, but it is my favorite. If you clench your teeth, you can find it by going one finger width anterior and superior to the angle of the mandible at the belly of the masseter muscle. Like many people, I hold a lot of tension in my face and jaw. Massaging this point creates an instant release for me. Once I feel the muscles in my face release, it brings a sense of relaxation into my entire body. Try it for yourself, it feels great!
New York Sports Acupuncture
Bishara Wilson, DACM, L.Ac.