ACUPUNCTURE & THE ADRENAL GLANDS
The adrenal glands tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are part of the endocrine system in the body and they produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and steroids like cortisol and aldosterone. These small little glands are vital to the well-being of all humans. These hormones help the body control blood sugar, burn fat, react to stressors and regulate the blood pressure. The adrenal glands produce the hormones all day, every day. But they kick into overdrive when the body is stressed. This makes the adrenals extremely important. Studies show chronic stress can severely impact the adrenal glands ability to continually produce the hormones needed to sustain life. This is where the term “adrenal fatigue” comes into play.
Adrenal fatigue is more commonly known as HPA Axis Dysregulation. HPA stands for hypothalamus pituitary adrenal, which are all part of the endocrine system. When a person experiences HPA Axis Dysregulation, the adrenal glands have a difficult time producing the required levels of stress hormones and sex hormones and various neurotransmitters. This is why people with adrenal fatigue feel tired all the time. This is also the time the body should be offered some extra support.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views things differently than Western medicine, but the adrenal glands are still an important part of the body. TCM treats the adrenal glands as part of the kidneys and the kidney energetic pathway. This means the adrenal glands are part of the water element. The kidney area is seen as a key role player that determines the quality of life in TCM. This is because the kidneys control the internal Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is considered the body’s life force.
The body is a complicated machine that has a very efficient self-regulating system. When the body is depleted of quality food or sleep, then it will not be able to function and carry out all the important functions. This is why many people experience eating binges or extreme fatigue accompanied by excessive sleep when they are under severe stress.
Everyday stress can drain the body of energy, nutritional reserves and Qi over time. When this occurs, the body may experience a breakdown, a drop in immunity or great fatigue. If this continues, adrenal fatigue may develop. Adrenal fatigue is a condition where the adrenal glands become weak and then produce insufficient amounts of the hormones needed for everyday life. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low libido, food cravings, general malaise, emotional problems, weight gain, low immunity, difficulty concentrating and thyroid issues.
TCM offers a couple of possible solutions to treating weakened adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments and moxibustion can greatly help the adrenals. Regular acupuncture treatments can strengthen the kidneys. Over time, the adrenals/kidneys will regain some of their Qi, thus helping the body to fuel and heal itself. Acupuncture is so effective because it helps reduce stress and it turns on the relaxation part of the nervous system. When the relaxation side of the nervous system is turned on, the heart rate will return to normal, digestion will improve and sleep will become deeper and more restful.
In fact, in a series of studies performed and published by Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers demonstrated how acupuncture can decrease stress hormones using rats as the models. The studies were performed by Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, L.Ac. She used electroacupuncture on a specific acupuncture point, Stomach 36, which is known to reduce stress levels. What she found was electroacupuncture actually blocks chronic, stress-induced elevations of hypothalamus pituitary adrenal hormones. This series of studies provides evidence acupuncture can be very beneficial to nearly everybody through the use of just one acupressure point.
Moxibustion is another tool in the TCM toolbox that can help heal the adrenal glands. Moxibustion is the burning of a dried herb, specifically mugwort. The mugwort is placed on specific acupuncture points that are known to tonify or improve the Qi associated with the kidneys/adrenal glands. Both moxibustion and acupuncture can be performed frequently to help bring the body back into balance.
Incorporating healthy eating habits, regular exercise and restful sleep can also keep the adrenal glands performing well. But when we are stressed, many of the things we know are good for us, tend to get moved to the back burner. This is where getting regular acupuncture treatments can be very beneficial. So if excessive stress is a factor in your life, consider adding acupuncture treatments that can help you relax mentally and keep you healthy physically.