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Research Update – Acupuncture and the Adrenal Glands

In a recent paper published by the National Institutes of Health, researchers studied the effects of acupuncture on the adrenal gland peptides known as atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP), as well as the content of corticosterone in the plasma of rats exhibiting chronic emotional stress and anxiety. The researchers did this to evaluate the efficacy of acupuncture in treating anxiety-related disorders. They took thirty-two healthy rats, split them into three groups and then proceeded to surprise two of the groups with unpredictable chronic emotional stress to establish the model of anxiety. What the researchers found was that the rats who were treated with acupuncture showed lower levels of both peptides and corticosterone. This leads to the conclusion that acupuncture treatments for anxiety help regulate the ANP and CNP in the adrenals, which then decreases the release of corticosterone throughout the body, ultimately decreasing the body’s stress and anxiety levels.

The adrenal glands are 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 wellbeing of all humans. The adrenal glands produce the hormones all day, every day. But they kick into overdrive when the body is stressed. And studies show that chronic stress can severely impact the adrenal glands ability to continually produce the hormones that are 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 that the body should be offered some extra support.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a wonderful way to support the body and rejuvenate the adrenal glands. Acupuncture is just one of the many tools in the kit of a licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture can be a mechanical way to stimulate the body’s internal energy and bring areas of dysfunction back into balance. As mentioned above, the use of regular acupuncture can be very beneficial to the health of the adrenal glands.

In TCM, the adrenal glands are considered to be part of the water element, which is related to the kidneys. The kidney area is a key organ that helps determine the quality of life of the individual. Things like adrenal fatigue and low thyroid function can all be contributed to a deficiency of fire in the kidneys. Therefore, a TCM practitioner will focus on ways to warm the kidneys and stimulate energy flow from the adrenal glands, while increasing the basal metabolic rate of the body. Acupressure points like Stomach 36, Kidney 3 and Spleen 6, which are all located on the lower leg make great choices.

Acupuncture can be quite helpful in the fight against adrenal fatigue, stress and anxiety. If you or somebody you know is suffering from fatigue, depression, anxiety or chronic stress, acupuncture and other facets of TCM might be very beneficial.

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