Acupuncture has always had its doubters, this was true in the early 1970s when it first became popular in the United States and it is true even today. Over time, scientists through thorough observation have found real proof that ancient traditional Chinese medicine practitioners were onto something,.
Nowadays, we several documents proving a direct connection between physical processes that could alleviate sepsis and the use of acupuncture. Sepsis is a condition that usually occurs in intensive care units in hospitals. It is caused by inflammation and infection. Every year it affects around 250,000 Americans and can lead to death.
Rutgers New Jersey Medical School immunologist Luis Ulloa said that that one of the most common causes of death in hospitals is sepsis. He headed a study whose results were published in the Nature Medicine journal. Ulloa added that the infection actually does not directly cause death, in a lot of instances. Instead, death occurs due to the inflammatory disorder that develops post infection. Because of this, he embarked on a study to see how this inflammatory disorder can be controlled.
Ulloa and his team endeavored to determine whether a type of acupuncture that conveys a mild electric signal through the vagus nerve and other nerves can reduce organ injury and inflammation in mice suffering from sepsis since he already knew that stimulation of the vagus nerve sets off processes within the body that help alleviate the inflammation. He explained that boosting the electric signals mirrors the effect of the needling process. He also stated that electrification is an FDA-approved procedure for the treatment of pain in humans.
Molecules known as cytokines that aid in decreasing inflammation were activated as predicted, and 50% of the mice survived for a week at least when electro-acupuncture procedure was administered to these mice suffering from sepsis. Those that were not treated with real acupuncture did not survive the disease.
To figure out exactly why the treatments were a success, Ulloa and his team decided to probe further. What they found, however, on the surface, was quite disappointing. They discovered that when the adrenal glands were removed (these are glands that manufacture the hormones in the body), the electro-acupuncture treatment failed. Because most of sepsis cases involve drastically lessened adrenal function, on its face, this finding presented a huge obstacle to acupuncture’s use as a treatment for sepsis in humans. Hypothetically, electro-acupuncture can still be useful for a few patients with well-functioning adrenal glands. For the rest, however, it will not work.
To determine the definite anatomical changes that happen when electro-acupuncture was administered with adrenal glands that were functional, the researchers decided to dig even deeper. Those changes included elevating amount of dopamine levels in the body. Dopamine is a hormone that is very important within the immune system.
They saw that increasing dopamine alone was not enough to quell the inflammation. So, they decided to substitute it with fenoldopam, a medicine that imitates some of dopamine’s positive effects. Ulloa and his team were able to reduce sepsis-related deaths by 40%, even without acupuncture.
For Ulloa, this was a double achievement.
First, he saw that the research proved beyond any doubt that acupuncture works for the treatment of sepsis. The outcomes reveal potential positives, not just for sepsis, but for Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, as well.
Second, he has provided an innovative roadmap toward developing potential drugs for people by also establishing that a drug can cut down sepsis deaths in mice. This is quite important since the FDA still has no approved drug that can help treat sepsis.
Galina Semyonova is a licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist in New York City. She has studied extensively in the fields of biofeedback therapy, SCENAR therapy, Chinese herbal treatments and Chinese and Western nutrition.