Chinese scientists have discovered a major finding about how acupuncture works to boost immunity. It’s through a major cranial nerve of the body called the vagus nerve, which travels from your brainstem all the way down to your abdomen.
The complete neural network the vagal nerve forms is quite amazing in that it is one of the major ways your brain receives ongoing health status updates of all your internal organs.
What Is the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is one of the primary nerves that regulates the functions of internal organs. It regulates your blood pressure, heart rate, circulation, and breathing rates. But that’s not all it does. Take a look at some of these functions it controls:
- inflammation (via the spleen)
- inflammation (via the spleen)
- how often you have bowel movements
- gagging and vomiting
- pH levels in the blood
- calms you down after times of stress
- reduces fight or flight response
- neutralizes oxidative stress
- reduces the temporal summation of responses that cause greater sensitivity to pain (central sensitization)
Medical doctors sometimes use implanted vagal nerve stimulators for depression, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, IBS, Crohn’s disease and tinnitus to indirectly make a difference in these disorders. When the vagal nerve is stimulated in studies, the inflammatory responses in the body are lessened.
But in acupuncture, stimulation of the Stomach 36 acupuncture point, which needs no surgical implantation of any technological device, makes changes in the immune system via the spleen in its TNF-alpha production.
From a traditional Oriental medicine viewpoint, acupuncture involves stimulating a particular point along one of 13 different energy channels in the body. When the point is stimulated, the flow of energy or chi, is now allowed to course through the channel that then delivers energy to various organs along the way. But Western medicine enthusiasts haven’t really been satisfied with this definition and want to know that there’s a biological basis for how acupuncture really works.
Now the answer is clearly seen. Further studies will begin soon.
Source: Lim, Hee-Don; Kim, Min-Hee; Lee, Chan-Yong, and Namgung, Uk. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture Stimulation via the Vagus Nerve. PLoS One Mar 18, 2016, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151882. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151882
Official abstract: Although acupuncture therapy is widely used in traditional Asian medicine for the treatment of diverse internal organ disorders, its underlying biological mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the functional involvement of acupuncture stimulation (AS) in the regulation of inflammatory responses. TNF-α production in mouse serum, which was induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration, was decreased by manual acupuncture (MAC) at the zusanli acupoint (stomach36, ST36). In the spleen, TNF-α mRNA and protein levels were also downregulated by MAC and were recovered by using a splenic neurectomy and a vagotomy. c-Fos, which was induced in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) and dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMV) by LPS and electroacupuncture (EAC), was further increased by focal administration of the AMPA receptor blocker CNQX and the purinergic receptor antagonist PPADS. TNF-α levels in the spleen were decreased by CNQX and PPADS treatments, implying the involvement of inhibitory neuronal activity in the DVC. In unanesthetized animals, both MAC and EAC generated c-Fos induction in the DVC neurons. However, MAC, but not EAC, was effective in decreasing splenic TNF-α production. These results suggest that the therapeutic effects of acupuncture may be mediated through vagal modulation of inflammatory responses in internal organs.