Dr. Mindy Boxer – Treating Autoimmune Disease with Acupuncture












Over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis and Guillain-Barré syndrome. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue. Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions including acupuncture and Oriental medicine have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture is specifically noted for its use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

What Causes Autoimmune Disease?

Under normal conditions, an immune response cannot be triggered against the cells of one’s own body. In certain cases, however, immune cells make a mistake and attack the very cells that they are meant to protect. This can lead to a variety of autoimmune diseases. They encompass a broad category of over 100 diseases in which the person’s immune system attacks his or her own cells and tissue.

The exact mechanisms causing these changes are not completely understood, but bacteria, viruses, toxins, and some drugs may play a role in triggering an autoimmune process in someone who already has a genetic (inherited) predisposition to develop such a disorder. It is theorized that the inflammation initiated by these agents–toxic or infectious–somehow provokes in the body a “sensitization” (autoimmune reaction) in the involved tissues.

As the disease develops, vague symptoms start to appear, such as joint and muscle pain, general muscle weakness, possible rashes or low-grade fever, trouble concentrating, or weight loss. Numbness and tingling in hands and feet, dry eyes, hair loss, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or repeated miscarriages may also indicate that something is wrong with the immune system.

How Acupuncture Treats Autoimmune Disorders

According to Oriental medicine, autoimmune disorders occur when there is an imbalance within the body. Imbalance can come from an excess or deficiency of Yin and Yang that disrupts the flow of Qi, or vital energy, through the body. Acupuncture is used to help the body restore balance, treating the root of the disorder, while specifically addressing the symptoms that are unique to each individual.

Clinical research has shown that acupuncture causes physical responses in nerve cells, the pituitary gland and parts of the brain. These responses can cause the body to release proteins, hormones and brain chemicals that control a number of body functions. It is proposed that, by these actions, acupuncture affects blood pressure, body temperature and the immune system.

In addition to acupuncture, your treatment program to manage your autoimmune disorder may involve a combination of therapies, including stress reducing exercises, moderate physical activity, herbal medicine, nutritional support and bodywork.

Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, occurs when the adrenal gland cannot produce adequate amounts of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. This can be a serious and potentially life-threatening situation, as the adrenal gland influences many essential functions in the body. The risk of getting this disease is the same for all people, regardless of age and other factors. Signs and symptoms may take months to appear, or they may develop very quickly and unexpectedly.

When determining your diagnosis, all symptoms are assessed, even ones that may not seem directly related to Addison’s disease. This is because acupuncture and Oriental medicine has the unique ability to treat the whole person and not just the disease. This means each patient suffering from Addison’s disease could potentially have a different diagnosis and therefore a different acupuncture treatment plan.

For example, if a patient experiences muscle weakness and diarrhea as the main complaints, an acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner may determine that spleen deficiency plays an important role in the way the disease presents itself. Perhaps this patient will receive an acupuncture treatment that emphasizes a strengthening of the spleen.

According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, some functions of the spleen include keeping the bowel’s movements running smoothly and helping maintain muscle and limb strength. So, no matter what your specific complaints may be, acupuncture and Oriental medicine is equipped to help you manage the signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease.

Anti-Inflammatory Recommendations ~

  1. Eat a whole food, Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Focus on Anti-Inflammatory foods including Wild Fish and other sources of Omega-3 Fats, red and purple Berries (these are rich in Polyphenols), Dark Green Leafy Vegetables, orange Sweet Potatoes, and Nuts. Add Anti-Inflammatory Herbs, including Turmeric (a source of Curcumin), Ginger, and Rosemary, to your diet daily. Eliminate Inflammatory foods such as refined, Omega-6, and Inflammatory oils, including Corn, Soy, and Safflower oils.
  2. Check for hidden infections.These include Yeast, Viruses, Bacteria, and Lyme. Check with me about Functional Testing for these.
  3. Check for hidden Food Allergies.I can do this with IgG food testing. Alternately, we can discuss doing a 10-Day Detox Program, which is designed to eliminate most food allergens.
  4. Test for Celiac Disease.Another Blood Test that can be ordered.
  5. Test for Heavy Metal Toxicity. Mercury and other Metals can cause Autoimmunity.
  6. Fix your Gut. About 60 percent of your Immune System lies right under the single-cell-layer lining of your Gut. If this surface breaks down, your Immune System will get activated and start reacting to foods, toxins, and bugs in your gut. The easiest way to begin healing your Gut involves eating a Whole Food, Anti-Inflammatory Diet and removing Gluten and other Food Sensitivities.
  7. Implement Nutritional Supplements. Nutrients like Fish Oil, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Probiotics can help calm your Immune response naturally. Also consider Anti-Inflammatory nutrients like Quercetin, Grape Seed extract, and Rutin.
  8. Exercise regularly.Regular Exercise is a natural Anti-Inflammatory. You don’t have to go to the gym, run on a treadmill, and pump iron to stay in shape. Just start moving around more. Go for walks with your friends or family. Go out and do some gardening. Play Frisbee in the park with your kids. Pick up a tennis racket and just knock a tennis ball around. Anything you can do to get out and move your body can be considered exercise. So don’t think that you absolutely have to go to the gym to get fit. Just use your body more.
  9. Practice deep Relaxation.Stress worsens your Immune response. Calming techniques including regular Acupuncture treatments, Yoga, deep breathing, massage, Meditation CDs can reduce Stress and Anxiety to promote relaxation.

Sleep for 8 hours every night. The research is clear: Lack of sleep or poor sleep damages your Metabolism, causes cravings for Sugar and Carbs, makes you eat more, and drives up your risk of numerous conditions from Diabetes, and AutoImmune Disease. Getting enough sleep and sleeping soundly are essential for vibrant health and reversing Inflammation.


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