Research Update – Acupuncture and the Adrenal Glands


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.

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 well-being 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 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 (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 in the study by Ladan Eshkevari, certain acupressure points 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.

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

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