Coping With Stress The Acuway

Stress is a major cause of systematic flare ups of chronic conditions and produces unwanted symptoms ranging from pain and insomnia to depression & anxiety and weight gain. Residents of the greater NYC area report about 10 percentage point higher levels of stress than the national average.[1] The treatment of stress is at the forefront of modern medicine, but until new and innovative treatment strategies are developed, very few, if any, effective treatments are currently available. Outside of pharmacological interventions, acupuncture is an effective treatment option for those coping with stress. Acupuncture works to alleviate stress by regulating the nervous system, promoting relaxation, and alleviating pain.

Let’s look at how stress affects pain, sleep, mood, and weight and find out how acupuncture can help.

Pain – as the burden of stress accumulates, we see an increase in cortisol. Current research points to acute pain relief by controlling stress, in particular stress-related cortisol.[2] There is a particular hormone that becomes elevated under stressful conditions – AdrenoCorticoTropin Hormone (ACTH). This hormone stimulates the secretion of cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol have a detrimental effect on the nervous system, causing neuronal death – this is why people have issues with their memory when they are under high levels of stress. Acupuncture helps to treat high levels of cortisol by regulating ACTH and thereby reducing plasma cortisol levels. [3] For those of you with chronic pain conditions, acupuncture is a validated treatment option.[4]

Insomnia – As we become more stressed, we become more fatigued, yet sleep is at a premium and hard to come by. The neurotransmitter Adenosine is the next player up to bat. We all know adenosine as a constituent of ATP – the energy supply of our cells. Adenosine also functions to relax the body and promote sleepiness. Acupuncture has been shown to increase extracellular adenosine and is also central to the mechanism of action of acupuncture.[5]

Depression & Anxiety – As the mounting burden of stress skyrockets, mental health is adversely affected. Under chronic stress depression and anxiety become rampant, and for those individuals whom are predisposed to depression and anxiety, the prospect of overcoming is insurmountable. There are two elements in play that lead to depression and anxiety, which are cortisol and neuropeptide Y (NPY).[6,7] NPY maintains homeostasis and is an integral part of the body’s fight or flight response and in elevated amounts plays a role in depression and mood disorders.[7] We have already spoken about acupuncture’s effect on cortisol. Acupuncture, specifically electroacupuncture is effective in preventing chronic stress-induced increase in NPY.[8] Another pathway through which electroacupuncture treats depression and anxiety is through regulation of a signal transduction pathway that includes adenosine.[9]

And finally onto everyone’s favorite topic….

Weight Gain – It is no secret to anyone that stress helps us add on the pounds. But why does this happen? Well stress increases NPY and it also increases a substance call somatostatin (SS). In terms of weight gain, NPY increases the growth of fat tissue. SS on the other hand has a dramatic effect on the digestive system. It reduces the activity of the digestive system by reducing the rate of gastric emptying, inhibits insulin, and inhibits glucagon. Insulin works to decrease blood glucose levels while glucagon works to increase blood glucose levels. Electroacupuncture has been shown to regulate NPY in the thalamus and SS in colonic tissue, thereby improving gastric function.[10]

As you can see, there are many facets to stress and its treatment options are limited. Acupuncture provides a safe and effective way to treat stress in all of its manifestations. Remember, there is the other way to treat stress or the Acuway!!!

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