In Australia autoimmune disease affects between 5 to 10% of the population and is more common than cancer or heart disease.
An autoimmune disease occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks their own body. Normally, our immune system produces a range of cells and chemicals that fight infection, such as bacteria and viruses, however, in autoimmune disease these defence cells attack the body’s own cells, joints, and organs.
At present there are approximately 80 different types of autoimmune diseases that range in severity from mild to disabling, depending on which system of the body is affected. Common symptoms of autoimmune disorder includes fatigue, a general feeling of being unwell, joint pain, dizziness, and a rash or low grade fever. Blood tests for diagnosis include autoantibody tests as well as tests for inflammation such as CRP and ESR.
At Rozelle Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Centre (RACM) Sydney, we have a lot of experience and very promising anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the relief of autoimmune symptoms. Importantly, there has been numerous research studies giving further promising support to the role of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of the following:
- Type II Diabetes
- Graves Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Hashimoto Disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohns Disease
The RACM team works holistically with patients who are suffering from autoimmune disease. We use Chinese Medicine (CM) 'patterns of disharmony' to thoroughly assess the root cause of the disease and we provide treatment using best evidence acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine and nutritional supplementation as well as CM diet therapy and lifestyle advice. We also commonly observe parasite and heavy metal toxicity compounding the autoimmune picture, particularly, for example, in Graves disease, and we advise on diagnosis and treatment.
Of particular interest to us is the link between chronic long term stress and autoimmune disease. As a result, our team often focuses on stress reduction protocols that include acupuncture, breathing techniques, and meditation, as well as CM herbal formulas and naturopathic supplements (see also Stress and Anxiety).
Additionally, there is much research-based evidence to suggest that a dysfunction in the gut micro-biome and inflammation in the digestive tract also plays a role in the development of autoimmune disease. One of the pioneers of this research is Dr Alessio Fasano who has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles related to Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, intestinal permeability, and autoimmune disease. He has established clear links between intestinal permeability, food sensitivities, and the development of autoimmune disease.
A gathering body of research is showing a significant connection between autoimmune disease, diet, and lifestyle choices. Chinese Medicine diet therapy holds key insights into the gut-autoimmune connection. Using these insights, our team utilises probiotics and dietary changes to improve digestive function and reduce dysfunction in the gut micro-biome, thus helping to mediate autoimmune response.
Blood tests such as the thyroid antibody test, monitor the improvements in autoimmune disease states. These changes can occur over a relatively short period of time if a client is following strict diet protocols that limit ‘damp foods’ gluten and foods that promote ‘damp Bi syndrome’, a classic CM pattern of autoimmune disease. Acupuncture can also assist in the regulation of the immune system, to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.
Additionally, there is significant clinical research supporting the use of acupuncture to modulate (and improve) the immune system response in autoimmune disease. Studies show decreased CRP levels in those treated with acupuncture, highlighting just how acupuncture can decrease the inflammatory markers (and related problems) associated with autoimmune disease. (Bao, 2014; Kim, 2010).
There is also research being conducted into how acupuncture can be used to treat Type II Diabetes. This research is providing encouraging results that shows acupuncture can positively assist the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism in patients with Type II Diabetes and with Insulin resistance. (Wang, 2014; Liang, 2010). Another research paper found that acupuncture was effective in treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy. (Tong, 2010).
Both Crohn’s disease and IBS respond well to acupuncture treatment and a meta-analysis of research confirmed that acupuncture has demonstrated clinically and statistically significant improvements in the symptoms associated with these diseases (Chao, 2014). At RACM we have also experieced this with our patients, many of whom have suffered for many years with little improvement despite numerous interventions. We have found that acupuncture calms the inflammation associated with these diseases as well as the stress-related component of their manifestation.
As autoimmune diseases become more common, it is becoming evident that our lifestyles have a significant effect on their prevalence. It is only through an holistic approach that these diseases can be treated at their root causes, and the RACM team has much experience working with patients struggling with autoimmune disease and helping them to improve their quality of life through thorough CM diagnosis and an holistic treatment strategy.
- Bao et al (2014) Randomised controlled trial: Moxibustion and Acupuncture for the treatment of Crohn’s disease. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014 Aug 21:20(31); 11000-11011.
- Kim et al (2010) Acupuncture and immune modulation. Autonomic Neuroscience. 2010 Oct 28; 157(1-2): 38-41.
- Wang et al (2014) Efficacy Analysis on Type II Diabetes Mellitus treated with acupuncture in females. ZhongGuo Zhen Jiu, 2014 Jan; 34(1):21-4.
- Liang et al (2010) Acupuncture: is it an effective treatment for insulin resistance? Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Jul; 12(7);555-69.
- Tong et al (2010) Fifteen-day acupuncture treatment relieves diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Journal of Acupuncture Meridian Studies. 2010 Jun; 3(2):95-103.
- Chao et al (2014) Effectiveness of Acupuncture to treat IBS: A meta analysis. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014 Feb 21; 20(7): 1871-1877
- One of the important ways our team complements cancer therapy during treatment is to address risk factors relating to the effectiveness of the cancer therapy.