Acupuncture improves biomarkers

A biomarker (short for biological marker) is a substance in your body like a protein or a hormone which can be measured to see how much of it is present. When you have a blood test organised by your GP, the test will be investigating various biomarkers to see which ones are up and which ones are down.

One group of biomarkers indicate that there is a low level inflammatory response going on in your body. Your body sets up an inflammatory response whenever there is a problem, as it’s a way of attracting white blood cells to come along and fix it….but sometimes the problem isn’t fixed and so the inflammatory response goes on for a long time – it becomes chronic. You start to feel more ill as a result.

A good amount of research indicates that acupuncture can beneficially affect a number of anti inflammatory mechanisms including down regulating the expression of the protein Cytokines and the enzymes COX-1 and COX-2. To quote a colleague of mine, acupuncture acts like an NSAID (a non steroidal anti inflammatory drug like Ibuprofen) but without the increased risk of ulcers.

Another area of biomarkers shows how our bodies are responding to stress – specifically the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Acupuncture has been shown in a number of studies to improve the functioning of this HPA-axis and is thus likely to reduce the harmful effects of stress on your body.

Certainly many patients feel very chilled out after a session of acupuncture and get a good night’s sleep into the bargain.

It is during your rest periods, when your body doesn’t have to provide energy to move you about or to digest food that your body can get on with repairs and maintenance. That sense of relaxation and well being after a good rest is one biomarker you can feel for yourself.

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