At HealthQuarters, we’re passionate about bringing together trusted clinicians, wellness practitioners, and brands so you can meet your needs for long-term, preventive, and holistic healthcare all in one place.
One of the many practitioners we’re excited to partner with is Dr. Shari Auth, doctor of Chinese medicine, licensed acupuncturist, board certified herbalist, and co-founder of WTHN.
We sat down with Shari to learn more about how acupuncture can help support your health, both when it comes to both general wellness and specific health concerns.
Acupuncture as a time-tested practice
Acupuncture is a powerful, versatile tool that plays an important role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)—an intricate, elegant, and thorough system of medicine.
In Ancient China, acupuncture was the cornerstone of their preventive health model: people visited their acupuncturists when they were well for the purposes of keeping themselves well. If you got sick, it meant that your practitioner had failed you, and you went for free until you felt better.
Today, acupuncture is used in preventive and reactionary medicine.
How does acupuncture support general health?
Put simply, acupuncture works via the connective tissue to send messages to the brain that alter brain chemistry, which it can alter in a variety of ways, depending on what you need and which points the acupuncturist uses to address your health complaints.
When it comes to general health and wellbeing, acupuncture can be especially helpful with stress management, increasing energy levels, and combatting fatigue.
Ultimately, it’s a flexible and holistic practice that can help treat hundreds of health conditions.
Can you tell us more about how it can help treat specific health concerns?
We have the evidence to show that acupuncture can be a beneficial and efficient treatment option for hundreds of conditions.
Here are some examples of conditions for which acupuncture can be beneficial:
- Digestion: Studies show that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for digestive disorders including but not limited to: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, acid reflux, food allergies, gastritis, ulcers, and colitis. Specifically, acupuncture can help regulate gut dysbiosis, intestinal barrier function, visceral hypersensitivity, and gut motor dysfunction. Acupuncture also helps shift our bodies into our parasympathetic nervous system, which can increase movement in our bowels and healthy elimination of stool.
- Fatigue: Acupuncture works in many ways to restore energy—often depending on the cause of your fatigue. One of the simplest ways acupuncture boosts energy is by increasing circulation. We all feel more energetic when our blood’s moving, and increased circulation can help give us that extra pep in our step. But acupuncture can also be helpful in treating chronic fatigue and chronic stress. Acupuncture interacts with our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex (HPA) axis to relieve excessive excitation and decrease the negative stress responses on the body—giving your adrenals glands, and your body, a real chance to heal.
- Gynecological health: Issues related to gynecological health, including PMS, dysmenorrhea (cramps), amenorrhea (no period), irregular periods, fertility, sex drive, PCOS, postpartum depression, and perimenopause and menopause have long been recognized as being responsive to acupuncture. Research shows that acupuncture can help to boost serotonin levels, which can help alleviate PMS symptoms, increase libido, and reduce the levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and that it can also help regulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian axis, to help ovulation and menses occur on schedule. Studies have also shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment that can help reduce night sweats, hot flashes, and other uncomfortable symptoms experienced during perimenopause and menopause.
- Sleep: A systematic review published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that acupuncture can be an effective treatment option for people who suffer from insomnia. It works by increasing the body’s melatonin, serotonin, and dopamine levels, increasing inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) proteins to help relax the mind and promote healthy sleep, and reducing cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone, and often a significant contributor to lack of sleep.
- Stress management: Acupuncture helps our bodies to better manage stress by balancing our two nervous systems—the sympathetic and parasympathetic—to promote a feeling of well-being. This important shift changes our neurochemistry, increasing our “happy” hormones, such as serotonin and epinephrine, and decreasing our main “stress” hormone, cortisol. It has also shown to help treat a variety of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
- Muscle tension: Working out is great for your body and mind, but it can also lead to microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. This damage causes inflammation, which can lead to pain. Mild pain after a workout, although relatively normal, may still keep you from getting back to the gym the next day and hinder your fitness development. Acupuncture is a great way to increase blood flow to the area of soreness to bring fresh oxygen and healing nutrients to the injured site. As a bonus, this increase in circulation also helps wash away the chemical irritants responsible for the pain. Acupuncture is also a natural anti-inflammatory, so it reduces the pain caused from the microscopic tears to the muscle fibers, helping you to heal faster.
- Immunity: Studies have shown that acupuncture can boost both nonspecific and specific immune function, as well as both cellular and antibody-mediated immunity. Acupuncture has been shown to help boost the number and function of immunity cells known as white blood cells, including phagocytes, natural killer cells (which are particularly helpful in fighting cancer), cytokines, and T cells.
- Chronic pain: Acupuncture has been shown to help reduce chronic pain caused by a variety of conditions by increasing circulation, decreasing inflammation, boosting the body’s release of natural painkillers (also known as endorphins), and increasing the body’s adenosine release. Adenosine is a neuromodulator which helps to block the body’s perception or sensation of pain. Acupuncture increases interstitial adenosine, which reduces the severity of chronic pain through adenosine A1 receptors.
- Anti-aging: Acupuncture can also be used to improve skin tone and elasticity, reduce wrinkles and puffiness, tighten pores as well as help with common skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. How it works: The painless insertion of the needles into the face stimulates the body’s natural healing process to start producing more collagen and elastin. Collagen helps to plump the face and reduce wrinkles and elastin firms and tones the face. Acupuncture also stimulates circulation to the face to promote detox to help clear the complexion and reduces inflammation to reduce puffiness in the skin.
With all of the applications listed above, it’s easy to understand that acupuncture is not a one-size-fits-all approach: It can be used to help treat a variety of conditions. Still, Dr. Shari Auth emphasizes that acupuncture is meant to be used as an ongoing treatment to help you stay in balance, rather than as a one-off solution.
As a HealthQuarters member, you can visit Dr. Auth or one of her skilled acupuncture practitioners at HealthQuarters’ flagship location in NoHo. Visit this link to plan your visit.