Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes.
Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are specifically noted for use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life.
Multiple Sclerosis: This is a progressive disease wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective wrapper on nerve cells, known as myelin. As the damage accumulates, the brain and body communicate less well. Individuals may experience symptoms that include a loss of coordination, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, dizziness, blurred vision, and paralysis.
Because multiple sclerosis can involve an array of symptoms, it is possible that no two patients will share the same underlying pattern. In Oriental medicine, as a whole, patients with MS present either wind or dampness based symptoms. Symptoms with an underlying wind factor arise and abate suddenly, can be quite intense, and jump between different areas of the body. Symptoms with an underlying dampness factor cause swelling and bloating, lead to muscle weakness or a sense of heaviness, and can cause unclear thinking. Oriental medicine may help restore balance, and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.
Electro-acupuncture may help MS patients, according to researchers from University of Campinas, Brazil. Researchers stimulated acupuncture points, noting that patients in the study experienced less pain and depression and greater overall quality of life.
Lupus: Lupus involves an overactive immune system that fights unnecessarily and can injure the skin, joints, organs (heart, kidneys, and lungs), and the brain. Symptoms may include red facial rashes, sore joints, upper abdominal pain when breathing deeply, severe chronic fatigue, memory problems, and scalp hair loss.
Though every Lupus patient may present differently, Oriental medicine views lupus as a reflection of toxic heat. Good health requires balanced yin and yang, which reflect cold and heat, respectively. While yin and yang both nourish and restrain each other, yang tends to multiply (or worsen) more quickly, whereas yin is slower to change. Having more estrogen than testosterone, women are more yin and vulnerable to yang conditions.
In a small study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that by stimulating acupuncture points along the spine and on the four limbs, patients with lupus experienced less pain. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help clear heat and nourish yin. Combined with exercise and reducing stress, these modalities can work double-duty towards improving your overall health and reducing the likelihood of a lupus outbreak.
Celiac Disease: In patients with celiac disease, the small intestine becomes damaged and cannot absorb nutrients efficiently. Celiac disease may also cause fatigue, bone disorders, fertility problems and skin rashes.
Treatment of celiac disease typically revolves around symptom management and dietary changes. Any products known to contain gluten (bread, pasta, processed foods, vitamins, and even cosmetics) may trigger symptoms and should be avoided.