There is increasing evidence that endorphin can enhance our immune function. After surgery and radiation therapy, the immune function is generally suppressed, and infection can lead to complicated medical problems. Using acupuncture can help strengthen the immune function to prevent the infection and chronic inflammation. Research has shown that acupuncture can increase the plasma antibody concentration and the interleukin II level. In animal models, electric acupuncture enhances or restores the natural killer cell activity suppressed by a lesion of the front part of the hypothalamic area.

Duke University Medical Center researchers recruited a group of women who had surgery to treat breast cancer. They found that women who had acupuncture after surgery recovered more comfortably than those without acupuncture. Acupuncture greatly reduced nausea and vomiting after general anesthesia.

Dr. P.F. White, in the Department of Anesthesia at Texas Southwestern Medical Center, designed a study to assess the effect of the intensity of transcutaneous acupoint electrical stimulation (TAES) on postoperative patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) after lower abdominal surgery, including the requirement for hydromorphone (HM), a strong pain killer, the incidence of opioid-related side effects, and the recovery profile. One hundred and one healthy consenting women undergoing lower abdominal procedures with a standardized general anesthetic technique were randomly assigned to one of four postoperative pain reducing treatment regimens: Group I - patient controlled pain killer only; Group II - patient-controlled analgesia + sham-acupuncture (no electrical stimulation); Group III - patient-controlled analgesia + low frequency transcutaneous electrical stimulation; Group IV patient-controlled analgesia + high- frequency transcutaneous acupoint electrical stimulation. The results indicated that high-frequency transcutaneous electrical stimulation decreased the pain killer requirement by 65% and reduced the duration of patient-controlled analgesia therapy, as well as the incidence of nausea, dizziness, and pruritus. Low-frequency transcutaneous electrical stimulation produced a 34% decrease in the pain killer requirement compared with only 23% in the "sham" group. The authors concluded that high-frequency transcutaneous electrical stimulation produced a significant decrease in the patient-controlled opioid requirement and thus opioid-related side effects after lower intra-abdominal surgery. One factor that contributes to aging is a gradual decrease in the balance of our immune function. This imbalanced immune function can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, eczema, and multiple-sclerosis. Also, infection can come more frequently and intensely when we get older. Cancer also is associated with a changed immune function. When our immune function is out of balance, it can lose control over the tissue growth, and uncontrolled tissue growth leads to tumors.

Optimizing our immune function is a key to helping us live longer and healthier lives and preventing fatal diseases. People with pain, cold hands and feet, or other physical discomfort that I have treated very often report that they did not get the flu for the entire winter or, if they did, they recovered much faster than usual. We really do not have many effective medications for virus infections; the only things we can sensibly do are proper rest, eating a balanced diet, taking some herbs, and taking acupuncture treatment to strengthen our immune function. Bacterial and virus infections themselves usually are not fatal, but sometimes lingering infections will modify certain gene expressions, which will lead to other diseases such as cancer, auto-immune disease or allergies.

Author's Bio: 

Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, a graduate of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with 24 years of clinical and research experiences, including 6 years of residency, a Ph.D. degree holder in medical sciences from the US, a Harvard Medical School trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her website is and her clinic is located at 475 Hillside Avenue, Needham, MA 02494.