We’ve made it to 2021 despite having one of the most testing years in recent memory. In 2020 we dealt with devastating fire, floods and the impact of a totally unprecedented global pandemic which has continued into 2021. We’ve all been affected by the events of 2020 whether it be financially, socially, physically or mentally, but it is a new year and fingers crossed it looks like we are on the other side, ready to get back on the right track.
Many of us have been working from home, have had work hours drastically cut or lost their jobs all together causing a lot of undue stress. At Village Remedies we can’t magic the stress away but we can help you better deal with what is going on and help your body fall into better patterns of sleep and digestion, allowing for positive changes in mood and energy.
We like to talk about stress a little differently at Village Remedies, normally we associate stress as not being able to cope with something, being burnt out or being overwhelmed, but these factors do not encompass the full spectrum of stress nor the varying origins of stress.
We prefer a more scientific perspective to the definition of stress which is simply a physical, mental or emotional factor causing a load on the body. Extra load on the body can be as little as changing a routine and having to get up earlier or stay up later, being busy at work and having to make a deadline, or being active and not fully recovering. All these things have effects on our body, some more than others but all are contributing factors to the overall load on the body which can push our autonomic nervous system (ANS) into the sympathetic, fight or flight response.
The sympathetic nervous response, or as we colloquially name it, the fight or flight response, has evolved as a survival mechanism over thousands of years. This response helps us to react in potentially life threatening circumstances and help us to survive. It does this by setting off almost instantaneous hormonal changes and physiological responses which help us to either fight off the threat or flee from danger.
In modern times we are less likely to experience a near death experience or close encounter with a lion, but our bodies have adapted to begin this reaction to non life threatening situations as well such as peak hour traffic, pressure at work, public speaking or emotional issues to name a few.
Going into a fight or flight response is not a bad thing at all, it is an essential part of being human and it helps us to get things done, react to situations and keeps us alert and focused. A lot of research has been done on these reactions and why they occur and this has given us more insight into the long-term chronic effects of stress and the fight or flight response.
Chronic stress which can force us into the fight or flight response for extended periods can take a toll on physical and psychological health. It can start to affect the digestion, sleep and mood. Research also suggests it can also contribute to high blood pressure and cause changes in the brain that may contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction, which can also lead to obesity through both direct mechanisms (increasing appetite) and also indirect mechanisms (decreasing sleep, digestion and exercise).
It’s really easy for us to get stuck in the fight or flight state, but acupuncture can be very effective in breaking this cycle and nudging us into the rest and digest healing state aka the parasympathetic nervous response, which is the opposite side to the fight or flight, sympathetic response. Research has been done into this phenomenon and a recent study suggests that manual acupuncture can transmit signals to the vagus nerve which can mediate the parasympathetic nervous state and produce an anti-inflammatory response in the spleen.
The vagus nerve is the major parasympathetic nerve that is responsible for physiological regulation of most internal organs. The study also suggests there are growing bodies of evidence that vagus nerve activity is not only important for homeostatic regulation of the internal organs but also for the regulation of pathologic inflammatory reactions.
This evidence suggests that acupuncture can directly modulate the vagus nerve and have effects on mediating the parasympathetic response and reducing TNF-a in the spleen which is a protein the immune system uses to signal an infection which leads to inflammation of the area. A reduction in TNF-a means a reduction in inflammation leading to reduced pain and stiffness in the affected area.
Therefore acupuncture can be used as a great tool to reduce inflammation and put you in rest and digest mode, allowing for optimal sleep, digestion, mood and can assist with pain relief.