Immune System

What disorders of the immune system can be treated with Integrative Japanese Acupuncture and Functional Medicine?

  • Allergies and Hypersensitivities to foods or airborne pollens
  • Auto Immune Disease like Multiple Scerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus
  • Cancer
  • Immune Complex Disease like malaria and hepatitis
  • Immune Deficiencies like HIV

Your immune system is an awesome, complex of structures and responses to any number of ever changing pathogens like viruses, bacteria, fungus and parasitic worms. The Immune System can be classified into subsystems. Here is a diagram of the different types of immunity,

immunity flow chartInnate immunity is the baseline of your immunity system; it is made up by your DNA lineage and the genetics of your parents. Adaptive immunity evolves as you are exposed to various pathogens and develop recognition and memory of the pathogens and develop specific defenses. The adaptability of your immune system is what allows vaccinations to work.

To function efficiently and effectively, the immune system needs to have all of its parts firing and coordinated. That system is made up of antibodies: IgG, IgA, IgE and IgM further divided into five subtypes of IgG and two of IgA, each with a different affinity for different parts of pathogens.

There are also a series of proteins that can be activated by two separate pathways and are important in killing some kinds of bacteria and attracting white cells to infection as well as components of the blood known as leukocytes, or white blood cells, monocytes, eosinophils and macrophages. When a virus infects you there is one response and a different response to a bacterial infection. In addition there are subsets of responses depending what pathogens are present. Plus there are all the non-specific parts of the immune system that help prevent infection like platelets and cilia that block pathogens. As you can see the list goes on and on.

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Immune system illustrationIn addition to all the components in the blood there are specific organs that are instrumental in running your immune system.

Clearly there are many elements to the immunity system. The focus of functional medicine is to support the chemical pathways that strengthen the immune system or to intervene if a pathogen has already compromised your immune system.


At Integrative Japanese Acupuncture and Wellness Center, Dr. Duckworth views a patient presenting with allergies, or a virus infection as having a deficiency in their body’s immune system (referred to as the Defensive Qi). A strong Defensive Qi can prevent a person from catching various illnesses or having a reaction to allergens. Using pulse diagnosis to determine where the Defensive Qi needs strengthening, Dr. Duckworth places needles in points that will rebuild the Defensive Qi and help the patient strengthen their immune system.

When the body encounters pathogens or allergens, there are complex reactions that the immune system/Defensive Qi regulates to mediate the effects on the body. The body depends on balanced energy in the various organs and meridians that control the Defensive Qi to maintain this defense system. Things that weaken the immune system are: overexposure to harmful pathogens, excessive use of antibiotics, poor diet, excessive use of alcohol or substances and stress. A depleted immune system makes us more susceptible to colds, flus, and allergies. If the Defensive Qi is not treated and balanced, a simple condition such as a cold can become chronic.

When the body encounters airborne or food allergens and/or pathogens, it becomes inflamed. This inflammatory response is termed Wind in Oriental Medicine. There are two kinds of wind: Wind Cold and Wind Heat. Wind Cold refers to allergen reaction such as runny eyes, drippy nose and sneezing. Some viral infections have this pattern, though they can also have a heat aspect like a fever. Wind Heat is more representative of bacterial infection with dark yellow or green phlegm, definite fever and aches. In both instances the energy of the body is deregulated.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used for thousands of years to improve and support the immune system by eliminating or reducing the symptoms caused by the pathogen or allergen. Acupuncture does this by first treating with needles the points on meridians that show imbalance by the pulse diagnosis, and thus balancing the energy in the defense system. Second when the needles bring energy to the area they also bring more blood flow that brings to bear all the components of the immune system to the area of distress.

Chinese Herbs and nutritional supplements

At Integrative Japanese Acupuncture and Wellness Center, Dr. Duckworth uses a variety of herbs, supplements, and medical foods to support and boost the immune function. Each patient is diagnosed with Kototama pulse diagnosis to give guidelines for the prescriptions of herbs and supplements. However, for example, the herbs recommended for one patient’s allergies may not be the same as the prescription for another patient. Different parts of the immune system can be deficient for different types of patients. That is why a shotgun approach to herbs and supplements is not effective. There are many herbs, natural supplements and foods that help support the immune system.

Please see ‘RESOURCES‘ for supplements, herbs and foods that have been studied.

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What are disorders of the immune system?

Allergies and hypersensitivities to foods or airborne substances

Allergies are the end product of the immune system misidentifying an allergen as an invading pathogen. The immune system throws all the immune responses at the allergen as if it is a virus or bacteria. The problem with this is that the immune response can’t kill the allergen as it does with a virus therefore lessening the immune response. Instead the immune response becomes constant and the patient has a continuous runny nose and itchy eyes. Undiagnosed food allergies can cause chronic joint and muscle pain, asthma, chronic sinus congestion, as well as inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, and a host of digestive issues. Using Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) protocol, patient’s sensitivities and allergies can be diagnosed. A simple blood test can also check for an IgG response to specific foods.

Elimination of those foods for 3-6 months usually eliminates the allergic response. The body “forgets” the allergy. Then the food can be reintroduced slowly. Or the patient can do “desensitization” with NAET and immune building with integrative Japanese acupuncture.

There are also any number of herbal formulas and nutritional supplements that help with allergies. Patients are given what addresses their allergies.

Cancer is an immune system dysfunction. Everyday your body makes calls that can be slightly defective. Your immune system recognizes these cells and destroys them. It is only when the immune system becomes too fatigued or is dysfunctional that it misses these aberrant cells and a tumor can form. Because Acupuncture can stimulate various cells, glands and parts of the brain to release proteins, hormones, and brain chemicals that control a number of body function, it can affect blood pressure, the immune system and increasing levels of endorphins, natural painkillers, lymphocytes and natural killer cells.

Studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce vomiting and nausea due to chemotherapy and radiation. It also helps with the pain caused by cancer. Also acupuncture reduces the hot flashes that are often caused by treatments of breast and prostate cancer.

Other studies have demonstrated that acupuncture helps with the xerostomia, fatigue,anxiety, depression, weight loss, cough, proctitis, speech problems, swelling in the arm and legs, lymphedema,blocked esophagus, hiccups, and insomnia.

  1. Society For Integrative Oncology
  2. Cancer & Chemotherapy Reviews Integrative Oncology: Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care Barrie Cassileth; Marjet Heitzer; Jyothirmai Gubili Authors and Disclosures. Published: 02/12/2009.

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The treatment of Autoimmune disorders with Integrative Japanese Acupuncture and Functional Medicine involves two principal strategies:

For the Acute Phase – The strategy is to reduce inflammation and associated symptomatology, including pain.
For the Remission Phase – The strategy is to help mediate immune response, restore damaged tissues, and resolve the underlying causes of the condition.

Applying these strategies, we treat the following autoimmune disorders with Integrative Japanese acupuncture and a herbal prescriptions based on Kototama pulse diagnosis.

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  • Alopecia areata
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Crohns disease
  • Diabetes mellitus type 1
  • Endometriosis
  • Graves’ disease
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Interstitial cystitis

  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Mixed connective tissue disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenis gravis
  • Narcolepsy
  • Neuromyotonia
  • Pernicious anaemia
  • Psoriasis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Polymyositis

  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Relapsing polychondritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Scleroderma
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Stiff person syndrome
  • Temperal arteritis
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Vasculitis

Immune complex diseases, such as viral hepatitis and malaria

Put Out That Fire – Foods that Alkalize

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