Acupuncture Doesn’t Balance Hormones
It gets said a lot. “acupuncture balances hormones”. I’m sure I’ve said it before too. But when you think about it, what does that actually mean?
Balance means ‘a steady position or condition’ – is that really the hope for our hormones?
Some back ground information…hormones are your body’s chemical messengers (medline.com). They are a form of communication. Traveling between organs and tissues via the blood to help direct physiological processes like digestion, metabolism, sleep, reproduction, lactation, mood, growth, development and respiration (Wikipedia).
This thing is. They are never really ‘balanced’. They’re in a constant state of fluctuation in response to feedback from the body.
There are three main stimuli that control hormones in the body – humoral (body fluids or ion concentration in the blood eg glucose triggering insulin release), hormonal (one hormone release causes another one eg anterior pituitary releases TSH which stimulates the thyroid to produce T3 and T4) and neural (stress response causing increase in adrenalin and noradrenalin).
Hormones are regulated by negative feedback loops. So when a hormone gets too high, it sends a signal to stop releasing more of that hormone.
Here is a picture of the changes to hormones over a ‘perfect’ menstrual cycle. It’s like a finely choreographed event where all the hormones have their time to shine. I wouldn’t consider the hormones in this cycle ever ‘balanced’. That outcome would be disastrous for a women trying to ovulate and fall pregnant.
The goal for hormones is for them to be ‘regulated’ and have healthy communication between tissues and organs. And when those tissues and organs are healthy, the correct hormonal response occurs. Regulation means to control, direct or adjust.
Disease occurs when hormones are dysregulated and unable to communicate their actions effectively. There could also be a problem with the communication method – the blood.
Research has found acupuncture to be effective at regulating estrogen (E2) – decreasing E2 in PCOS, increasing E2 in ovariectomized rats, increasing E2 in menopause and increasing E2 in women with low ovarian reserve.
In the same article, acupuncture was found to increase FSH and decrease LH in PCOS, increase prolactin in PCOS, increase progesterone in pregnancy with embryo implantation dysfunction, increase HCG in IVF and reduce need for oxytocin in labour.
Acupuncture doesn’t balance hormones it regulates hormones and that’s a distinctive difference.
Always happy to hear your thoughts.
Reference: Heejae Ko, J & Kim, S,. 2018, ‘A Literature Review of Women’s Sex Hormone Changes by Acupuncture Treatment: Analysis of Human and Animal Studies’
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. , accessed June 2022, doi: 10.1155/2018/3752723
Image from https://helloclue.com/articles/cycle-a-z/the-menstrual-cycle-more-than-just-the-period