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Study shows that acupuncture can provide relief to those suffering from anxiety-related disorders

A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine examined the therapeutic effects of acupuncture on behavioral changes caused by lipopolysaccharides (LPS), proving the far-reaching benefits of this ancient treatment approach.

Thanks to the machinations of the media, you probably see emotional disorders like depression and anxiety as mere outcomes of a troubled past. While stressful events do contribute to the development and progression of depression, for instance, it is more accurate to attribute the condition’s progress to the interaction of various chemicals in the body.

Proof of this is how lipopolysaccharides can lead you to develop behavioral changes related to depression and anxiety. In lab tests, animals administered with LPS showed increased immobility in both forced swim test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST) – methods used in laboratories to gauge how anxious lab animals are, where higher immobility corresponds to greater levels of anxiety.

The administration of LPS also caused the appearance of other depressive symptoms, such as the lack of appetite for sweetened treats and sexual behavior.

LPS is a form of sugar, an endotoxin contained within the body of gram-negative bacteria. In the past, it was believed that bacteria released LPS upon their death; today, it is known that bacteria can release small amounts of the toxin as they travel through your body. Common carriers of LPS include Bordetella pertussis (causes whooping cough), Neisseria meningitides (meningitis), Escherichia coli (bloody diarrhea), and Neisseria gonorrhea (gonorrhea), among others.

Even after the carriers’ death, LPS can remain and poison your body. It causes inflammation and other physiological effects, as well as psychiatric changes, including anorexia, apathy, and symptoms akin to anxiety and depression.

Evidence suggests that LPS’ effect on the mind is caused by an increase in the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter closely linked to mood disorders. Previous studies on animal models pointed to increased serotonin transporters (SERT), responsible for the uptake of serotonin, in the brain’s dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) as a likely cause behind anxiety-like behavior.

Testing the effects of acupuncture on LPS-induced behavior

As a treatment method, acupuncture has been used for a variety of physiological and psychological conditions, including anxiety. The researchers decided to test if its viability covered behavioral changes caused by LPS.

They administered male Sprague-Dawley rats with LPS dissolved in saline solution at a dose of 0.2 mg per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg). The rats were then given acupuncture at the ST41 (Jiexi), LI11 (Quchi) or SI3 (Houxi) acupoints.

The animals were then put through an elevated plus maze (EPM) and an open field test (OFT), methods which, like FST and TST, were designed to gauge lab animals’ anxiety levels. The researchers also measured the expression of SERT in the DRN using immunohistochemistry.

The researchers found that acupuncture at the ST41 acupoint reduced LPS-induced anxiety-like behaviors, as demonstrated in both the EPM and OFT. It also decreased the expression of SERT caused by LPS in the DRN. However, the researchers saw no change from acupuncture at the LI11 and SI3 acupoints.

The researchers concluded that acupuncture could suppress anxiety-like behavioral changes caused by LPS by regulating the expression of SERT inside the brain.

They also believe that acupuncture may help regulate cytokines, chemicals that induce a reaction from your immune system, produced because of the presence of LPS. Cytokines are inflammatory and have a wide range of effects, including inducing depressive and anxiety-like behavior. The researchers recommend further studies, specifically on the mechanisms that allow acupuncture to reduce both cytokine levels and inflammation.

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