Acupuncture can also reduce stress-induced increases of the blood cortisol level. QG, Yang et al. conducted some research on a group of people undergoing heart and lung surgery. Thirty patients with atrial septal defects were divided into 3 groups: the general anesthesia group (A), the acupuncture anesthesia group (B), and the group of general anesthesia combined with electroacupuncture (C). Peripheral blood samples were collected at times before anesthesia, before surgery, and 30 minutes after surgery to determine the levels of plasma ?-endorphin, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) (a hormone that stimulates the adrenal gland to produce more cortisol), serum cortisol, and blood glucose. Plasma beta-endorphin, ACTH, and serum cortisol increased significantly in both Groups A and B 30 minutes after surgery, but there were no significant changes in Group C. Blood glucose increased in all the 3 groups 30 minutes after surgery but increased much less in Group C. When our bodies go through surgeries, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, the important stress coping system, will act up. Thus, cortisol and glucose levels will generally increase because of stress. This response can lead to suppressed immune function and therefore infection, high blood sugar levels, or other complications after surgery. Combining acupuncture with general anesthesia can inhibit this stress response so that the stress hormone cortisol is adjusted to precisely the right level: not too high to cause tissue damage and not too low to create chronic inflammation. People can even recover from the open-heart surgery more quickly.
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