Modern science is also recognising the importance of the abdomen in many areas of health, including digestion, immune function, sleep, mood, depression, and even neurological diseases (Hadhazy, A. 2010). The abdomen is often referred to as our second brain because it contains the greatest number of neurones outside of the brain and the spinal cord. It is responsible for the production of many neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin.
The gut is where ninety-five percent of serotonin is found (Dr. Keown, D. 2014, p.198) and has a special communication with the brain. The influence of serotonin (the happy hormone) on emotional wellbeing gives the abdomen extra influence on treating emotional conditions such as depression, anxiety and conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). People suffering from conditions such as depression, OCD and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often have a problem with the metabolism of serotonin in the gut being incorrect and therefore causing the levels of serotonin in the brain to change. Serotonin is thus clearly a bowel hormone that affects the brain, as much as the other way around. The abnormal metabolism of serotonin can be addressed specifically by correcting imbalances with the Spleen as the Spleen is responsible for regulating the amount of serotonin circulating in the body through the function of the Blood platelets. Many of the prescriptions used in abdominal acupuncture work directly on the Spleen, such as ‘Heaven and Earth’ or ‘Regulating Spleen Qi’ .
I have had quite a lot of success treating the above-mentioned emotional conditions using abdominal acupuncture, and I would postulate that this is as a result of abdominal acupuncture changing the vital serotonin levels so that a more balanced emotional state is achieved.
The abdominal brain makes up the enteric nervous system, which is now recognised as connected to but capable of acting independently from the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS regulates all involuntary activities by affecting smooth muscle, cardiac muscle and glands. It regulates all of the organs including the Heart, Lungs, Uterus, Kidneys, Liver, Stomach, Spleen, eyes and sex organs. The autonomic nervous system is composed of the sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric nervous systems. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system can increase or decrease activities of organs and have an antagonistic relationship, thus maintaining a homeostatic balance between various organs in the body.
The enteric nervous system controls digestion autonomously by regulating all the gut activity and communicates with the CNS via the para and sympathetic nervous system. Communication between the CNS and the ANS is in a bi-directional manner as described above through the actions of serotonin and its controlling effect on other hormones including insulin!
The abdominal area thus has far-reaching effects on many aspects of human health. These far-reaching and complex effects help to explain some of the therapeutic mechanisms, the diverse side benefits and the incredible potential power of abdominal acupuncture.