by Mark Brown, Acupuncturist
If you are like most people, you are probably wondering how acupuncture helps you lose weight. Often when we start a new exercise or diet plan, we suffer from hunger pangs and a lack of energy. Acupuncture can help with weight loss because it increases our energy levels and gives us more willpower to do what is necessary to take off those extra pounds.
Acupuncture can also boost metabolism and increase circulation through the application of acupuncture needles which mobilize the body’s energy reserves. This helps support weight loss along with the added benefit of lowered cholesterol.
If you are concerned about acupuncture being “new and unproven” you can feel at ease knowing that the practice of acupuncture is more than 5,000 years old, which is significantly older than Western medicinal therapies.
Getting started with an acupuncture for weight loss program involves finding a licensed acupuncturist in your area and making an appointment for a consultation. Once the root causes of your weight gain have been identified, a treatment program will be designed for you.
In the case of overweight people, an acupuncture specialist will begin with a physical and psychological examination in order to understand the reasons for the individual’s weight problem.
Once the fundamental causes of the weight problem are identified, the acupuncture specialist will insert needles into different areas of the person’s body in order to help improve the body’s functioning.
The insertion of very fine sterile needles into the body at specific points called “energy pathways” allows the free flow of energy throughout the body. This stimulates the body to repair and heal itself.
For a patient who wants to lose weight with acupuncture, the acupuncturist normally inserts five needles in each ear. Of these needles, four help with detoxification of the body: kidneys, lungs, nervous system and liver. The final needle aids in relaxation.
Acupuncture stimulates your body to release endorphins, which are the body’s own pain-relieving chemicals. It is theorized that one way acupuncture weight loss treatments work is by helping to control appetite through the release of these brain chemicals.
A key Chinese acupuncture technique for weight loss is ear stapling. This technique involves manipulating pressure points on the ear to control cravings for food.
What is known as auricular acupuncture has helped cigarette smokers to quit the habit, and is also effective for people looking for an alternative to standard weight loss methods.
When properly administered by a qualified acupuncturist, this technique can support other efforts to lose weight. One study found that ear acupuncture, combined with eating 2,000 calories and a short daily walk, produced significant weight loss.
In the study, approximately half of those overweight individuals who underwent weekly sessions of ear acupuncture lost weight (an average of 10 lbs.). Those persons who did not receive ear acupuncture lost only 3 pounds, on average.
What is more, the study participants who received the acupuncture treatments reported an overall decrease in appetite and food cravings.
An acupuncture treatment program for losing weight will most likely consist of a multifaceted approach. For example, your acupuncture practitioner may attempt to encourage weight loss by increasing the output of the pituitary gland.
Acupuncture may also help to reduce cravings for certain foods. Your acupuncturist will attempt to encourage a decrease in natural appetite through specific needle placements that are thought to lower insulin and lipid levels in the blood.
One very appealing aspect of acupuncture weight loss therapy is that there are no harmful side effects and thus there is no chance of addiction. Acupuncture serves to support other weight loss activities like exercise and calorie control by bolstering your willpower.
In addition, people who undergo acupuncture treatments often find that they sleep better at night. This also leads to better balancing of the body’s systems.
One important caveat: Acupuncture treatments need to be repeated on a regular basis in order to have long-term positive effects. It goes without saying that the acupuncturist has a responsibility to inform the patient that acupuncture alone is not likely to be enough to result in permanent weight loss.
It is also important to supplement the acupuncture sessions with diet and exercise. The acupuncturist can provide the patient with dietary guidelines as to what to avoid eating in order to promote the positive flow of energy throughout the body.
For people who have been struggling with a stubborn weight problem, acupuncture for weight loss can give their diet and exercise efforts a boost. Acupuncture combined with meditation can also be of help.
In recent years, scientists have provided explanations for how acupuncture supports weight loss:
In the May 2012 issue of Obesity Reviews, researchers carried out a detailed and systematic review of clinical studies looking at acupuncture and obesity. When compared to no treatment and pharmaceutical medications, these acupuncture studies showed:
At the end of the day, weight loss is a complex issue requiring a multifaceted approach. For long-term success, it’s best to focus on becoming as healthy as you can through proper nutrition, calorie reduction and a more active lifestyle. Holistic approaches like acupuncture and Chinese Medicine should thus be seen as adjunct therapies that may give you that extra little push needed to get you “over the hump” on the road to weight loss success.
(published October 18, 2017)