Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Weight ManagementSep 30, 2021 08:30AM ● By Ayako Mizuno
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity in adults in the U.S. is over 42 percent (2017-2018.) Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. These are among the leading causes of preventable, premature death.
Many people have taken the roller coaster ride of weight loss—reduce food intake or certain types of food; increase exercise or try more extreme forms—only to lose weight temporarily, but then gain all of it back, if not more. This is not only unsustainable for the long term, but also harmful to our health. A three-year follow-up of participants in a commercial weight loss program found that 40 percent gained back more weight than they had lost during their diet program, as reported by Internal Medicine.
To remain at the ideal weight, it is crucial to treat the root cause of the weight gain, which occurs due to an imbalance of the body and/or mind. If it is not treated, the lost weight will return again and again. Acupuncture can help in this regard. Chinese medicine practitioners do not treat just the condition of excess weight; they treat the whole person. Everyone is unique.
A 2017 controlled clinical trial published on PubMed with postpartum subjects found that when acupuncture is combined with traditional weight-loss methods such as diet and exercise, people lose more weight and do it faster and more effectively.
How Acupuncture Works for Weight Loss
Increases Metabolism. Acupuncture stimulates the thyroid area to boost the functions of the pituitary gland that are related to metabolism. As a result, workouts and daily activities will burn more calories and cause more weight loss.
Reduces Inflammation. Inflammation in the intestines, stomach, muscles and other tissues can slow down the metabolism, weaken the immune system, and affect heart health and digestion; thereby, decreasing the ability to lose weight. According to a 2020 study published by PubMed, acupuncture relieves inflammation by lowering the levels of oxidative stress in the body and regulating the immune system.
Improves Digestion and Balances Bowel Movement. Gut health is key. Preventing slow digestion will relieve constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues that result in fat deposits in the body. Acupuncture can promote the repair of gastric mucosal injury and improve gastrointestinal function per a 2011 study published on PubMed.
Suppresses Hunger. Frequent stimulation of specific acupuncture points is an effective method of appetite suppression. Acupuncture stimulates the nervous and endocrine systems to produce brain chemicals and hormones to suppress hunger and appetite. One such chemical, leptin, triggers certain neurons in the hypothalamus to signal our brain that we feel full. When there is a deficiency or imbalance in leptin secretion, this can lead to increased appetite and risk for weight gain. Acupuncture may help reverse leptin insensitivity and, in turn, decrease risk of weight gain according to a 2021 study by Frontiers in Endocrinology.
Balances Blood Sugar. Insulin is a key metabolic hormone that regulates blood glucose. Insulin resistance is associated with excess adipose tissue, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. Growing evidence supports acupuncture on certain points in the ear and on the body can balance sensitivity to insulin.
Lowers Stress. Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins—hormones that make us feel happy. This can create calming and relaxing effects that reduce the causes for stress eating. When endorphin levels are too low, it negatively affects a person’s health, and increases the likelihood of depression. Research suggests that acupuncture is a safe and effective adjunct for treating major depressive disorder due to its impact on endorphin release and related health benefits.
Improves Sleep Quality. A good night’s sleep is vital to lose or maintain weight. Acupuncture can promote and improve the quality of sleep.
Improves Water Metabolism. Acupuncture flushes out excess water that is stagnating in the body, resulting in the loss of water weight.
How Chinese Herbal Medicine Works for Weight Loss
Various Chinese natural herbal formulas can also help you lose weight in a variety of ways, such as suppressing appetite, increasing metabolism, burning fat, flushing excess water in the body and regulating hormones. Formulas should be customized for an individual’s unique needs; for instance, if the person suffers from stubborn constipation or has binge/stress eating, the formula will be totally different. For the best results, consult a Chinese medicine practitioner who will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.
Food is medicine, not our enemy. Once we learn how to think about food in a whole new way, it will heal—not harm—our bodies and minds. Eating for the right reasons will make us healthier and balanced.