Where does acupuncture fit into a weight
Successful weight loss takes nothing
short of a complete life style change including a nutrient-dense diet, nutritional supplementation, smart efficient exercise,
sufficient sleep and stress reduction.
can address just about every one of these aspects and greatly improve the results of a multi-faceted weight loss program.
Let’s take a closer look at what acupuncture has to offer.
1. Acupuncture reduces food cravings and regulates appetite
Ear acupuncture is one of the most successful methods for addiction treatment, including food addiction
and emotional eating where bingeing or constant nibbling serves to stuff down difficult emotions like sadness, anger, boredom
and loneliness; or where sensations like pain, fatigue and thirst are mistaken for hunger.
Ear acupuncture stimulates the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve that is part
of the involuntary nervous system and controls such automatic functions as regular heart rate and digestion.
In a randomized study by Sabina Lim and others (Graduate College of Basic
Korean Medical Science at Kyung Hee University, Seoul, South Korea), 91 obese persons were randomly assigned to a group receiving
stimulation of a five-needle protocol on the outer ear, a group receiving a single ear acupuncture point, or sham (fake) acupuncture.
The five-needle group achieved the largest drop in waist circumference, as well as drop in body fat, followed by the one-needle
group, and no change in the control group. The study was published in Acupuncture in Medicine on Dec 16, 2013.
2. Acupuncture regulates hormones
Acupuncture’s balancing effect on overall body chemistry, including hormones, is well-established. Acupuncture
lowers stress hormones. It regulates sexual and reproductive hormones and is widely used in addressing menstrual, fertility
and menopausal concerns.
An area of particular
interest is the effect of acupuncture on obesity hormones.
and satisfaction are regulated by two hormones: grehlin stimulates hunger and initiates eating, while leptin suppresses food
intake. Surprisingly, in obese people leptin in the bloodstream is increased, while grehlin is decreased. Obese people are
considered not only insulin-resistant, but also grehlin-resistant. (Obesity Review, Jan 2007)
In a Turkish study reported in Acupuncture in Medicine, September 2012, 40 obese women were randomly assigned to receive acupuncture on five common points twice weekly for five weeks for a total
of 10 sessions. The results showed that acupuncture lowered insulin and leptin levels and increased plasma grehlin in
the treatment group, compared with a control group receiving sham acupuncture. Acupuncture also reduced the BMI (basic metabolic
The conclusion is that acupuncture can help normalize
obesity hormones and the hunger response and contribute to improving metabolism.
3. Acupuncture reduces inflammation
Acupuncture is mostly known for – and researched for – its ability to relieve pain, reduce
inflammation and heal injuries.
blood flow, which brings oxygen, nutrients, immune substances, hormones, pain killers and anti-inflammatories to the compromised
area. Acupuncture needles create “micro traumas” that stimulate the body’s natural healing response. Acupuncture
releases natural painkillers such as endorphins and enkephalins. Acupuncture relaxes tense muscles that put pressure on joints
and impinge nerves.
4. Acupuncture improves digestion
Acupuncture addresses many digestive
problems, including GERD, reflux, stomach ulcers, IBS, diverticulitis and colitis. Acupuncture can help regulate digestion
and elimination of toxins.
Chinese medicine describes
the digestive process as a function of the stomach, which breaks food down, and the “spleen,” which transforms
the nutrients from food into usable energy. What is termed the “spleen” here includes functions of the pancreas,
the small intestine and the metabolic process on a cellular level. The Western medical equivalent of this spleen function
are the mitochondria or the “powerhouses” of the cell that break down glucose and fatty acid for ATP, an energy-carrying
molecule. Remember High School biology and the Krebs cycle? People with insulin-resistance have compromised mitochondrial
Acupuncture can help restore the body’s
homeostasis, bringing back its optimal functioning.
acupuncture lingo, we call it “Restoring the Qi” or the body’s vital energy.
5. Acupuncture reduces stress and increases relaxation
Stress-reduction and increased relaxation are probably the biggest
all-encompassing effects of acupuncture. The effects of stress, especially chronic, long-term stress, on lowered immunity,
increased depression and anxiety, lack of sleep, and overall compromised health have been well-established.
Increased stress and lack of sleep lead to increased release of the stress
hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands. Cortisol makes us feel hungry even when we are full. Loss of sleep also decreases
levels of growth hormone, which regulates the proportion of fat to muscle. And lack of sleep interferes with carbohydrate
metabolism. Plus, tired people tend to eat more for the short-term energy boost they gain, especially from carbohydrate-rich
As we’ve seen, there are many factors that
interfere with successful weight loss. The causes leading to obesity and the difficulties with losing weight are complex.
A successful weight maintenance plan must address all these aspects.
So – can acupuncture help you lose weight?
answer is not a simple “yes” or “no.” But acupuncture can address many of the deeper-rooted issues
with weight problems. There is definitely a place for acupuncture in a multi-faceted weight loss program.