Weight loss according to Traditional Chinese Medicine
By: Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM
Wouldn’t it be great to decrease the amount of food that you take in, and increase the amount of energy you expend? It’s entirely possible, thanks to acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Acupuncture and TCM address both the physiological and psychological aspects of weight loss. A comprehensive therapy for weight issues rooted in TCM promotes better digestion, smoothes emotions, reduces appetite, improves metabolism, and eliminates food cravings. According to TCM, the root of excess weight is an imbalance within the body caused by malfunctioning of the spleen and liver organ systems. In five-element theory, the spleen is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system, ensuring that the food we eat is transformed into Qi — the vital substance of life. Disharmony of the spleen will have symptoms such as fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention, loose stool, and feeling of heaviness. The liver’s job is to keep the flow of your body’s Qi and blood (as well as your emotions) running smoothly. Our modern, fast-paced lifestyle and chronic stress can negatively impact the liver’s ability to function properly and smoothly, which, in turn, can cause the spleen and the whole digestive system to function poorly and decrease your metabolism. Liver disharmony can also cause some of the “triggers” that lead to cravings and compulsive eating.
Backed by Research A growing body of research supports the use of acupuncture and Asian medicine in weight loss:
- A 2003 study published in The Journal of Medical Acupuncture found that participants receiving acupuncture lost more than three times more weight than the control group.
- In a study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia in 1998, 95 percent of the participants receiving electro-stimulation on acupuncture points reported appetite suppression. The results showed that the acupuncture group was more likely to experience a reduced appetite and to lose weight than the control group.
The Acupuncture Weight Loss Treatment From a TCM perspective, the acupuncture points, foods and herbs that are chosen to assist with weight loss directly influence the Qi of the spleen and liver systems to treat the root imbalances that are causing the weight gain. From a Western perspective, acupuncture and TCM have been shown to have an effect on the function of the nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system, food cravings, and metabolism. All of which can help to energize the body, maximize the absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite, and reduce anxiety.
Acupuncture Points for Weight Loss The beauty of acupuncture is that each treatment is catered to the needs of the individual patient. Acupuncture points on the body will be chosen for overall well being with the objective of increasing circulation of the blood and Qi (stimulating the metabolism) and calming the nervous system. In addition to treating the root of the imbalance within the body, different acupuncture points may be chosen for each treatment as different symptoms arise. For instance, if you are experiencing a desire to overeat related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) one week, then that can be addressed at that week’s appointment. Generally treatments are scheduled once or twice a week for 8 to 12 weeks or until the goal weight has been reached. The treatments include a combination of auricular (ear) and body acupuncture, ear tacks or pellets to leave on in-between treatments, herbs and supplements, abdominal massage, breathing exercises, and food and lifestyle recommendations.
Ear Points Acupuncture points on the ears have been found to be particularly effective for weight loss. The human ear has been described as a micro-system of the body in an inverted fetal position; it contains points relating to all major organs and body parts. Auricular points for weight loss are stimulated with small tacks during treatment. Then seed-sized beads or magnets are taped to the points to enhance the effectiveness of the points at home. The beads will generally stay in place for 3 days to a week and can be gently massaged for 10- second intervals if cravings occur. Here are some of the most commonly used auricular points:
- Shenmen: Important point for calming the mind and reducing stress
- Small Intestine: Reinforces spleen, promotes digestion.
- Mouth: Calming point used for smoking, over eating and hyperactive talking.
- Hunger Point: Used to relieve hunger and control compulsive eating
- Endocrine point: Moves liver Qi and aids in the function of the metabolism
A Total Health Program Most patients report a marked decline in appetite and cravings with acupuncture alone but herbs, healing foods, and exercises can definitely enhance the efficacy of the treatments.
Herbs and Healing Foods: The herbs and foods that are chosen during a weight loss treatment are for promoting healthy digestion, energizing the body, augmenting Qi, and improve elimination of water, toxins, and waste products. Foods that are bitter, sour and acrid to taste are especially good for weight loss, while sweet, salty and greasy foods should be reduced.
Abdominal massage/exercise: Points on the abdomen improve digestion, absorption of food and peristalsis of the intestines. The abdominal points can be stimulated with massage or by belly breathing, where the abdomen is consciously moving in and out with each breath. Deep breathing with visualization can also strengthen will power and be used as a tool to curb hunger and cravings. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are powerful tools for healthy weight loss, by itself or as a supportive treatment in conjunction with other weight management programs. In the struggle to eat less and expend more energy, you may find that acupuncture is just what was needed to overcome cravings, boost energy, enhance your metabolism, and increase your willpower to succeed!
About the Author: Diane Joswick, L.Ac. refined her acupuncture weight loss skills in her private practice in Del Mar, Calif. Her new book, The Acupuncture Weight Loss Solution(TM), will be available in bookstores in 2010.