Can You Use Acupuncture to Lose Weight?

With obesity levels steadily rising, bad nutrition in the world spotlight, and too much sugar in the average daily diet, people are looking for options and ways to make a positive change in their lives.

Acupuncture has been receiving a lot of attention the past couple of years as a way to lose weight, but is it really an option?

What is Acupuncture?

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for over 5,000 years and has licensed practitioners all around the world. The general principle is that the body has many energy meridians (or rivers) flowing through it. Long, thin, sterile needles inserted into these rivers can tap into and manipulate the Qi (which people recognize by the pronunciation “chee”). This is the “lifeforce” that is normally referred to in acupuncture.

Acupuncture is now heavily accepted by Western medicine as an effective medical practice. It is also currently being used successfully to aid with the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Pain relief (both postoperative and chronic)
  • Addiction
  • Vomiting

All this is done by restoring the balance of the Qi, so the body can function in harmony. Due to the fine size of the needles, most people will tell you that acupuncture isn’t painful, and that they actually find it quite relaxing. The process also triggers endorphins to be released, which create the feeling of a relaxing calm.

Can Acupuncture Help You Lose Weight?

Research shows that acupuncture can aid weight loss, in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise. No studies show that it will make you lose weight without other factors being involved.

The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine
The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine

Individuals who are on a diet and having acupuncture treatments tend to lose more weight than those not using the treatments. It effectively makes it easier to lose weight, and to help maintain the loss long-term, if you are also willing to make a change to your lifestyle.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you must be prepared to make several changes. You need to exercise regularly, eat healthy foods in responsible portion sizes, get sufficient amount of sleep every night, and also find ways to reduce overall stress.

Sometimes this level of change can require a nutritionist or Doctor to begin with, so consider seeing one to help support and manage these changes.

How Can Acupuncture Help?

There are many causes of obesity, and typically, a person has a combination of these factors in their life. Trying to target just one will leave them imbalanced and not remedy the whole problem. Taking a close look and understanding what drives the obesity helps to understand how acupuncture can help a particular person.

Five of the most common causes are:

  1. Overeating because of psychological reasons
  2. Overeating because of hormonal imbalances in the body
  3. Metabolism going too slowly
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Poor food choices and lack of balanced nutrition

Let’s break down the five causes a little further.

1+2 Overeating

There are normally two triggers of overeating – the psychological (or emotional) reasons and the physiological (or physical) reasons.

Psychological reasons can come from stress, anxiety, depression, frustration – really any type of negative emotion. The calming endorphins that are released from an acupuncture session can actually reduce the need to overeat because of “nervous energy”. This means that people getting acupuncture tend to lose more weight. It also leads to less cravings and more feelings of happiness, so binge eating is less likely.

Stress hormones, like cortisol, are contributing factors to your level of depression, your urge to run away from conflict instead of dealing with it, and can also disrupt your digestive system. If you’re tense and feeling overwhelmed by your life, you are less likely to take the time to make a healthy meal and more likely to overeat junk food.

Physiological reasons normally come from hormone imbalances. Your body needs hormones to regulate itself and all of its systems. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver and the spleen, in particular, are believed to help the most with any diet.

It is believed that the spleen is responsible for digestion, so an imbalance there can lead to feelings of being tired and heavy. It can also cause water retention, slower metabolism, and looser stools. The liver controls the flow of emotions and blood, so an imbalance there can lead to binge eating, emotional eating, nervous eating, and uncontrollable cravings.

3. Slow Metabolism

Leptin is a chemical in the body that regulates your metabolism, and also controls how your body stores fat. It makes you feel either full and satisfied, or hungry and driven to eat more. Acupuncture helps to regulate this chemical and keep the balance correct so you’re not always looking for more food. Higher levels of leptin will mean you never quite feel full.

Insulin levels also drop during acupuncture, which means that the body processes sugar better. Badly processed sugars turn into fat and cause weight gain.

4. Lack of Sufficient Exercise

Many people now have jobs that are indoors and sitting down, as opposed to the days where humans were hunter/gatherers and moving constantly to get their meals. Our bodies were designed to go through erratic periods of feasts and famines – we store fat up when it’s around, so that we can survive later on when it’s not. Now, specifically in locations where there are obesity problems, the famine hasn’t really been hitting.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Acupuncture and Acupressure
Complete Idiot’s Guide to Acupuncture and Acupressure

In a place of plenty, exercise needs to be a part of any healthy diet, or the weight will stay on and the body will be at risk for many health problems. Unfortunately, not many people want to exercise when they are feeling depressed and hungry. Acupuncture used alongside a diet full of good food and exercise can help maintain just the right amount of good hormones so that the thought of exercise isn’t as difficult to stomach.

5. Poor Food Choices and Lack of Balanced Nutrition

Acupuncture has yet to be proven as a weight loss solution in and of itself. Studies show that used in conjunction with a healthy diet plan, it can greatly aid your success. Acupuncture will not make you lose weight, it will help you lose weight.

Acupuncture will keep your digestion and hormones in balance so that when you do eat healthy, your body can use all the nutrients as effectively as possible and make you want to eat less. The more your body can use what you put into it, the less you need to keep putting into it.

Finding an Acupuncturist

Different states and countries have different licensing laws, so make sure you know what it takes to become a qualified or licensed practitioner in your area. You might even find it helpful to look at online reviews to see what other people are saying about the practitioners they have tried.

What to Expect?

Your first visit to an acupuncturist will be longer than any other visit, because they will want to do an initial assessment and ask you questions about your specific needs. Normal sessions can range from 30-45 minutes, and you may have one or two a week. The average length of a full treatment is around ten weeks, and you need to make sure you attend all of the sessions regularly to achieve results.

Keep in mind, ear stapling isn’t the same as traditional acupuncture. Most medical professionals warn against this type of treatment because it isn’t as precise and is heavily prone to infection.

Pricing and Packages

There is no standard for acupuncture costs, so sessions can vary from $50 to $125. Some practitioners will sell you package deals that are specialized to your type of treatment, so they are all-inclusive rather than per session costs.

If at all possible, try to concentrate more on finding a practitioner that’s right for you. Going by price alone can mean that you don’t get as positive an experience. You want to be in a relaxed setting with someone that you feel comfortable with, or you defeat the purpose of going to them for help.

The Diet

There is no precise diet to be on if you are seeing an acupuncturist, there’s just a general set of guidelines for a healthy diet.

We believe your diet should have these three characteristics:

  1. Low levels of fats, oils, sugars, and junk food
  2. Moderate levels of low-fat, lean, protein and lower-density carbohydrates
  3. High levels of fresh fruit, fibre, vegetables, and whole grains

Breathing exercises can also help, so consider taking up yoga, meditation, or Tai Chi. Exercise is an important part of any diet, but don’t rush into things and injure yourself. Start off with walking, and work up your intensity. Aerobics and strength training should be second steps, after you’re fit enough to endure an hour straight of harder exercise.

It’s More Than Just a Weight Loss Plan

It’s important to understand that losing weight isn’t just about appearance, it’s about health issues and well-being too. You can use acupuncture to lose weight faster, but you can also use it to help initiate positive change in your lifestyle.

It is also:

  • Natural and practiced for more than 5,000 years
  • Safe and free from harsh chemicals
  • Addiction-free
  • Lacking in harmful side-effects
  • Administered by an experienced and/or licensed professional

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Written by Hugo L

Hugo is a 29 years old nutritionist, ex-pro hockey player and a published author.

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