Acupuncture has had a polarizing reputation in medical circles over the years, partly due to the conflicting philosophies of western and traditional Chinese medicine, and partly due to a lack of clinical evidence supporting some of the claims of its supporters.
One of these claims is that acupuncture can help you lose weight. Is there any basis for this claim? Can acupuncture really help you lose weight?
What Is Acupuncture?
First, let’s define what acupuncture is, and what it can do for your health. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that uses extremely thin pins to stimulate the body’s trigger points. Practitioners of traditional Chinese acupuncture believe that it helps improve a person’s health by directing the flow and balance of “qi” (the body’s life energy).
Modern medical science believes that these it may provide pain relief by stimulating nerves and muscles where the pins are injected. Various research suggests that it can alleviate lower back pain, headache, premenstrual syndrome, neck pain, and osteoarthritis, among other conditions. Other studies have also explored the therapy’s ability to control and manage pain. Also, many claimed that acupuncture helped them lose extra pounds.
How Can Acupuncture Help You Lose Weight?
There have not been enough studies that show that acupuncture can help with weight loss. However, there are positive indicators that acupuncture might be effective in supporting weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet plan and regular exercise specifically tailored to your overall personal health and fitness.
Here are some of the ways that regular acupuncture can support your weight loss program:
- It promotes healthy digestion – Acupuncture helps ease the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight response) and activates the parasympathetic system (the rest and digest state. It boosts metabolism by increasing the blood flow to the stomach. Hence, regular acupuncture therapy improves your digestive health and prevents gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating, constipation, that could lead to weight gain.
- It suppresses hunger – A study involving 60 overweight people reported lower appetite and weight loss after two weeks of using acupuncture stimulation device. Acupuncture helps release serotonin and beta-endorphin (a mood-boosting hormone that lowers a person’s appetite and increase fat breakdown) by targeting specific trigger points.
- It affects hormone production – Acupuncture can reduce insulin and leptin resistance in patients with prediabetic conditions. Insulin and leptin are hormones that help regulate appetite, which is crucial for long-term weight loss. A 2018 study published in a Chinese medical journal claimed that prediabetic patients who incorporated acupuncture in their lifestyle showed a significant reduction in body mass index and improvement in other health markers, such as fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1C.
- It reduces stress – When we are under stress, our body produces cortisol (a stress hormone) which can prompt people to turn to comfort foods and forget about our healthy lifestyles. Acupuncture relieves stress and slows down the production of cortisol.
- It reduces inflammation – Studies have linked inflammation to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. Acupuncture stimulates specific nerves to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- It feeds back into a healthy lifestyle – Many patients feel that acupuncture treatments improve their quality of life. When we feel optimistic, we tend to make better life choices, including following our exercise program and eating healthily. Acupuncture feeds back into that optimism, creating a feedback loop that reinforces good behaviours that will lead to better results.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Weight Loss
Incorporating acupuncture in your weight loss program helps you shed extra pounds with a moderate amount of energy and time by reducing stress, inflammation, and muscle pain, allowing you to follow your exercise and diet regime with less discomfort. Acupuncture is like a good pair of running shoes. By reducing stress and discomfort, new shoes will help support weight loss; but you still need to go jogging to get the benefit. While it aligns your body with your weight-loss goals, it does not replace the importance of eating healthy and regular exercise.
Recent studies show that acupuncture performed on the ears (also called auricular therapy) has been effective in supporting weight loss.
Traditional medicines in several cultures view the ear as a small map of the body, and have used this idea to address health concerns since the Stone Age. Auricular therapy has two main approaches: the single needle, primarily used for appetite control, and five-needle treatment, which is often used for more comprehensive health benefits.
- Single Needle – The trained acupuncturist inserts a needle to the area near the bottom of the tragus (the hard cartilaginous area of the inner ear). This stimulates the “mouth” point to control hunger and appetite and reduce cravings to eliminate between-meal snacking.
- Five-Needle – Compared to single needle therapy, this type of approach is more comprehensive in controlling your hunger. The acupuncturist applies the needles at the ear’s key nerves that affect endocrine function, appetite and cravings, and the digestive organs, increasing energy and reducing stress.
Incorporating Acupuncture Into Your Weight Loss Plan
A few acupuncture sessions will not guarantee weight loss. Acupuncture may help improve your metabolic rate and alter hormone levels related to weight loss, but you must complement it with proper diet and regular exercise to gain any significant health benefits.
Choose foods that are easy to digest, packed with essential nutrients, and are low in sugars. Stack up on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, and avoid dairy products, saturated fats, refined sugars, and soy-based foods.
Various chronic pain conditions are more common in people who are overweight or obese. Reaching and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a healthy weight, can ward off chronic joint pain and inflammation caused by excess weight. Incorporating traditional Chinese medical techniques like acupuncture with state-of-the-art technology can help improve the success rate of your weight loss program.
Brampton residents can turn to Brampton Physiocare and Wellness Clinic for certified acupuncturists with years of experience providing natural and sustainable healing and treatment to their patients. You can reach us at (905) 497-1311 to schedule an acupuncture consultation/treatment with our licensed acupuncturist. You can also use our online contact form if you have any questions you would like to ask us.
Make Brampton Physiocare and Wellness Clinic your partner on your journey to a healthier life. Our friendly and professional staff will be there every step of your way.