Can You Use Acupuncture for Weight Loss?
Most people have heard about acupuncture before. It’s a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that involves inserting long, thin needles in specific parts of the body to stimulate your chi, or internal energies. This type of subdermal stimulation has been a part of Eastern medicine for many centuries and is becoming more and more popular in the Western hemisphere.
But can this ancient practice be linked to weight loss? We dive into how and if you can use acupuncture for weight loss as part of a diet and exercise routine.
Acupuncture for Weight Loss
While there have been plenty of scientific studies about how acupuncture can assist people dealing with aches and pains, we are still waiting for the scientific community to reach a consensus about weight loss. Without the valuable information from those studies, it’s challenging to make assertions one way or another.
Proponents of acupuncture for weight loss note that the needles may increase a person’s metabolism, which helps you burn calories more efficiently while you go about your daily activities and when you exercise. Acupuncture may also help reduce overall appetite, so you aren’t needing to constantly stop what you’re doing to grab a snack.
However, the most significant point in acupuncture’s favor is its ability to help individuals relax. Stress causes a lot of health conditions and can be a major contributor to weight gain and retention. When you’re less stressed, you’re more likely to be able to reach a healthy weight and stay there with the proper diet and exercise program.
TCM for Weight Loss
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, unhealthy weight gain and retention is attributed to a chi imbalance in the thyroid gland, kidney, liver, spleen, or endocrine system. You’ll likely see that the application of needles is concentrated in areas that affect those places of imbalance when using TCM for weight loss.
While the concept of chi may be somewhat obscure for a Western audience, hormones are well-known. Insertion of acupuncture needles stimulates the nerves and associated hormones throughout your body, based on where the acupuncturist puts them. Many people report feeling happier after an acupuncture session, suggesting that so-called happy chemicals like endorphins are stimulated.
As noted above, stress can lead to overeating and putting on extra weight. Happiness, on the other hand, can lead to the opposite. When you feel happy, enthusiastic, and refreshed, you’re more likely to spend a few extra minutes on your exercise routine or take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. You’ll feel more motivated to choose healthier foods, even if they aren’t your favorite thing on the menu.
Why the Ears?
Alternatively, some practitioners prefer to utilize acupuncture in and around the ear. Various points on the ears are believed to affect cravings, so ear acupuncture is used for cases of craving food, drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. By manipulating these points correctly, it is believed that you can better control your cravings and, in this case, eat less or avoid certain foods altogether.
The reasoning behind the focus on the ears is that your hippocampus, the place where you store memories, is located in your temporal lobe (right by your ears). When you get a craving for something, it is believed to originate from that area since you start the craving by remembering your last experience with the craving and how pleasurable it was.
Acupuncture in the ears influences the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin influences your appetite and leptin controls your metabolism. Stimulating these hormones can help reduce your cravings and help you avoid overeating at meals.
Do Sessions Equal Pounds Lost?
Every person’s body is unique, and how fast you lose weight will mainly depend on factors like the number of calories you consume per day, the amount and types of exercise you do, your hormone levels, and how long you have been dieting for.
Typically, it is recommended to receive two to three treatments per week for six to eight weeks if you plan to lose between 10-15 pounds.
Our healers will have a special consultation with you the first time you visit to help you determine the right plan for achieving your goals.
Where Are the Studies?
Acupuncture is a notoriously challenging area to study because all studios and practitioners perform using slightly differing techniques. They use varying numbers of needles, sessions, points on the body during a single session, session length, and atmosphere of their studios to get desired results. Because of this variation, it’s very hard to compare the results of one person to another because of all of the differences in overall experience.
Another issue is that of subjectivity. Two people can go to the same studio and receive the exact same acupuncture treatment and walk away with two completely different opinions and experiences. Everyone also has a different approach to weight loss outside of acupuncture, and it is challenging to account for people who take their diet seriously versus those who don’t.
Also, it’s a fact that most people lose weight more rapidly when they first begin a new diet and exercise routine. Many of the studies that have been conducted on weight loss focus primarily on people whose doctors recommended losing over 50 pounds to reach a healthy weight, meaning that their experiences will differ from those who only want to lose 10-15 pounds.
All of those varying factors make it difficult to estimate how much impact acupuncture had on individuals’ weight loss programs.
However, just because something doesn’t have very many studies to back it up yet doesn’t mean you should dismiss it. Western medicine is still learning to recognize acupuncture and other Eastern medicine practices, so it may take some time before enough concrete scientific studies come out about using acupuncture for weight loss.
Can Acupuncture Alone Help You Lose Weight?
Acupuncture is not a miracle cure-all. It cannot be said that it will help you lose weight all on its own. Acupuncture is made to work in conjunction with the other steps you take towards a healthier lifestyle. This may involve reevaluating the foods you eat, reducing the amount of food you consume per day, and adding more or even just different types of fitness activities to your schedule.
You will also need to regulate your sleep habits and take steps to reduce stress. Not getting enough sleep can play a large role in retaining extra pounds. Your commitment to acupuncture to move forward in your healthy lifestyle is important, but you’ll need an equal commitment to all of the other parts of nourishing your body and giving it what it needs to thrive.
Wrapping It Up: The Choice is Yours
Acupuncture works best for people who keep an open mind towards the process. The human mind is a powerful thing, and if you believe that you are working towards your goal weight with diet, exercise, and acupuncture, your mind is your greatest strength. Acupuncture can help you stay focused on your goals and increase your enthusiasm for living a healthy life.
If you’re ready to take your first steps towards a healthier weight, we have custom acupuncture treatments which can be specifically tailored for your unique journey. Take a look with an open mind, and you might be surprised by the benefits you find!