The widespread use of acupuncture for weight loss is the result of recent research developments showing that this approach can be successful for those trying to lose weight. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice in traditional medicine that involved inserting many thin needles into very specific points on the body. These needles are placed in order to stimulate key nerves in the body that regulate energy and metabolism, as well as numerous other factors that can affect your health. While acupuncture treatments are used all over the body, to prevent or treat countless health conditions, for weight loss, acupuncture needles are primarily used on mouth, stomach, thyroid, spleen and endocrine glands, as well as the lungs and kidneys.
The acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin about 1/4 of an inch deep, up to 1/2 an inch, depending on the style of acupuncture and the desired effects. The Chinese believed that this practice would help to improve the flow of Qi (energy) through the body, and while their understanding of the nervous system was rudimentary, that is essentially what acupuncture does. There is considerable controversy over acupuncture for weight loss, and research studies have found many conflicting results, but thousands of years of anecdotal evidence helps to keep this practice alive and well, particularly for those who are trying to lose weight.
How Does Acupuncture Help in Weight Loss?
Acupuncture can help with weight loss by regulating hormone production, improving the metabolism, optimizing digestion, reducing inflammation, suppressing the appetite, lessening water retention and optimizing other bodily functions that are related to obesity and weight loss.
Leptin and ghrelin are the hunger hormones in the body; ghrelin tells the body that it is hungry, while leptin tells the body that it is full. Acupuncture can manipulate the levels of these hormones to reduce your appetite and curb your overeating and snacking habits.
Using stomach and kidney acupuncture points, it is possible to improve the functioning of the digestive system, and even increase the amount of nutrients that are taken in by the body. By preventing slow digestion and improving gut health, you can relieve constipation, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues that may keep your sedentary or lead to fat deposition.
Inflammation or tension in the gut, muscles and other tissues of the body can slow down the metabolism, put strain on the immune system, and even impact heart health and digestion. By relieving tension and regulating the immune response of the body, acupuncture for weight loss can lower your levels of oxidative stress and optimize your body for weight loss.
Stops Water Retention
By stimulating the nerves of the kidney and endocrine system, it is possible to stop water retention in the body. This is a very quick way to lose some weight, and help to keep it off, by preventing your body from storing more water than it needs.
If your hormone levels are out of balance, many different bodily processes can be negatively affected, from digestion and cognition to healing and immune system function. Acupuncture of the spleen and shenmen are highly effective in balancing hormone levels.
With needles stimulating the thyroid area, it can boost the functioning of your pituitary gland, one of the key areas of the body in relation to metabolism. This can thereby increase the rate of fat-burning, making not only your workouts, but also your daily activities, more effective in burning calories and losing weight.
Acupuncture is able to induce the release of endorphins in the body, which are feel-good hormones that can quickly eliminate stress and anxiety. Many people overeat when they have high levels of stress hormones, or are feeling overwhelmed. Acupuncture can help to eliminate those urges.
Benefits of Acupuncture for Weight Loss
One of the best reasons to use acupuncture for weight loss is that it is able to provide long-lasting relief without the need for crash diets, invasive surgery, dietary medications and excessive exercise. It requires a small amount of energy, a moderate amount of time, and a willingness to trust in traditional medicine. Acupuncture helps to align the body with your weight-loss goals, namely through its effects on metabolism and hormones, but it doesn’t replace the need to eat properly and exercise regularly.
Sensitive Points for Acupuncture
When it comes to acupuncture for weight loss, there are a number of key areas on the body that should be focused on. As mentioned earlier, the areas related to digestion and food intake are particularly important, such as the stomach, kidney and mouth. Thyroid and endocrine acupuncture can also help regulate your hormone levels and ensure proper energy flow in the body, while also helping with appetite and metabolic speed. The lungs and spleen are also critical areas for weight-loss acupuncture, but the most important and unexpected sensitivity point for weight loss is actually the ear.
In recent years, acupuncture ear therapy (also known as auricular acupuncture) for weight loss has received a lot of attention after a number of studies were conducted that showed significant weight loss following ear therapy. The ear is one of the densest areas on the body for nerve endings that are linked all over the body. There are dozens of different specific points on the ear, carefully studied and recorded over thousands of years, that can impact your health.
For weight loss, there are two main approaches – a single needle for hunger or a five-needle technique for more comprehensive effects on the body.
- 1-Needle Therapy – The simpler of the two popular ear therapies, this single-needle therapy is intended to quell your hunger. By applying a needle at the area that controls hunger and appetite, you can help to reduce those constant cravings, eliminate between-meal snacking and significantly aid your weight loss efforts. This single area is near the bottom of the tragus, the hard cartilaginous area of our inner ear that is closest to our facial skin.
- 5-Needle Therapy – This approach is more comprehensive than the single needle for hunger. This approach treats your ear like a microcosm of the entire body, and requires the insertion of needles at key nerves on the ear that affect hunger, endocrine function, the spleen, the stomach and the shenmen (reduces stress and boosts energy).
As with any weight-loss strategy, a single change in your lifestyle or behavior is not likely to deliver the results you want. Even though acupuncture can effectively alter your metabolic and hormone levels, and address numerous issues related to weight loss, you should still complement this treatment with the proper diet and regular exercise. A few acupuncture sessions each week doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want, nor does it mean that you should stop going to the gym or being physically active 4-5 times per week.
The best acupuncture diet for weight loss consists of eating simple foods, those that are easy to digest and are high in nutrients. The best foods should also not be overly processed or high in sugar. Ideally, you should be eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains, while cutting down on your amount of dairy products, refined sugar, peanut butter, bananas, raw foods, citrus fruits and soy-based foods. You want to heat up your body, and your digestive system, when using acupuncture for weight loss, and eating cold foods, such as smoothies, cold drinks, shakes and salads can actually slow down or dampen your body’s metabolism. While acupuncture is effective by itself, combining regular acupuncture treatments with the proper diet can help you lose even more weight.
Side Effects of Using Acupuncture for Weight Loss
Despite the many benefits of using acupuncture for weight loss, there are some potential side effects to using this ancient treatment, including fatigue, soreness, a worsening of symptoms, hormonal fluctuations and muscle spasms, among others.
- Soreness – At the most fundamental level, acupuncture does involve stabbing yourself with needles, which does create an element of pain. This soreness can last for a few hours up to a few days, depending on the area of the body, and can even cause bruising in some cases.
- Fatigue – Changing your bodily processes, altering hormone levels and manipulating the metabolism can be exhausting for the body, particularly in your first few treatments. Over time, acupuncture will create more energy, but at times, it can deplete your body’s reserves.
- Worsening Symptoms – By directly treating critical nerves in the body, acupuncture can be very effective, but when you start rapidly altering body chemistry, it can sometimes work in the opposite direction, causing a condition to worsen, or even causing an old ailment or medical concern to reappear.
- High Emotions – The detoxifying and stimulating nature of acupuncture can help it release tension in your body, along with many different hormones and neurotransmitters. This can make you emotionally sensitive, irritable, and quick to tears, among other emotional responses.
- Muscle Spasms – When you practice acupuncture, it is possible that some of the nerve stimulation will continue after the needles have been removed. Muscle tremors or spasms are not unusual, and will fade within a day or two. If they don’t speak with your acupuncturist about what you’re experiencing.