Around 50% of Brits are overweight or obese, an issue that is rapidly turning our focus to the struggle with weight loss. Weight loss is more complicated than you may think; sometimes it can be as difficult to lose five pounds as it is to lose 50. Poor eating habits, overly sedentary lifestyles, misguided ideas of nutrition and the way the human body works to conserve weight and mass all work against us, leading many people to quit before they even begin.
Being obese means shouldering a number of grim statistics:
•Obesity interferes with everyday life by casuing disturbances such as breathlessness, sleep apnea, lower back pain and impaired mobility.
•Obesity increases the risks of contracting over 30 serious medical conditions including asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallstones, arthritis, impaired fertility and stroke.
•Obesity influences several types of cancer including breast, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal and renal cell cancer.
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 needles inserted into specific points on the body and in the ear release endorphins which have a calming and relaxing effect that makes it easier to deal with stress, frustration and anxiety that can trigger overeating and bingeing on fattening foods. Also endorphins affect the digestive and hormonal systems so acupuncture can help rebalance the organ systems that are running too fast- or in this case too slow—i.e., the metabolism and the will power.
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 TCM 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.
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.
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.
Although most patients report a marked decline in appetite and cravings with acupuncture alone, herbs and abdominal massage can definitely enhance the efficacy of the treatments.
The herbs 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.
Points on the abdomen improve digestion, absorption of food and peristalsis of the intestines. The abdominal points can be stimulated with massage 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. 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!