During the last 40 years, there has been a rise in acupuncture for the treatment of multiple conditions, ranging from weight loss to pain relief. The researchers at National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that, during 2007, there were 10 million (1) such treatments in the United States, and most of them were centered on weight loss. We are sure, and these numbers must have got you wondering, can acupuncture help me lose weight?
The answer to this question might be yes, provided that you use acupuncture alongside lifestyle modification (LM). The research found on NCBI shows that acupuncture treatment is helpful for those who are overweight. However, it isn’t much effective (2) for people suffering from obesity.
This information is just a glimpse into the expansive world of acupuncture. Let’s delve a bit further, and have a look at what exactly is acupuncture, and how it can help you in losing weight.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment that originated in China (3) and is linked closely with Oriental Medicine, generally termed as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It has been practiced in Asian countries, such as China and Japan, in varying forms. It recently started getting recognition in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine, after multiple studies proved its validity. Medical researchers are confident about their potential as a successful therapeutic treatment procedure.
Now, you must be wondering, how is the acupuncture treatment performed?
Well, during this procedure, the doctors apply pressure via injections (4) or other means on specific points on various body parts. It is based on the principle that there is a unique type of energy flowing through our bodies, termed as qi, which at times, either becomes too high or too low, in different body locations, which might block its flow.
The purpose of this treatment is to disperse qi evenly throughout our bodies and to remove any blockages in its flow.
How Does Acupuncture Help in Losing Weight?
As we mentioned earlier, acupuncture is more effective for patients that are overweight, rather than the ones who are suffering from obesity. According to World Health Organization (WHO), if your BMI is between 25 to 30 kg/m2, then you are overweight, but if it is above 30 kg/m2, then you are obese.
Acupuncture can assist you in losing weight in multiple ways. Some of them include:
Acupuncture Reduces Stress
Have you ever gone through a phase in life, when you switched healthy living practices with unhealthy ones because you were stressed over something?
If yes, then welcome to the club! It is a common practice among a large portion of the population.
Now, you must be pondering that how are unhealthy eating choices and stress related?
This is because stress forces our bodies to release a specific type of hormone, termed as cortisol, which compels our brains to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle. Acupuncture can tame your unhealthy cravings by slowing down the production of cortisol.
If you suffer from inflammation, then you better start working on controlling it, because it could result in weight gain, obesity, and even, diabetes. You can avoid this painful condition by adopting a healthy eating lifestyle. You can also fight it by having an acupuncture treatment.
Studies conducted in this regard showed that acupuncture cools inflammation, and helps in keeping the weight below a BMI of 25 kg/m2. A study conducted on Egyptian patients (5) found that acupuncture changes body composition in people suffering from obesity, which results in reduced inflammation and weight loss.
Balances Blood Sugar
Are you concerned about your increasing weight? Do you suffer from high blood sugar?
If your answers to the above questions are yes, then this is because both of these conditions are interrelated. High blood sugar toys with your appetite and makes you feel more hungry than usual. This is where acupuncture comes into play; it balances your blood sugar level, which in turn, restricts your appetite.
Obesity and excess weight are closely related to your eating practices. One of the main reasons behind the YES, to your question, can acupuncture help me lose weight is, it controls appetite.
This was confirmed by a study conducted by Hong Kong Baptist University on 72 individuals suffering from excess weight. During this study, some of them went through real acupuncture and some through sham acupuncture. The results found that the people who had real acupuncture lost more pounds as compared to the ones that had the sham acupuncture.
Those who went through real acupuncture lost 5 pounds on average, with one individual losing as high as 16 pounds. While on the other hand, the ones that went through the sham acupuncture only succeeded in shedding 1 pound.
Researchers credit two hormones, termed as serotonin and beta-endorphin, to this success. These hormones help obese or overweight patients in the following manners:
- Boosts Mood
- Reduces appetite
- Improves the fat breakdown rate and system
Do you feel lazy when it comes to exercise and other weight loss practices?
Well, the good news is, acupuncture can counter your laziness and will energize you to do exercise and other weight loss practices.
The director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, Sharon Zarabi (6), shared that acupuncture increases energy, which motivates the brain to participate in weight-loss activities such as running. It also cools inflammation and reduces joint pain. Furthermore, it balances hormones and enhances the body’s metabolism. As a result, the food breakdown rate increases, and weight decreases.
Apart from this, the extra energy generated also helps in maintaining the weight, which, according to various studies, is more difficult than losing weight.
Best Practices in Acupuncture for Weight Loss
Acupuncture treatment is based on applying pressure on certain body points. Each of them has distinct functions and can benefit you in different ways. In this section, we will discuss the best practices in acupuncture for weight loss:
Acupressure is a type of acupuncture, in which the acupuncturist massages or pressurizes multiple pressure points spread throughout the body. Some of the major pressure points for weight loss are described below:
- Abdomen acupuncture is a type of acupuncture in which an abdomen pressure point situated 3 centimeters (7) below the belly button is pressurized. This type of acupuncture enhances the digestive system, which in turn reduces weight. It also provides strength and counters constipation.
- Ear point is considered to be the most important pressure point for weight loss. It is located between your ear and temple (8). You can conduct a small procedure on your own by massaging it for one minute.
- Pressure points on knees can be quite helpful in enhancing your digestion process and blood circulation. This point is about 2 inches below the knee cap on your leg’s outer side. You can benefit by massaging it for 1 minute. According to acupuncturists, applying pressure daily on this point for 2 minutes can help you in reducing weight.
- Elbow point is helpful in treating large intestine issues. It is situated close to the end of the inner side of the elbow crease. Applying pressure on it can remove extra heat and moisture from your body, which enhances intestinal functions.
- The abdomen sorrow points are located below your last rib. Acupressure on them counters indigestion, ulcers, imbalanced appetite, and rib pain.
Research published in the FASED journal has found that there is a specific type of acupuncture, termed as electroacupuncture, which is highly beneficial for obese or overweight women suffering from high blood sugar.
Now, you must be wondering, what kind of sorcery is this?
Electro-acupuncture is a specific kind of acupuncture in which practitioners apply pressure via injections to different points on the body coupled with an electric current. This current is provided by connecting an electro-acupuncture machine with the needles.
Don’t be afraid, and you won’t be electrocuted; in fact, you will enjoy it because it produces a tingly effect.
It helps in controlling the blood sugar level, which in turn controls the appetite, and the patients don’t feel excessively hungry.
Chinese medical practitioners believe that there are various points in the ear, which can control your whole body. They suggest that applying pressure on these points via needles can benefit overweight and obese individuals.
Multiple studies were also conducted in this regard, which found that they aren’t wrong, and auricular acupuncture can help in losing weight. During one clinical trial, researchers inserted needles in 5 specific points (9) in the ear and observed the results. These points were:
People who went through this 5 point-combination auricular acupuncture, had a 6% reduction in their BMI.
Important Things to Know Before First Acupuncture Treatment
Acupuncture might sound easy and comforting, but there are certain things that you should take into account before going through the treatment. There are various types of acupuncture, and acupuncturists suggest them based on your requirements. Below we will discuss a few tips (10) for those of you who will experience acupuncture for the first time.
- It is a common practice to cancel acupuncture treatment in case of sickness. If you are planning to do something like this, then you are on the wrong track. This is because acupuncture’s benefits are not just limited to weight loss and pain relief; it can also help in recovering from common sicknesses, such as a cold.
- You should never go for an acupuncture treatment with an empty stomach. This might result in lightheadedness and dizziness. Some people might faint, as well. Therefore, it is always better to have a light snack before going through acupuncture treatment.
- Always wear loose clothes while going for an acupuncture treatment. This is because a major portion of this treatment requires insertion of needles under your clothing, and it might become difficult for your acupuncturist to do that with fitted clothing. Therefore, if you are reluctant in removing your clothing during the treatment, then go for loose clothing options.
- During the preliminary stages of acupuncture, acupuncturists will ask you to show your tongue. He/she will also note your pulse and check your stomach by pressing it. This helps them in understanding your internal organ’s state.
- Are you afraid of hypodermic needles? Don’t worry; acupuncture needles are thinner than them. They are around 2 to 3 times of your hair strand’s width. Furthermore, they are flexible, which makes it easier to endure their pinch. Therefore, it is quite rare in acupuncture clinics for patients to wine over needles.
We are sure that by now, you would have completely understood the answer to, can acupuncture help me lose weight, which is yes for individuals who are overweight. On the other hand, if you are obese, then it might be a bit difficult for you to gain benefit from this unique and traditional medicinal procedure. However, if you practice it alongside conventional medical practices, then you will notice a positive change.