Acupuncture for Weight Management
More and more of us in the developed world are putting on weight. At the same time, we are becoming more and more aware of how this can impact on our lives, and in particular our health, in a number of negative ways. Losing weight, however, is not always very easy – and if we do lose it, we can so easily put it back on again!
Weight Management and TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s holistic view of health and the body can be of great help in supporting our attempts to lose or manage our weight.
TCM can help you lose and/or manage your weight in a number of ways; treatment is always finely tuned to the health of the person concerned, so that some of the following may be appropriate for you:
Over-eating, or eating inappropriate food, is not the only cause of being overweight, but when it is a factor TCM can help you with it. Over-eating tends to occur when the Qi of the different body systems are out of harmony; restoring that harmony, for example with acupuncture, will result in a moderation of appetite.
Some people, however, find that they are overweight despite the fact that they do not overeat! In Chinese Medicine this is often a symptom of weakness of the digestive Qi. This impairs the body’s ability to digest and process food efficiently, which results in weight gain. Cutting down on food may not result in weight loss in this case. We can use acupuncture to help strengthen and regulate the digestive system so that food is processed properly and body weight is restored to normal.
Sometimes we eat as a substitute for another kind of nourishment we are not getting; for example, if we feel stressed, we may find ourselves over-eating or snacking when we are not really hungry. Similarly, if we feel a bit low and unappreciated, we can ‘comfort’ eat. TCM treatment allows us to become clearer about what we really need, and to address those needs more effectively. For instance, one result of stress is that our Qi does not flow freely – we are ‘uptight’; acupuncture is effective at promoting the smooth flow of Qi and thus helping us deal with the stress effectively, rather than through using (or misusing) food to comfort us.
In TCM the person is always viewed holistically. Treatment aims to restore balance and health in the body as a whole, and this will support our attempts to manage our weight. The healthier we are, the more balanced is our Qi, and the less likely we will be to put on excessive weight. TCM is not, however, some kind of magic pill which will allow us to lose weight regardless of what we eat. In fact dietary advice based on the traditional Chinese understanding of the energetics of food will be a crucial part of most people’s treatment. This advice will be sensitive to our circumstances and personality; TCM treatment involves a partnership between the patient and the practitioner, in which the two work together to restore health in the patient.
Appropriate exercise also forms an important part of any weight loss programme; again this is something that patient and practitioner will discuss as part of the personalised treatment plan. Specific Chi Kung exercises may be suggested to some patients for example.
Is Acupuncture Treatment Helpful in Weight Management?
A review of clinical trials conducted in 2003 1 included numerous trials from China which were positive for the use of acupuncture for weight loss, reduction of cardiovascular risk factors and parameters of carbohydrate mechanism.
A more recent study2 found acupuncture to the ear also effective for weight loss.
1 Lacey JM et al (2003) Acupuncture for the treatment of obesity: a review of the evidence. International Journal of Obesity 27, 419–427. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0802254
2 Sujung Yeo, Kang Sik Kim, Sabina Lim (2013) Randomised clinical trial of five ear acupuncture points for the treatment of overweight people. Acupuncture in Medicine. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2013-010435
The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.