Will acupuncture help me lose weight?
I’m getting this question a lot. A patient coming for pain, anxiety, or insomnia will ask, usually when getting up off the table; will say, “I’ve gained so much weight, can acupuncture help me?”
The answer to the question is yes and no. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help with an amazing variety of issues, from headaches to plantar fasciitis. But acupuncturists look at disorders differently from Western doctors; we look for patterns based on tongue and pulse diagnosis, as well as the signs and symptoms of the patient. I get it that most patients probably don’t care about what the Chinese medicine diagnosis is, they just want to lose weight and feel better. It’s not that simple.
Let’s talk about the issue of overweight and over eating and Chinese medicine.
Healthy eating is one of the four basics of Yangsheng; nourishment of life, which also includes proper exercise, adequate sleep, and stable, healthy emotions as the basics for health. The main approach is moderation; healthy food, eaten in a calm environment, no specific taboos but the emphasis is on real food. The definition of real food for Chinese medicine follows the approach of the esteemed author Michael Pollan : real food is food your great-great grandmother would recognize and be able to prepare, unprocessed and eaten in season. Not Gummy Bears. Eating is central to life. But there are so many different approaches to food in our modern world that we have lost sight of the real reason we eat; to keep us healthy and enable us to take part in our lives. One of the basic questions I ask my patients is about their appetite. Do they enjoy their food? Li Dongyuan, the founder of the “Spleen and Stomach “ school of Chinese medicine in the 12th century held that a healthy digestion was central to a healthy mind and body. He said” With Stomach qi there is life, without Stomach qi, there is death” Certainly, the first sign of illness in children and animals is often a lack of appetite. Unfortunately, our weight obsessed culture often vilifies the healthy appetite, but it is a sign of health.
I often ask my patients how they start their day in terms of food. Many skip breakfast, a practice that runs counter to traditional medicine. People say they are not hungry in the morning but this may be due to eating too late at night. The morning is when the body’s yang is rising with its zenith around noon. So it makes sense to eat during that time; your digestion is operating at full strength. For many people, skipping or skimping on breakfast leads to overeating later when one doesn’t realize the full extent of hunger. The spleen and stomach like simple, warm food, traditional foods like congee, an Asian basic, (rice porridge) supplemented with eggs, fish, vegetables, or oatmeal with nuts and fruits. Eat slowly. Chew your food. Scientists say it takes 20 minutes for your brain to catch up with your stomach. How many times have you suddenly looked down at your plate and not remembered eating its contents (and you are still hungry)?
What about the needles? Stress eating is real. Taking the edge off stress plus supporting your digestive organs with moderate meals of healthy foods is probably the world’s best way to have optimal digestion. You feel a steady flow of energy, and fewer sudden drops in blood sugar that lead to snack attacks.
Acupuncture treatments have been shown over and over that they can relieve stress, reduce anxiety, mitigate depression, and just provide an enhanced feeling of well –being. These reasons alone are a great reason to try acupuncture but research has also shown that certain acupuncture points can also reduce cravings!!! Yes. Especially true with auricular(ear) acupuncture which has been used for decades to help addicts through drug withdrawal and smokers fight those nicotine cravings.
So yes, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you lose weight but like the old joke goes, the light bulb has to want to change! Acupuncture protocols will not help if you continue to make 2 doughnuts and a large Frappuccino your breakfast. But more on dietary choices later.
Have question on what to eat or acupuncture in general?
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help.