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Can You Use Acupuncture for Weight Loss?

weight-loss-03102014Everyone is looking for the secret to weight loss, without falling victim to the latest gimmicks. With so many different opinions about how to lose weight, it can be difficult to tell what will really work.

Fortunately there is a technique for weight loss that has been tested for centuries:  acupuncture.

This technique is safe, sound and reliable. And, even more exciting, using acupuncture for weight loss helps you lose weight in several different ways.

Is there proof that acupuncture helps with weight loss?

Yes. In one study by Professor Sabina Lim, at the East-West Medical Research Institute at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, researchers found that auricular acupuncture (acupuncture which uses the ear points) resulted in about a 6% reduction in body mass index (BMI) over 8 weeks. This is especially interesting because they found this same result with two different protocols, one with four needles and one with only one needle. Both techniques resulted in lower BMI.

Researchers continue to study the effectiveness of acupuncture for weight loss, but the results look promising.

How does acupuncture help with weight loss?

There are three primary ways that acupuncture can help with weight loss.

First of all, acupuncture helps balance hormones. Acupuncture can increase endorphins, which reduce cravings and generally make you feel more positive. This can help reduce binge eating.

It also decreases the hormones that contribute to weight gain. Dr. Burak Bahar and his team at the Ankara Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Training and Research Hospital in Ankara, Turkey found that both leptin and insulin levels dropped with acupuncture. Leptin regulates fat storage and metabolism and stimulates the feeling of being full.  Insulin regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism and the absorption of glucose from the blood. This finding suggests that acupuncture may actually reduce the hormones that lead to overeating.

But if leptin stimulates the feeling of being full, why is it good to have reduced levels? Like insulin-resistance, cells can become immune to the effects of leptin when the levels are too high. Many obese people have excessively high levels of leptin. When your leptin level is high, you can no longer tell when to stop eating. Restoring balance to leptin levels may help to reduce leptin-resistance, making it easier to stop eating before you overeat.

The third way that acupuncture helps with weight loss is by reducing stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can affect weight in several ways. It disrupts digestion, contributes to depression and escalates your “fight or flight” response. If you feel overwhelmed, you are more likely to binge for emotional reasons and to assume you have no time to prepare healthy meals.

And finally, acupuncture can aid digestion. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the spleen is responsible for digestion. Disharmony and imbalance in the spleen can lead to fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention, loose stools, and a feeling of heaviness. The liver is responsible for the flow of Qi, blood and emotions. Disharmony in your liver can lead to cravings and compulsive eating.

By balancing your organ system, you support weight loss both physically and psychologically.

How can I regulate my metabolism at home?

Of course, good metabolism relies on all the things you know are good for you—exercise, good nutrition, sleep and reduced stress. But there is one easy thing you can do using TCM principles to regulate your metabolism: ear massage.

There are several acupuncture points on your ears that help reduce cravings. To stimulate these points, massage your ear several times a day. Start by rubbing your upper ear. Grab your ear with your thumb on the upper, inner ear and your index finger behind your ear. Rub in circular motions for 15 seconds. Next, use your index finger to rub the inner crevices of your upper ear. Rub the front of your ear where it attaches to your head. And finally, massage your ear lobes by gently pulling on them and rubbing them in circles for 15 seconds.

If you like the idea of do-it-yourself acupressure, make an appointment with me to have your pulses taken. Once I know the specifics of your constitution and how it affects your weight loss, I can give you additional points to control your hunger, cravings and metabolism.

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