Acupuncture for Weight Loss?
While national organizations, both public and private, have started exulting acupuncture as an extremely effective and safe treatment for alleviation and management of chronic pain, there are still many other reasons to turn to acupuncture. As we just stepped into a new year, with our resolutions still fresh, I thought that now would be a good time to talk about how acupuncture can indeed help with weight loss.
Acupuncture treatment involves the insertion of tiny, filiform needles into specific points on the body. This triggers a cascade of bio-physiological responses meant to obtain a specific, desired effect on the functioning of the patient's body. It has been shown that acupuncture impacts neurological, hormonal, digestive, and joint functioning, as well as chronic pain responses and sleep quality. Stated more simply, acupuncture helps the body to function better.
What does this have to do with weight loss? A lot, actually.
As acupuncture can help with the functioning of all of the systems listed above, it can assist in weight loss on multiple fronts. Consider how some of the biggest issues in regards to successful weight loss revolve around metabolism, cravings, sleep quality, energy and hormone levels. By being able to deal with all of the systems listed above (i.e. your hormone and neurological systems), acupuncture can help address some of the main reasons why people struggle with weight loss.
Think about it. How successful are you when you are feeling sluggish? Let's say your digestive system isn't operating at 100%, so your metabolism slows down and so do you - your energy tanks and bloating ensues. I don't know about you, but this makes me less likely to want to exercise or eat right. Acupuncture can step in by increasing the healthy functioning of your digestive system, helping to regulate hormones, insulin and your metabolism to more effective and balanced levels.
This leads to another point. When you have low energy levels, your body often responds by increasing your hunger signals, as a way to get your energy back up. If acupuncture can help boost metabolism and, as a result, increase our energy, then it can help suppress appetite as well. Now are we not only digesting and metabolizing our food better, as well as having the energy to want to be more active, but we are going to have a more balanced hunger gauge.
Some research suggests that, more specifically, the release of serotonin that comes from acupuncture treatment helps to lower your appetite. Serotonin (a "feel-good hormone" that is one of the reasons why acupuncture is effective for pain relief) has been linked to lowering your appetite. This hormone and endorphins, like oxytocin, help improve your mood. It has been shown that the release of endorphins can help to decrease your appetite by improving your mood. One example of this mood and weight connection is that of emotionally-driven junk food binges. The increased levels of happiness from endorphins release from your nervous system, via acupuncture, could lead to less emotion-based binging.
It has also been suggested that acupuncture can help to lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which signals our body to eat. Others suggest that acupuncture aids weight loss in that it reduces levels of inflammation in the body, via lowering levels of cortisol (i.e. the "stress hormone."). High cortisol levels have been associated with weight gain; we tend to eat when we are stressed and we tend to hold on to weight when we are stressed as well, as cortisol increases lead to increases in inflammation. Decreased cortisol not only affects our mood, but, with the lessened inflammation, the decreased pain in our joints that might be keeping us from moving as much as we should be.
With this, we are back to the point that acupuncture can help regulate hormones and the nervous system. Whether the hormones deal directly with our appetite, mood, or inflammation levels, acupuncture can help balance them to a healthy weight-supportive level. Acupuncture can also help the functioning of the different systems of the body themselves, so that we digest, move and sleep better.
Acupuncture can be used to help a person lose weight and maintain a healthy weight by helping them overcome some of the common challenges to weight loss, as noted above. When combined with a change in lifestyle to one that includes exercise and good dietary habits, you have a formula for successful weight loss.
In terms of results, acupuncture for weight loss would be provided in a series of sessions. As with other conditions, successful weight loss is not going to happen after one or two sessions.Patients are encouraged to receive acupuncture for at least 6-12 weeks for best results. Personalized dietary recommendations will also be given during the acupuncture sessions. Some practitioners, like myself, will also make use of ear seeds, to help with appetite suppression and mood, when the patient is not having a treatment.
If you have found it hard to lose weight or to keep it off, I would highly recommend adding acupuncture to part of your weekly routine. Not only can it help resolve some of the issues that make weight management difficult, but it increases your overall health and well-being as well. Better sleep. Better mood. Better health in general! Not a bad way to jump start your 2019 resolutions!