Acupuncture for weight loss; benefits and why you should be cautious.

Acupuncture for weight loss; benefits and why you should be cautious.
  • PublishedJune 26, 2020

Almost 30% of people in the world are obese or overweight. In the effort to lose weight, people end up spending billions of dollars every year on weight-loss regimens or treatments including acupuncture for weight loss. Unfortunately, a vast majority fail to get a healthy weight. The good news is that acupuncture can help weight loss when effectively administered. 

There has been an increase in the use and popularity of acupuncture over the last 40 years, with over 10 million registered acupuncture treatments as of the year 2014, according to The National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). 

In this article, we are going to look at acupuncture for weight loss, how this alternative medicine works for weight loss, the advantages and downsides of acupuncture. But before, let us first know more about acupuncture.

Acupuncture for weight loss is through relieving stress, promoting digestion, reducing craving, boosting energy, helping sleep and affecting hormones.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient kind of medical technique developed in China about 5000 years ago to manage pain for example; headaches,  neck, back, knee, and osteoarthritis pain. It involves the insertion of fine metal needles at certain body points (acupuncture points) to alleviate pain or treat certain health conditions. 

The inserted needles stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” hormones to create a calm and relaxing effect which eventually relieves pain.

But does acupuncture help weight loss? 

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There is not sufficient research to base on and draw a definitive conclusion that acupuncture alone may help weight loss. However, research shows that when acupuncture is combined with a low-calorie diet and regular body exercise, it could help weight loss.

For example, a 2018 review of 27 clinical trials including 2,219 patients, found that while acupuncture alone wasn’t so effective for weight loss, it showed promise when paired with lifestyle modifications, especially among people who were overweight but not obese.

In another small 2015 study, 80 obese people received three to six months of acupuncture while eating a low-calorie diet. Not only did the treatment help them lose weight, but it also reduced the amount of inflammation in their bodies, which is linked to obesity.

How acupuncture helps weight loss

Acupuncture helps weight loss in many ways, which include the following.

1. Boosts energy

Acupuncture boosts energy which may support diet and exercise behaviors leading to weight loss. Most people go for carbs to get quick energy but acupuncture is a calorie-free energy boost. Acupuncture makes sure you have enough energy to do your exercise routines like gym exercises. 

2. Acupuncture can lead to better sleep.

Acupuncture helps to release the feel-good hormones in the body which improves sleep. As we all know that high-quality sleep is a very good player in weight loss and maintenance. With sleep deprivation, the brain function and the ability to make healthy decisions is affected. 

3. Acupuncture may reduce cravings.

Research shows that ear-based acupuncture aids weight loss. It helps people to manage food addictions since overweight is linked to overeating or food craving. Acupuncture alters the brain chemicals associated with these addictions which in turn helps weight loss.

A study from Yale University found that people who were addicted to cocaine were less likely to use the drug over the eight-week study period if they received acupuncture in specific points of their ears.

 4. Acupuncture may affect your hormones.

Acupuncture may help people with prediabetes to lose weight by reducing their insulin and leptin resistance; both insulin and leptin are appetite-regulating hormones that can play a role in long-term weight-loss.

In one 2018 study published in a Chinese medical journal, where 100 patients with prediabetes were assigned to any of three groups: Diet and exercise, diet and exercise plus diabetes drug metformin or diet and exercise plus acupuncture. 

After 12 weeks, individuals in the acupuncture and the metformin groups had a significant decrease in the body mass indices and improvement in fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C and total cholesterol.  

5. Acupuncture promotes healthy digestion.

One of the ways acupuncture helps a variety of health complaints is by bringing about a calm effect that is triggered by the feel-good hormones produced in the body. Through this same mechanism, it can improve blood flow to your stomach, which aids digestion. As we know, a good digestive system is linked to a healthy weight

6. Acupuncture can relieve stress.

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Stress can make people make unhealthy choices like smoking, alcoholism, and binge eating which may lead to weight gain. The calming effect of acupuncture can help relieve stress so that people are in a position to make healthy food choices and lifestyle which may help weight loss. 

Acupuncture releases endorphins or the feel-good hormones that have a calming effect. this is how acupuncture helps to manage depression and anxiety. 

Where is the acupuncture point for weight loss?

As we discussed above, acupuncturists use needles or finger pressures to stimulate points on your body to boost the flow of energy and rebalance your natural state of health. The acupuncture points are located along 12 energy meridians mapped by a system of traditional Chinese medicine. 

According to acupuncturists, stimulating points on the stomach, spleen, and conception vessel meridians can help you lose excess weight.

The acupuncture points for weight loss include;

1. Stomach 36

According to the National College of Natural Medicine, the stomach meridian has specific points that control digestion and appetite. Stimulating these points can lead to weight loss. Stomach point 36, also known as leg three miles is located on the outside of the shinbone, about 5 inches below your patella. 

Stimulating these points boosts your body’s ability to take in nutrients. The increase in nutrients intake keeps you full on less food hence weight loss.  

2. Spleen 6

Spleen meridian, also known as three yin crossing is located 5 inches above the ankle bone. This governs the balance of fluids in your body. If you tend to retain water, stimulating points along this meridian can bring about proper water balance.  Needling it can release excess water retention, resulting in a weight loss of up to 5 lbs.

3. Spleen 9

Spleen 9 is also known as the shady side of the mountain. It is located inside the leg, below the larger bulge of the knee. Stimulating spleen 9 can relieve abdominal bloat, cramps, and water retention, leading to weight loss. 

4. Conception Vessel 12

CV 12 also known as Centre of power runs down the Centre of the front of the body. It is responsible for energy flow, metabolic rate, and major life changes. It is located halfway between your belly button and sternum. CV12 can strengthen the digestive tract and calm emotional stresses that lead to digestive upset. All this helps weight loss.

How many sessions of acupuncture do you need for weight loss? 

Different acupuncturists recommend different levels and lengths of treatment. Also, the number of visits each week will vary from one acupuncturist to another. If you plan on losing 10 to 15 pounds, you may have several treatments a week for six to eight weeks. However, this may reduce as you move closer to your weight loss goal.

Other benefits of acupuncture for weight loss

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There are countless conditions and symptoms that acupuncture can help. These include; 

  • Lower back pain 
  • Knee pain 
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Calm the brain
  • Regulate blood flow
  • Regulate blood pressure

Are there downsides to acupuncture? 

Just like any form of treatment, acupuncture comes with side effects too. Some of the common side effects of acupuncture include;

  • Pain and bleeding due to the insertion of needles
  • Skin rashes
  • Allergic reactions
  • Nausea
  • Infections
  • Fainting
  • Nerve and blood vessel injury
  • Needle breakage or remnant needle pieces
Bottom line

There is not sufficient research to base on and draw a definitive conclusion that acupuncture alone may help weight loss. Therefore, to optimize acupuncture for weight loss, consider combining it with other regimens like a healthy diet and regular body exercise.

Last but not least, before going for acupuncture treatments always look for a licensed and properly trained practitioner using sterile, disposable needles.


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