Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of energy and promote healing. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat various health conditions, such as pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia, allergies, and more. But can acupuncture also help with weight loss? This is a question that many people who struggle with obesity or overweight may ask. In this article, we will explore how acupuncture works for weight loss, what the research says about its effectiveness, and what to expect from an acupuncture session.
How Acupuncture Works for Weight Loss
According to traditional Chinese medicine, weight gain is caused by an imbalance in the body’s energy system, which can be affected by factors such as diet, lifestyle, emotions, hormones, and organ function. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of energy by stimulating specific points on the body that correspond to different organs and systems. By doing so, acupuncture may influence several aspects of weight loss, such as:
- Regulating the metabolism and the digestion, which are responsible for burning calories and absorbing nutrients.
- Reducing the appetite and the cravings, which are influenced by hormones such as ghrelin and leptin, as well as the emotional state of the person.
- Lowering the stress and the inflammation, which are linked to weight gain and obesity-related diseases.
- Improving the mood and the well-being, which can motivate the person to make healthier choices and stick to their weight loss goals.
One of the most common methods of acupuncture for weight loss is ear acupuncture, which involves stimulating certain points on the outer ear that are believed to control the hunger and the satiety signals in the brain. Ear acupuncture may also help with other issues that contribute to weight gain, such as insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
What the Evidence Says About Acupuncture for Weight Loss
While acupuncture has been widely practiced and accepted in China and other Asian countries for centuries, its scientific evidence and acceptance in the Western world are still limited and mixed. There have been some studies that suggest that acupuncture may have a positive effect on weight loss, but they are often small, poorly designed, or inconclusive. Therefore, more rigorous and large-scale research is needed to confirm the benefits and the mechanisms of acupuncture for weight loss.
Some of the studies that have been conducted on acupuncture for weight loss include:
- A 2013 review of 16 trials involving 1,301 participants found that acupuncture was associated with a significant reduction in body weight compared to sham acupuncture or no treatment. However, the authors noted that the quality of the studies was low and that the results should be interpreted with caution.
- A 2014 randomized controlled trial of 58 obese women compared the effects of ear acupuncture, body acupuncture, and sham acupuncture on weight loss and metabolic parameters. The results showed that both ear and body acupuncture were more effective than sham acupuncture in reducing body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, hip circumference, body fat mass, and percent body fat. Ear acupuncture was also more effective than body acupuncture in reducing body weight and body mass index.
- A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of 31 trials involving 3,013 participants evaluated the effects of acupuncture on weight-related outcomes and adverse events. The results indicated that acupuncture was superior to sham acupuncture and no treatment in reducing body weight, body mass index, and waist circumference. However, the authors also stated that the evidence was low to moderate quality and that the heterogeneity and the risk of bias were high among the studies.
What to Expect from an Acupuncture Session
If you are interested in trying acupuncture for weight loss, you should first consult with your doctor and find a qualified and experienced acupuncturist. You can ask for a referral from your doctor or search online for reviews and recommendations. You can also check the credentials and certifications of the acupuncturist, such as the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) or the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA). You should also make sure that the acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable needles and follows proper hygiene and safety protocols.
Before your first acupuncture session, you will need to fill out a health history form and answer some questions about your condition and goals. The acupuncturist will also examine your tongue, pulse, and other physical signs to determine your diagnosis and treatment plan. The acupuncturist will explain the procedure and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
To prepare for your session, you should wear loose and comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the areas that will be treated. You should also avoid eating a large meal or drinking alcohol before the session, as this may affect your energy and blood flow. You should also avoid caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants, as they may interfere with the relaxation effect of acupuncture.
During the session, you will lie down on a padded table or a reclining chair. The acupuncturist will insert the needles into the selected points, usually on your arms, legs, back, or abdomen. The number and location of the needles will depend on your condition and the style of acupuncture. The acupuncturist may also manipulate the needles by twisting, flicking, or moving them slightly to enhance the stimulation. Sometimes, the acupuncturist may also apply heat, electricity, or pressure to the needles or the points.
The needles will remain in place for about 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the treatment. During this time, you should relax and breathe deeply. You may feel some sensations from the needles, but they should not be painful or uncomfortable. If you do feel any discomfort, you should let the acupuncturist know so they can adjust the needles or remove them. You may also listen to soothing music, meditate, or nap while the needles are in place.
After the session, the acupuncturist will remove the needles and dispose of them safely. You may feel some mild soreness, bruising, or bleeding at the needle sites, but this is normal and should subside quickly. You may also feel relaxed, refreshed, or energized after the session, depending on your response. You should drink plenty of water and rest after the session, as this will help your body to heal and balance. You should also avoid strenuous activities, alcohol, and spicy foods for a few hours after the session, as they may affect your energy and blood flow.
The effects of acupuncture may vary from person to person, and may take some time to manifest. Some people may notice immediate relief or improvement, while others may need several sessions to see results. The acupuncturist will advise you on how often and how long you should receive acupuncture, based on your condition and progress. A typical course of acupuncture may consist of six to eight sessions, with one or two sessions per week. However, this may vary depending on your individual needs and preferences.
Is Acupuncture for Weight Loss For You?
Acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy that can help you with various health issues, such as pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia, allergies, and more. Acupuncture may also help you lose weight by regulating your metabolism, appetite, stress, inflammation, and mood. However, the evidence for acupuncture for weight loss is still limited and mixed, and more research is needed to confirm its benefits and mechanisms.
If you are interested in trying acupuncture for weight loss, you should consult with your doctor and find a qualified and experienced acupuncturist who can tailor the treatment to your specific needs and goals. You should also follow the guidelines before, during, and after the session to get the most out of your acupuncture experience.