According to TCM, the root of excess weight is an imbalance within the body caused by malfunctioning of the spleen and liver organ systems.
In five-element theory, the spleen is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system, ensuring that the food we eat is transformed into Qi — the vital substance of life. Disharmony of the spleen will have symptoms such as fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention, loose stool, and feeling of heaviness.
The liver’s job is to keep the flow of your body’s Qi and blood (as well as your emotions) running smoothly. Our modern, fast-paced lifestyle and chronic stress can negatively impact the liver’s ability to function properly and smoothly, which, in turn, can cause the spleen and the whole digestive system to function poorly and decrease your metabolism. Liver disharmony can also cause some of the “triggers” that lead to cravings and compulsive eating.
Nutritional Counseling and Lifestyle Changes
A good weight loss program includes nutritional counseling and exercise as well as a commitment to make permanent lifestyle changes. The acupuncturist can help with nutritional counseling and can discuss a diet regimen that the patient can live with and maintain for the long term. A diet that is high in fiber and low in fat, with moderate amounts of low-density carbohydrates and low-fat protein is usually the best choice to adopt. With this type of a diet program, the patient can avoid the pit-falls of yo-yo dieting or the tendency to lose weight and then regain it.
Other important tools that can aid in weight loss are stress reduction techniques and a moderate exercise regimen. The acupuncturist can suggest various stress reduction methods that may include breathing exercises, Tai Chi, yoga, meditation or biofeedback. And since the goal of a weight program is not only weight loss but the maintenance of that loss, an exercise program that the patient likes is the best one to choose. The patient could try starting a program that includes brisk walking three times a week for forty minutes. After a few weeks when stamina is increased, they could try walking five times a week. After that more aerobic exercise can be added such as the treadmill, stair climber or aerobics classes, cycling or whatever from of rigorous exercise the person enjoys and can maintain for the long term. It is a good idea to use free weights beginning with three pound weights and practicing just two to three sets of arm curls three times a week. Moderate weight training builds lean body mass and helps to reduce body fat as well as strengthen and build bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
The Acupuncture Weight Loss Treatment
From a TCM perspective, the acupuncture points, foods and herbs that are chosen to assist with weight loss directly influence the Qi of the spleen and liver systems to treat the root imbalances that are causing the weight gain.
From a Western perspective, acupuncture and TCM have been shown to have an effect on the function of the nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system, food cravings, and metabolism. All of which can help to energize the body, maximize the absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite, and reduce anxiety.
Acupuncture Points for Weight Loss
The beauty of acupuncture is that each treatment is catered to the needs of the individual patient. Acupuncture points on the body will be chosen for overall well being with the objective of increasing circulation of the blood and Qi (stimulating the metabolism) and calming the nervous system.
In addition to treating the root of the imbalance within the body, different acupuncture points may be chosen for each treatment as different symptoms arise. For instance, if you are experiencing a desire to overeat related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) one week, then that can be addressed at that week’s appointment.
Generally treatments are scheduled once or twice a week for 8 to 12 weeks or until the goal weight has been reached. The treatments include a combination of auricular (ear) and body acupuncture, ear tacks or pellets to leave on in-between treatments, herbs and supplements, abdominal massage, breathing exercises, and food and lifestyle recommendations.
A Total Health Program
Most patients report a marked decline in appetite and cravings with acupuncture alone but herbs, healing foods, and exercises can definitely enhance the efficacy of the treatments.
Herbs and Healing Foods: The herbs and foods that are chosen during a weight loss treatment are for promoting healthy digestion, energizing the body, augmenting Qi, and improve elimination of water, toxins, and waste products. Foods that are bitter, sour and acrid to taste are especially good for weight loss, while sweet, salty and greasy foods should be reduced.
Abdominal massage/exercise: Points on the abdomen improve digestion, absorption of food and peristalsis of the intestines. The abdominal points can be stimulated with massage or by belly breathing, where the abdomen is consciously moving in and out with each breath. Deep breathing with visualization can also strengthen will power and be used as a tool to curb hunger and cravings.
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are powerful tools for healthy weight loss, by itself or as a supportive treatment in conjunction with other weight management programs.
In the struggle to eat less and expend more energy, you may find that acupuncture is just what was needed to overcome cravings, boost energy, enhance your metabolism, and increase your willpower to succeed!
Breathing and Abdominal Exercises
While the patient is undergoing the behavior modification program and is successfully losing weight, it is a good idea to incorporate a set of deep breathing and abdominal exercises that utilize the acupuncture meridians or energy lines on the body to stimulate relaxation and digestion. If we practice deep abdominal breathing while lying down for a few minutes in the morning before we arise, we will not only take in more oxygen but will stimulate the stomach, spleen, kidney ,and reproductive energy lines that are all located on the center of the torso . Digestion will be improved and all those organs will function more effectively. We will also start the day with more energy and clarity.
Method of stimulating these same organs in the stomach region is the abdominal finger pressure massage that follows the direction of the large intestines. This massage may also be performed in bed in the morning and evening and will gently stimulate all the points on the central torso and will not only encourage proper digestion but will foster homeostasis or the harmonious balancing of the hormone and endocrine systems of the body.