Acupuncture to Support Weight Loss
There are a lot of weight loss strategies out there. Most combine a change in eating habits with an increase in physical activity and require one thing for success: that we stick to the program. Permanent weight change takes time and a commitment to lifestyle transformation. While acupuncture can help to diminish food cravings, the role that acupuncture can play in weight loss is much more than just reducing appetite. Acupuncture can reduce stress, increase your sense of well-being and aid digestion.
The extra support you receive from acupuncture may make the difference.
Weight loss, stress and hormones
If the instruction and the science behind weight loss are so simple, why is the process often so hard? For starters, while nutritional science can identify the best foods with the highest nutritional value for optimum health, it also reveals that many convenient, processed foods must be avoided. Therefore, committing to weight loss often requires additional effort shopping and cooking.
Also, no matter how much we know about a particular weight loss strategy, a mountain of information will not keep us from our comfort food when we want it, no matter how unhealthy that food may be. Our relationship with food can be complicated. The hormone ghrelin stimulates hunger and lepton is responsible for the sense of fullness. These are controlled by the hypothalamus, which is part of the limbic system. The hypothalamus is also associated with reward and punishment. The limbic system regulates the autonomic nervous system, which facilitates flight or fight when we sense danger, or, when we feel safe, allows us to relax and relate. Our senses and our behavior are interconnected in ways that may take us by surprise. Sometimes the need for indulgence feels like life or death.
Changing body composition
Plus, weight loss takes time. The fat in our body is stored as adipose tissue. We get more than twice the amount of energy from metabolizing fat than we do from the same amount of carbohydrates and protein (9kcal/g of fat versus 4kcal/g of protein and carbs). Besides storing energy, our body fat provides necessary insulation and cushioning. Carbohydrates provide quick energy, and when you decrease your caloric intake and increase your activity, you’ll burn up carbohydrates. But getting rid of the stored fat takes more time. In fact, while an initial weight loss is exhilarating, most dieters soon hit a plateau and feel stuck. But dieters should not be discouraged. When the process slows down, that is when you start burning that stored fat. A healthy weight loss goal is 1-2 pounds a week (mayoclinic.org)
Ultimately, the decision to lose weight or change body composition will improve overall health. Instead of feeling like punishment, the process can be an opportunity to develop a rewarding working relationship with your body. If you are overweight and have a genetic predisposition for diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer, even a 5-10% weight loss can improve your overall health and significantly extend your life (cdc.gov). Changing body composition by increasing muscle mass and decreasing fat can also significantly improve quality of life and long term health outcomes. Especially excess belly fat is associated with higher levels of inflammation and insulin resistance.
How acupuncture can help
Acupuncture enhances weight reduction efforts by supporting the body to convert fat tissue to muscle and reduces the stress that often accompanies changes in eating behavior.
The World Obesity Federation (worldobesity.org) is an international organization of scientific, medical and research professionals with a mission to lead and drive global efforts to reduce, prevent and treat obesity. In 2018, the organization collected research on acupuncture and weight loss involving more than 2,200 patients. Two FDA approved drugs to treat obesity have been removed from the market worldwide because of serious psychiatric and cardiac side effects. In previous studies, acupuncture has demonstrated the ability to affect the release of the appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin. Acupuncture has also been associated with insulin resistance and support for glucose (sugar) and lipid (fat) metabolism. Independent of the leptin ghrelin balance, acupuncture has been reported to reduce appetite. The World Obesity Federation study found that persons who initiated lifestyle modifications, diet plus exercise plus acupuncture were more successful than persons who initiated lifestyle modifications, diet plus exercise without acupuncture.
In another 2019 collection of research published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (doi10.1155/2019/5796381) found that by regulating the endocrine system, acupuncture significantly inhibited body weight and fat mass. Acupuncture also promoted digestion.
Acupuncture is recognized by the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, The Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health as an effective alternative and complementary therapy for many conditions. It is also utilized by the Department of Defense, particularly for pain and PTSD.
An acupuncturist is trained to assess imbalance and will design a treatment that will bring the body back into balance. Acupuncture can help to stabilize your body and your mind while you make the changes required to reduce weight.
Myplate.gov is a good place to start for nutritional information.