By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
Happy 2015, everyone! The new year is here and, as you might guess, the #1 question we are asked every January is “Can acupuncture help me lose weight?”. The answer, of course, really depends on how motivated you are to change your habits. If you are looking for acupuncture as a quick fix to losing weight, then of course, just like any quick fix weight loss solution, it’s not going work for you. There are no magic points that will somehow amazingly help you shed pounds with no additional effort. What we do find, however, is that many individuals benefit from adding acupuncture as an adjunct therapy while simultaneously modifying their diet and boosting their daily exercise. Since the endorphins released during acupuncture are helpful in reducing one’s stress response and elevate the mood, it helps many to control their impulse to eat or overeat when stressed, and can also help take the edge off grouchiness and cravings for sugar that can occur in the beginning of cleaning up one’s diet.
If you do an internet search of acupuncture for weight loss you will find most information surrounding the use of 5 specific points located in the ear (shen men, stomach, spleen, hunger/appetite, and endocrine). This specific treatment protocol will come up often due to a Korean study published in 2013 that specifically included these 5 auricular points. For 8 weeks, study participants received either 5 points in the ear, 1 point in the ear, or no points (sham acupuncture). The study concluded that participants who had received 5 ear points had a 6.1% overall reduction in weight, compared to 5.7% for the 1 point group and 0% for the sham group. In addition, those in the 5 point group also had a measurable reduction in their overall body fat.
Since most people have other issues we can address simultaneously during a treatment, we rarely see anyone come in solely for weight loss at BCA. Treatments here will typically include various points on the body related to an individual’s issues plus some or all of the 5 ear points listed above, based on the presentation of the patient. Treatment plans will be determined by the severity of complaints and and will include the level of one’s commitment to a weight loss plan. If weight loss is a serious goal and you are dedicated to making a lasting change, we would recommend coming in for treatments as often as needed (daily) in the first few weeks, as you begin implementing lifestyle changes. As your cravings become less frequent and/or intense, you will space your treatments further and further apart, until you no longer need additional help and your healthier diet becomes a natural, regular part of your life.
Sujung Yeo, Kang Sik Kim, Sabina Lim, Acupuncture in Medicine, 16 December 2013.