I am often asked if acupuncture can help with weight loss. There are many studies that suggest that it can. But the first thing I tell my patients who are interested in using acupuncture for weight loss, is that it is not a substitute for lifestyle changes. To lose weight you have to eat less and move more!
How does acupuncture help a weight loss program? There are some immediate benefits. First, if you find yourself eating to relieve stress, acupuncture is wonderful to promote a sense of deep relaxation in the body. Secondly, acupuncture can help to curb the appetite. There is actually a point on the ear called the Appetite Control Point (Hunger Point). When this point is needled along with two or three other auricular points (Ear Shenmen, Point Zero and the Tranquility point) cravings for carbohydrates are reduced and the appetite is suppressed.
Dr Richard Niemtzow has posted two clinical observation papers on his website discussing the use of these points in conjunction with a high protein diet. Participants agreed to restrict their diet to chicken, fish, red meat and green vegetables. They agreed to drink 6 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. They were allowed a few portions of juice, fruit or low calorie bread. Participants lost an average of 19.2 pounds over a 12-week period. You can read more about this study here and here. Would this group have lost weight without the acupuncture? Probably, but all agreed that the auricular acupuncture was helpful in maintaining compliance with the diet and that it prevented binging.
Acupuncture can have additional long-range benefits when points are used to balance the digestive system. For my patients, I almost always add a protocol that I learned from Dr Richard Tan called the Eight Magic points to balance digestion. These points can be used for all digestive complaints – diarrhea, constipation, IBS, acid reflux. The points are LI4, SJ5, P6, LU7, ST36, GB34, SP9, and LV8 arranged on the arms and legs in a yin/yang pattern. I have attended many seminars with Dr Tan and use his Balance Method approach almost exclusively because of its excellent clinical results.
There is a wonderful article in a back issue of “Acupuncture Today” that discusses this protocol. The article is written by an acupuncturist who apprenticed with Dr Tan. The title is “Eliminating Waste in Practice: Dr. Tan’s Eight Magic Points for all Digestive Disorders”.
Dr Tan locates two of the points (GB34 and LV8) a little differently from their traditional locations. The article mentioned above discusses those locations. I highly recommend this protocol to any acupuncturist who encounters digestive complaints. The points are very effective in balancing the metabolism.