By Kristel Hart, L.Ac., Dipl. OM
Undesired weight gain can be due to many reasons, the most common being: hormonal imbalance, slowed metabolism, overeating, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise. Acupuncture can affect weight loss through its effect on the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a command center in the brain that regulates hormones and neurochemicals that control circadian rhythm, body temperature, thirst, and hunger. In other words, it in charge of maintaining the body’s homeostasis.
Acupuncture has a demonstrated effect on obesity related hormones, namely ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin controls meal initiation and normally rises before and falls after meals. It is released in direct response to stress. Therefore, increased stress can lead to “stress eating” and weight gain. Leptin, known as the “starvation hormone,” notifies your brain when you have had enough food in your stomach. It regulates fat storage and metabolism by recognizing when energy levels are sufficient to maintain necessary cellular function and proper weight management.
In a randomized clinical trial acupuncture was found to decrease insulin and leptin levels and induce weight loss, together with a decrease in BMI when compared with sham acupuncture. Furthermore, between-group analyses demonstrated increases in plasma ghrelin and cholecystokinin levels in subjects who received acupuncture treatment (Güçel, Bahar, Demirtas, Mit, & Çevik, 2012).
If you are following a healthy nutrition plan and exercising, but still not shedding any pounds, then adding acupuncture to your regimen could be just what you need to succeed. Acupuncture can strengthen liver function, which in turn increases production of the chemicals necessary for optimal digestion, nutrient absorption, and fat breakdown. In sum, acupuncture can boost any weight control program as it can regulate obesity related hormones, curb appetite, boost metabolism, quell cravings, and improve digestion.
Güçel, F., Bahar, B., Demirtas, C., Mit, S., & Çevik, C. (2012). Influence of Acupuncture on Leptin, Ghrelin, Insulin and Cholecystokinin in Obese Women: A Randomised, Sham-Controlled Preliminary Trial. Acupuncture in Medicine, 30(3), 203–207. https://doi.org/10.1136/acupmed-2012-010127