Why would someone see an acupuncturist for weight loss? I've already covered some of the reasons from a Western perspective -- The release of endorphins, the relief of stress and the overall sense of feeling good that negates the subconscious hunt for comfort through fat and carbs. In Part 1, I also discussed some of the physical ailments that lead to weight loss, and how acupuncture can help. In this post, I'm going to switch over to a Traditional Chinese Medicine-based perspective.
From the view of an acupuncturist, the body is designed to separate the "pure from the impure," distributing the energy, fluids and waste that we take in through air and food. If the body is working properly, this mechanism flows smoothly, and the "impure" (waste) is carried out of the body for disposal. The fluids are distributed throughout the body as well, and the excess is also carried out of the body for disposal. And the qi that comes from food gives us the energy to get through the day.
The organ that has the most to do with weight gain and loss is the Spleen. The Spleen is responsible for taking in food and transforming it into a substance that is the basis of qi and blood. It is also responsible for transporting the food substance to where it needs to go. If the Spleen is weak, the food will sit there, causing weight gain. When people complain of having a sluggish metabolism, and that their food just seems to stick around, this is a result of a weak Spleen. Acupuncturists can focus a treatment on strengthening the Spleen, which will speed up the rate that the food is processed in the body.
Stagnation is another main cause of weight gain, both from a physical and emotional perspective. One physical sign of stagnation is constipation. If someone is only having one bowel movement a week, the qi is not moving efficiently enough to move the food where it needs to go.
From an emotional standpoint, I spoke about a certain lack of drive that deters many dieters. I gave an example of the person who just can't get motivated to exercise. This person knows that he will feel better after an hour at the gym, but getting there just seems so ... damn ... hard. It's so much easier to hang out at home. With a bag of chips. And dip.
If someone knows that they will feel great after doing something, why wouldn't they? Well, in TCM terms they are suffering from a sort of mental stagnation. The blood and qi are not flowing smoothly, so neither are they. They have settled into the sluggish pattern that their blood and qi has created. Fortunately, acupuncture does a fantastic job of shifting this sort of stagnation. Move the blood and qi, and you will move the mind as well.
Auricular acupuncture (a style of acupuncture that is focused in the ear) is extremely powerful, so much so that it is often used in detox centers for all sorts of addictions, including addictions to food. Unfortunately, there are charlatans out there who are taking advantage of this knowledge. You may have heard of ear-stapling; rings are put through the cartilage of the ear in various areas that are supposed to promote weight loss. First of all, anything put through the cartilage of the ear hurts ... a lot. And it doesn't heal easily, since there is so little blood supply. It also tends to get infected easily. And will you really care about losing 10 pounds if you are missing both ears?
Health issues aside, you can only stimulate an acupuncture point so long before it stops working. Acupuncture points shift. This is why areas of scars have points that are located slightly differently than where they normally would be. If you leave something in the ear long enough, the acupuncture point will shift to a different location, rendering that point useless. Although auricular acupuncture can be a great adjunct for weight loss, it should only be performed by a licensed practitioner. To be safe, make sure your practitioner has been licensed by both the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) and by the state in which they are practicing.