Can Acupuncture Help With Weight Loss? | Signos

Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, but can it help you lose weight?

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by
Mia Barnes
— Signos
Staff Writer
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Reviewed by

Mia Barnes
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
February 23, 2024
April 10, 2023
— Updated:

Table of contents

When brainstorming ways to lose weight, acupuncture isn’t typically at the top of the list. However, many people are trying to find natural remedies and techniques that can assist in weight loss.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that works with the meridian system. Meridians are channels in the body through qi or vital energy flows. When you have a blocked qi, it can cause pain or illness. Professionals use pressure, needles, suction, or heat along the meridians to restore the flow of qi. When corrected, they can lead to many physical and mental health improvements. So, does an acupuncture treatment really do the trick for weight loss?

What Is Acupuncture? What Is It Good for?

Acupuncture is the insertion of tiny, thin needles through your skin on areas where the meridian system lies. It’s typically used to treat pain and overall wellness or stress management. Typical benefits of acupuncture are:

  • Reduced stress
  • Headache relief
  • Enhanced mental clarity
  • Fewer digestive issues
  • Increased energy

Every acupuncturist has a unique style that blends aspects of approaches from Eastern and Western medicine. When looking to find a practitioner discuss your symptoms and lifestyle with the individual to ensure their expertise and specialty area is a perfect fit for your goals.

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Can Acupuncture Help With Weight Loss?

Acupuncture stimulates specific chemicals in the body, like serotonin and endorphins. These hormones are typically known for increasing positive emotions in your body, making you feel good. If you want to feel better in general, acupuncture can help generate the chemicals in your body. A positive mood can also help you chase your weight loss goals.

There’s not much evidence that acupuncture will directly help you decrease your body weight. However, since it can reduce stress and make you feel more positive, it will indirectly help you pursue weight loss goals. It also provides other benefits that can assist in weight loss.

Improves Digestion 

Stomach and kidney acupuncture points promote the improvement of digestive functions and can increase nutrients taken in the body. In addition, it can help relieve constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal issues that keep you inactive or lead to fat deposition.

Reduces Inflammation  

Inflammation in the gut, muscles, and tissues can slow metabolism and strain your immune system. When you relieve tension in the body from acupuncture, it will lower levels of stress and optimize your body to lose the weight it may have been holding onto.

Boosts Metabolism

Needles can boost the pituitary gland's function when placed to stimulate the thyroid. This is an essential area in the body concerning metabolism, so by focusing on this area, the fat-burning rate in your workouts could increase, as well as your metabolism when doing daily activities.

Decrease Appetite

The ear is an unexpected sensory point of acupuncture to help with weight loss. It’s one of the densest areas for nerve endings and can help regulate hormone levels and ensure energy flows properly through the body. It will help with appetite and metabolic speed.

Stops Water Retention 

Your body is 60 percent water and can store excess amounts that may cause the number on the scale to go up. Stimulating the nerves of the kidneys and the endocrine system allows less water to be retained. Although this is not fat, it will help you feel less puffy and confident with a couple of pounds lost on the scale.

How Many Sessions Are Necessary for Acupuncture to Work? 

The number of treatments will depend on what is being treated and the severity of it. Acupuncturists will recommend different levels and lengths based on the amount of weight you want to lose. If you plan to lose 10 to 15 pounds, having several weekly treatments for six to eight weeks is typical.

Acupuncture for Weight Loss Points

According to Chinese medicine, weight gain can be from a body imbalance. Typically, it’s caused by a liver, spleen, kidney, thyroid, and endocrine system malfunction. Let’s look at the liver as an example. Fat and toxins can accumulate in this organ, causing your metabolism to slow and be unable to process sugars or fats as efficiently. This can also cause fat to store in other parts of the body and cause weight gain.

Specific acupuncture points are used to target weight loss by correcting a body imbalance. These are some of the common areas that practitioners will focus on.

Zusanli (ST36)

This point is located along the stomach meridian. Zusalni is said to influence organs in the upper abdomen and the parasympathetic nervous systems, which control digestion. It also plays a part in the overall energy of the body. The point is located about three inches below the kneecap.

Zhongwan (CV12)

The Zhongwan point is along the conception vessel in the meridian system. It’s believed to play a part in the organs of the upper abdomen and relates to digestion organs like the stomach and intestines. It is located four inches above the navel.

Sanyinjiao (SP6)

This point is three inches above the inner ankle. Sanyinjiao is along the spleen meridian and influences the lower abdomen and parasympathetic nervous system.

Renzhong (GV26)

Renzhong is thought to influence weight, focusing on obesity. It’s located along the governing meridian. The physical point targeted on the body is the philtrum, about one inch below the meeting of your nostrils.

Xuehai (SP10)

This is another point along the spleen meridian. It’s believed to impact your blood sugar levels. The point is above the kneecap, roughly two inches from the body's center near the bottom of your thigh muscle.

Tianshu (ST25)

Tianshu helps weight loss since it promotes proper intestinal functions and digestion of food. It’s located three finger widths on both sides of the belly button.

Research Around Acupuncture and Weight Loss

There are few studies done on acupuncture and weight loss. They often have a common theme of discovering that this practice has no direct correlation to helping with weight loss. Some studies say ear acupuncture helps reduce cravings, resulting in a decrease in body weight. Another review found acupuncture alone wasn’t effective but showed hope when paired with lifestyle changes among overweight individuals.

A review of the studies shows there are often too many variables to combine, such as techniques, number of sessions, placebos, length, and acupuncture points. The results rely heavily on the participant's personal beliefs and expectations.

Potential Acupuncture Side Effects: How to Keep It Safe

Finding a licensed acupuncturist to perform acupuncture for you is vital if you give this practice a go. Potential side effects are rare, but with any treatment, it’s possible for the below effects to occur.

Infections

A professional acupuncturist will always have a clean environment for your treatment. When appropriately trained, the professional will use sterile, disposable needles to reduce the risk of infection.

Nerve Injuries

Less common side effects like nerve injuries are serious, emphasizing the importance of going to a professional practitioner. Complications can happen if a needle breaks during treatment.

Punctured Organs

If needles break during treatment, organ, brain, and spinal cord injuries are possible. Although it’s rare, the complications can even lead to death.

4 Tips to Support Your Weight Loss Journey 

Pairing acupuncture with lifestyle changes will be your best bet at weight loss and create a healthy and sustainable way to achieve your desired results.

Focus on a Nutritious Diet

Food choices are the most critical part of losing weight since it’s easy to overconsume high-calorie and processed foods. It’s best to focus on a diet with whole foods: eating lots of lean protein and vegetables keeps you satiated. In a study where 90 percent of participants were overweight or obese, researchers found that a diet high in good fats does not lead to weight gain compared to a low-fat diet. You can take many eating style approaches to achieve the goals you want.

Exercise Regularly 

Many people do not realize how sedentary they are throughout the day. Getting up and moving will burn calories, leading your body to shed some pounds. Muscle is especially important since it speeds up your metabolism and allows you to burn more calories daily. Try lifting weights to increase your muscle mass and improve bone health.

Work on Your Sleep Patterns

Sleep plays a critical role in your hunger levels. Hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin tend to be higher if you sleep less, causing you to eat more during the day. Getting a solid eight hours of sleep balances your hormones.

Improve Stress Management

Many people turn to food as a coping mechanism when feeling stressed. You may mindlessly snack or experience food cravings for comfort foods that are highly processed with lots of calories. If you focus on natural stress reliving strategies, like acupuncture, you are more likely to not stress eat throughout the week. 

Learn More About Healthy and Sustainable Weight Loss with Signos’ Expert Advice 

Signos uses CGMs (Continuous Glucose Monitors) to improve health and sustainable weight loss methods. The science of CGMs assists in weight loss since it helps you learn how the food you eat, exercise, sleep, and stress patterns affect your blood sugar (glucose). Glucose stabilization is the key to successful and sustainable weight loss since your brain senses changes in your blood glucose and adjusts your appetite.

You can get a personalized weight loss plan from Signos to guide you in making the best food choices for your body. You log what food you eat, and it will show a graph of your glucose spike, then suggests you exercise to bring your glucose down. You’ll learn what foods increase your glucose and find meals to stay away from so it doesn’t spike. Then, reap the benefits as you fuel your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your glucose stable.

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References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 2). How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
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  3. Ismail LA, Ibrahim AA, Abdel-Latif GA, El-Haleem DA, Helmy G, Labib LM, El-Masry MK. Effect of Acupuncture on Body Weight Reduction and Inflammatory Mediators in Egyptian Obese Patients. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2015 Mar 15;3(1):85-90. doi: 10.3889/oamjms.2015.010. Epub 2015 Jan 14. PMID: 27275202; PMCID: PMC4877795.
  4. Medical Guardian. (n.d.). Fact or fiction? high-fat foods make you gain weight. Medical Guardian. Retrieved March 20, 2023, from https://www.medicalguardian.com/medical-alert-blog/nutrition-recipes/fact-or-fiction-high-fat-foods-make-you-gain-weight .
  5. University of Minnesota. (2022, August 11). Study finds that sound plus electrical body stimulation has potential to treat chronic pain: New technique could relieve pain for individuals with various chronic and neurological conditions. ScienceDaily. from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/08/220811083335.htm .
  6. Yasemin C, Turan S, Kosan Z. The Effects of Auricular and Body Acupuncture in Turkish Obese Female Patients: A Randomized Controlled Trial Indicated Both Methods Lost Body Weight But Auricular Acupuncture Was Better Than Body Acupuncture. Acupunct Electrother Res. 2017 Jan;42(1):1-10. doi: 10.3727/036012917x14908026364990. PMID: 29772131.

About the author

Mia Barnes is a health writer and researcher who specializes in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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