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Acupuncture for Weight Loss

acupuncture and tcm for weight lossAn article published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, substantiates the usage of acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal formulations can help in the treatment of obesity and weight loss. The article reviewed four clinical studies and 16 animal studies on the effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for treating obesity. There were different methods, but the results were ultimately the same.  Obesity can be a result of total body inflammation or hormonal imbalances, and because of this, all the studies that were reviewed, had different approaches for treating the disease. All of the studies confirmed obesity can be managed utilizing Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques.

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. As many as one quarter of all Americans are considered overweight. And because of this, nearly $33 billion will be spent annually on weight loss programs. However, almost 85 percent of those trying to lose weight, will fail. There are many reasons why Americans are getting larger waistlines, but ultimately, the burden falls upon the individual. There are methods that can help people lose pounds and maintain a healthy weight though.

TCM is a non-invasive, safe and effective method for helping with weight loss. Unfortunately, a vast majority of people tend to look for the “quick fix” and this is definitely not what TCM provides. But, if a person is willing to take control and be held accountable for their actions and decisions, then TCM can be quite helpful with regards to shedding pounds.

Multiple studies have shown when TCM modalities, such as acupuncture and herbal formulas, are combined with traditional methods of weight loss, the patients actually lose more weight. TCM views the body and how it functions differently than Western medicine. Everything in TCM is based upon the fact that every cell in the human body is a form of energy.  When there is an imbalance of energies throughout the body, then disease or illness may arise. Obesity is a disease that requires balancing.  When it comes to weight loss, there are two or three main areas that TCM practitioners focus on, the spleen, liver and kidney meridians.

The three areas that focus on weight loss in TCM, the spleen, liver and kidney meridians, are the powerhouses of the body. The kidney meridian equates to the endocrine system and this is treated to reduce water retention and to rebalance hormone levels. The spleen meridian is targeted to regulate sugar metabolism. The liver meridian is treated to reduce stress, which can lead to binge eating and other unhealthy eating habits. Increased levels of stress can also deplete the hormones that are responsible for metabolism in the body.

Acupuncture for weight loss is not a silver bullet and traditional methods should be used in conjunction with acupuncture. Obviously monitoring the diet and getting proper exercise and rest are all crucial when trying to lose weight. But if all these things are done together, losing weight should not be extremely difficult. It will still take time, but it can be achieved.

The Many Dimensions of the Heart

The heart is an energetic system we often treat in Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to Chinese Medicine theory, there are many systems of energy within the body. Each of these systems corresponds to certain physiological and psychological functions. So when we talk about the heart, the lungs, the liver. However, when we are speaking about Chinese Medicine organs, we are not talking about the physical organ sitting in your body, but rather the energetic manifestations of a particular system in the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms.

The heart is an incredibly important energy system in Chinese medicine, often said to be the emperor of all the other energy systems. It is related to the fire element, which is the universal energy of summer.

On a physical level, the heart is responsible for pumping blood through our body, just as it is in allopathic medicine. It controls the health and vitality of the blood vessels, and also controls sweating, the tongue and speech. But perhaps the most important role of the heart in Chinese medicine is that it houses the Shen, or spirit.

The Shen in Chinese Medicine is referred to as one of the three treasures of the body, and it encompasses consciousness, the emotions, mental acuity and thought, as well as the ability to process incoming sensory information. Each organ system in Chinese medicine is related to one aspect of the spirit (such as intellect, willpower or instinct) – but the Shen is the most important, as it governs all the other aspects. Prolonged emotional upheaval, mental illness, personality disorders, emotional imbalance, processing disorders and sensory disorders all are manifestations of a disturbed, ungrounded or weakened Shen.

The emotion associated with the heart is joy. This means that joy nourishes the heart, but excessive joy (ie, mania) is a symptom of an imbalance in this system.

The heart is all about the very act of being alive – from the physical heart beating in our chest, to the flow of blood through our veins, to our mental ability to stay present and focused, and our emotional selves being whole and complete. It is the energy of summertime – abundant, hot and lively.

Nourish the Heart through Food

The color associated with the heart is red, and the heart is nourished through red foods, such as cherries, strawberries and kidney beans. Being closely associated with the blood, it is also nourished by blood-tonifying foods such as organ meats, lean red meat and dark leafy greens. The heart is closely tied to appreciation of beauty and aesthetics, so the heart system is also nourished by food for which care has been given to present artfully, with beauty and grace, and a wide array of colors on one plate. Again, the heart is associated with summertime, so think of the abundance of fruits and vegetables available that time of year, and try to reflect that energy in your food choices.

Nourish the Heart through your habits The heart is nourished through activities that bring you cheer and joy. Nourishing the heart is about celebrating that which you love in the world – people, places and ideals. As the heart governs our relationships with other human beings, it is nurtured by feeling connected to those that we love. Reach out to friends and family, forge new bridges and strengthen lasting bonds. The heart is also nourished through beauty – take time to appreciate the beauty of your natural surroundings, as well as music, poetry, art and dance. Lastly, the heart is nurtured by ritual. This can be a long-standing religious or cultural ritual, or one that you create for yourself. Some examples of heart-healthy rituals include writing down five things you are grateful for each night, incorporating some sort of gentle exercise during each morning, practicing 10 minutes of sitting meditation each day, or grab a coloring book and start coloring!

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Spring

Spring is generally regarded as a happy season, especially for those that live in areas where winter is cold and dark. Spring brings with it longer days, more sunshine, the rebirth of plants and more activity. But for many, the months of spring can also bring irritability, anxiety, sinus issues, allergy flare-ups and even colds.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for nearly 3,000 years, which gives the medical system, as a whole, a lot of credibility. TCM classifies things in many different ways. There are five seasonal associations in TCM – winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has its own unique set of properties and associations. Spring is associated with the wood element. The wood element governs the liver and the gallbladder and their energetic pathways in TCM. The five seasons and their corresponding elements interact with one another daily, creating balance and harmony or complete chaos within the body.

The season of spring is a time of expansive movement and growth. Spring is a time of creativity and planning. Since the liver and gallbladder are associated with the tendons and are responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body, our daily activities should reflect this. Being more active and spending more time outside can be great ways to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies during the months of spring. We should imitate the budding trees and flowers and allow ourselves to grow and reach for bigger and better goals during the spring.

The color green is the color of spring in TCM. During these months, fresh greens are abundant. It is highly recommended that we incorporate more fresh greens into our daily diets. Greens have been shown to be very beneficial for helping the liver do its job, detoxifying the blood. Dandelion greens, in particular, are a good source for detoxification, which ultimately strengthens the liver and gallbladder meridians.
It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually be harmful to the body. It can create headaches, insomnia, anger and more.

When a person is completely balanced, transitioning from one season to another is not such a big deal. However, knowing what elemental type you are can also be very beneficial in determining how you will react to each passing season. For instance, a person who has a wood element constitution, may experience anger during the spring. This is because the wood element is already closely associated with the emotion of anger and spring brings added stimuli that can trigger fits of rage.

One way to keep the body balanced is through acupuncture and TCM. The body is designed to maintain proper balance, but we tend to not pay attention to the warning signs until we experience pain or illness. Getting regular acupuncture treatments can work as preventive medicine, providing harmony throughout every season of the year.

If you experience feelings of anxiety, anger or even self-loathing, acupuncture can help. It can also help with those seasonal allergies that might flare up. Acupuncture is a wonderful way to maintain health and balance all year long. Be sure to find a fully licensed acupuncturist in your area, so you can enjoy spring without any emotional or physical impairments.