Since the early 80s, America has struggled to contain an exploding obesity epidemic. According to the CDC’s most recent data, nearly half of U.S. adults are considered obese – and 10 percent are morbidly obese. In Houston, the numbers are just as bad. Surveys show that Houston’s obesity rates are a little worse than the median among all U.S. cities.
The health effects of obesity are thoroughly proven at this point. Excess weight is linked to increased mortality and increased risk of developing an array of chronic diseases. Cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes – all potentially fatal – are among them. Excess weight is also linked to chronic pain, depression, anxiety, increased blood pressure, and many other health problems.
Numerous weight loss solutions are available, but there’s no single best option for patients. Implementing an effective weight loss protocol typically involves combining several strategies. For many patients, acupuncture is among them, as there is promising research linking acupuncture treatment and weight loss.
Four Ways Houston Acupuncture Can Help with Weight Loss
During acupuncture, fine-gauge needles are lightly inserted into the skin. As the needles are placed, they stimulate the patient’s nervous system and, according to practitioners, help the body’s life energy (“qi”) flow properly. Stimulating the nervous system in this way confers health benefits, including several that can help with weight loss. Four of those benefits include:
- Reduced appetite – With the Bayou City’s unmatched food scene, Houstonians regularly consume excess calories. Those excess calories are turned into fat tissue, so appetite control is a must when battling the scale.
Acupuncture is a valuable tool in this regard and has been used to control various cravings and addictions. For example, acupuncture is known to improve the chances of quitting smoking.
Auricular (ear) acupuncture is a frequent target for acupuncturists, as it contains a dense network of nerves that connect to points all over the body. Some of these points are linked with appetite control, and studies suggest that ear acupuncture can help people lose weight by controlling their food cravings.
- Improved metabolism and hormone levels – Through the nervous system, acupuncture can stimulate processes associated with organ function, including the thyroid and other endocrine organs. By stimulating the endocrine system in this way, acupuncture can help the body’s metabolism burn additional fat and drop the weight as a result.
Acupuncture is also known to modulate hormone levels in patients. If hormone levels are disrupted, which can happen due to stress, aging, diet, or other environmental factors, it can lead to additional weight gain. Acupuncture brings these imbalanced hormone levels back into balance and ensures they don’t impact weight loss efforts.
- Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress – Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress are both associated with increased weight gain. Oxidative stress occurs as a byproduct of metabolism, when the body’s antioxidant defenses can’t keep up with the products of oxidation. It’s linked to many serious diseases, including neurodegenerative diseases, and is also linked to increased weight gain. It seems that oxidative stress can trigger the production of additional fat cells, leading to higher weight and waist circumference.
Acupuncture is a known anti-inflammatory and oxidative stress reducer. Treatment encourages the body to modulate its own immune and detoxification processes – making them more efficient and contributing to better weight loss.
- Improved mood and reduced stress – Stress and poor mood are both associated with additional weight gain. Too much stress can affect hormone levels and essentially tell the body to store more of its calories as fat.
Acupuncture is an excellent stress reducer and is used by many people for this reason. Treatment is relaxing, comfortable (with a licensed acupuncturist), and can stimulate the nervous system into releasing endorphins and other feel-good biochemicals into the bloodstream. All of this can position a patient for better weight loss results.
What the Research Says About Acupuncture and Weight Loss
While more high-quality research is needed, some early studies show a promising connection between acupuncture and weight loss. A few studies of interest include:
- A 2015 study published in the BMJ’s Open Gastroenterology This study used auricular (ear) acupuncture to aid in weight loss, and while the study sample was small, the results were encouraging. According to the research auricular acupuncture reduced the prevalence of ghrelin in patients. Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the stomach, used to trigger hunger signals when the stomach is empty. Acupuncture helped attenuate the source behind those hunger signals in the study’s subject.
- A 2020 meta-analysis published in Postgraduate Medical Journal. This analysis considered 403 participants across eight studies, and the research team found that acupuncture treatment could reduce weight, BMI, and waist circumference. Notably, the analyzed studies all used sham (placebo) acupuncture as a control, suggesting that acupuncture’s efficacy went beyond mere placebo effect.
A 2016 study published in Nature, which showed that acupuncture, when combined with the medication Metformin, could reduce weight, BMI, fasting blood sugar levels, fasting insulin levels, and many other weight-related factors in diabetes patients. The results were superior to patients taking Metformin alone, suggesting acupuncture has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity in people.
Consider Houston Acupuncture Services for Weight Loss
One of acupuncture’s most notable advantages is its safety. Compared to most other weight loss treatments, acupuncture has a low-risk profile for most patients.
However, that’s only true for licensed practitioners. In Houston (and all of Texas), acupuncturists are regulated by and licensed through the Texas State Board of Acupuncturists Examiners (TSBAE). Licensure involves rigorous examination of the acupuncturist’s practice history, education, and training, so licensed acupuncturists have been vetted for their professionalism and observance of best practices. This includes proper sanitation and treatment practices, so acupuncture can be delivered safely and effectively.
In Houston, there are a number of licensed practitioners helping individuals with their health and weight issues every day. If you’re not getting the results you’d prefer from your weight loss regimen, Chinese medicine and acupuncture, in particular, may be the missing link.