Acupuncture has been linked to appetite suppression, and thus to weight loss. One method, discussed in research published in 1998 in the journal "Australian Family Physician," involves acupuncture treatment to the ears. So how does this work? Australian scientists report that acupuncture stimulates the auricular — or ear — branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels; this works to increase tone in the smooth muscle of the stomach, which results in appetite suppression. Consult your doctor before beginning any alternative treatments for weight loss.
Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. It is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine, where, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports, the body is seen as a balance of opposing forces, yin and yang. The theory is that a harmonized balance of yin and yang results in health. Disease and other health concerns, such as weight issues, are thought to be the result of an imbalance that causes a blockage in the flow of qi, or energy. Acupuncture works to release the blockage and restore balance between yin and yang.
The number of acupuncture treatments will depend on individual weight-loss goals. Each treatment will involve having the needles in place for about 30 to 45 minutes, the Alternative Medicine Zone website explains. On average, for a weight-loss goal of 5 to 10 pounds, treatment every three days or twice a week will be sufficient. Termination of acupuncture treatments is usually decided mutually by the patient and the acupuncturist.
Auricular acupuncture involves stimulating certain points on the ear with fine needles. The needles are typically left in place only for a short period of time — as long as one week, the Mayo Clinic explains. Many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine prescribe herbs aimed at increasing metabolism and fat burning to supplement acupuncture weight loss. Consult your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
Although ear stapling is loosely based on the principles of auricular acupuncture, the Mayo Clinic reports, it cautions that this practice has not been proven effective for weight loss. Additionally, puncturing ear cartilage can result in infection or even permanent disfigurement.
Although evidence suggests that acupuncture can help with weight loss, without a commitment to eating right and exercising, you are not likely to see the weight loss you desire. Acupuncture is considered an alternative medicine, and many health insurance plans may cover only part, if any, of the expenses.
Acupuncture is considered a fairly safe and forgiving discipline. Some patients, however, do experience feelings of fatigue or depression following acupuncture treatments. It is vitally important that only sterile needles be used for the practice. While not common, local inflammation, contact dermatitis from stainless steel needles, bacterial abscesses and even chondritis from needling points on the ear can occur.
- "Australian Family Physician"; Stimulation of auricular acupuncture points in weight loss; D. Richards, J. Marley; July 1998
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Acupuncture, An Introduction
- Mayo Clinic: Ear stapling for weight loss
- Alternative Medicine Zone: Using Acupuncture For Weight Loss