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Monday, May 7, 2012

Traditional Chinese Medicine – a better solution for weight loss

During the recent decades obesity has become an increasing area of concern in Canada. Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and a variety of other ailments such as joint problems. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2002, obesity itself is recognized as a disease.

Basically, obesity occurs when a person takes in more calories than he/she burns. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this intangible energy imbalance within the body is the root of overweight, which is in fact caused by malfunctioning of the spleen and liver organ systems. In five-element (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) theory, the spleen is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system, ensuring that the food we eat is transformed into Qi — the vital substance of life. Disharmony of the spleen leads to symptoms such as fatigue, slow metabolism, water retention, loose stool, and feeling of heaviness, etc. At the meantime, the liver’s job is to keep the flow of the body’s Qi and blood (as well as emotions) running smoothly. The modern fast-paced lifestyle and chronic stress can negatively impact the liver’s ability to function properly and smoothly, which, in turn, can cause the spleen and the whole digestive system to function poorly and decrease the metabolism. Liver disharmony can also cause some of the “triggers” that lead to cravings and compulsive eating.

TCM regulates the body’s Qi flow and corrects the imbalance that causes overweight. From a TCM perspective, the acupuncture points, foods and herbs that are chosen to assist with weight loss directly influence the Qi of the spleen and liver to rectify the imbalance. By limiting appetite and nervous overeating, acupuncture provides valuable assistance in the struggle to regain conscientious eating habits.  Once an individual has achieved control of these habits, proper weight is usually maintained with little effort or external support. Acupuncture is very effective clinically for excess weight due to over-eating and slow metabolism, and in most cases it has immediate effectiveness. Based on the writer’s experience, the maximum weight loss after a single acupuncture therapy is 2.5 pounds! A more comprehensive therapy includes both acupuncture and herbal medicine. More effectively, it intends to decreases cravings and over-eating, promotes better digestion, soothes emotions, reduces appetite, and improves metabolism.

A growing body of research supports the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine in treating weight loss. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Medical Acupuncture found that participants receiving acupuncture lost more than three times more weight than the control group. Another study published on May 2012 edition of Obesity Reviews states that, not like the anti-obesity medication that produce some side effects, weight loss can be obtained without any side effects using acupuncture and Chinese medicine. The researchers of this study employ some conventional parameters in obesity research to verify its outcomes, which include changes in body weight, changes in body mass index (BMI), changes in waist and hip circumference, and changes in body fat percentage. Based on solid evidence, they also confirmed that the relapse of weight gain was more common in the control groups than in the acupuncture therapy or Chinese medicine groups. As mentioned above, TCM is a system of treatment that aims to restore the body back to health and treat any underlying causes of imbalance that may be causing the weight problem in the first place. This is why this study has shown that the weight loss from acupuncture and oriental medicine to be of benefit for the longer term.

Written by Cathy Ding, M.Sc., Ac., C.M.D., May 7, 2012.

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