I often get asked about the benefits of acupuncture for weight loss…

My thoughts on this are simple: I do not practice the use of acupuncture for weight loss.  That’s not the root of the problem.  Really, people just want to feel better.

However, this can be complex.  How someone “feels” is a balance between metabolic efficiency, hormones, psychology, exercise/movement, and genetics. When someone comes into my office asking about weight loss, I wonder what is on that list that is the root cause for not feeling good? What do we need to balance?

A good place to start is with stress, sleep and the nervous system.  Why start there?  Because poor sleep and chronic stress puts our nervous and endocrine systems out of balance.  Endocrine and nervous systems out of balance are a significant contributor to poor metabolic function. A recipe for “not feeling good”.

Sleep Deprivation and Insulin Resistance

Sleep deprivation can initiate insulin resistance within just one week[1].  That is, chronic sleep deprivation can create the conditions for diabetes.  Research also shows far higher rates of diabetes in patients that routinely get less than 6 hours of sleep per night[2].  Simply shorting yourself a few hours of sleep every day is enough to tip the system out of balance. Reduced sleep also leads to an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin.  One study[3] showed that in just two days, 5 hours of sleep a night or less creates a condition of being more hungry than you really are and never feeling satisfied even though you are full after eating.  This combination of a disruption in insulin and blood sugar regulation with a disruption in hunger and satiety signals creates a perfect storm for unintended weight gain.  And of course, not feeling good.

Chronic stress has the following impacts on our bodies hormone systems[4]:

  • Cortisol is the primary stress hormone which increases two- to five-fold during stress. This leads to an increase in blood sugar and, when high later in the day, sleep disturbance. Cortisol also impacts both leptin and ghrelin which we already know is negatively impacted by poor sleep.
  • Catecholamines (dopamine, adrenaline) are also released leading to increased heart output, slowed digestion, constriction of our blood supply to the surface and extremities, increased blood glucose, and sodium (water) retention.
  • During chronic stress there is a suppression of circulating sex hormones that can lead to impairment of reproductive function (think irregular periods, impacts on sexual function, low libido, etc).
  • Thyroid hormone and insulin may down regulate which can lead to even more elevated blood sugar and changes in metabolism.

MindBody Medicine and Acupuncture for Weight Wellness

So back to the original question – to feel better, we need to impact metabolism and increase energy.  To do this we must reduce stress and prioritize good sleep.  The good news is that we have a way to help you.  Mind-body medicine and acupuncture have been shown effective in a number of ways.

Meditation and mindfulness have been shown[5],[6] to be an effective intervention for those who are stress eating, initiate weight loss and reduce cortisol in high-stress patients. That the change comes from a direct impact on metabolism through blood sugar balance, and better sleep due to reduced cortisol and adrenaline.

Acupuncture has been shown[7],[8] to reduce cortisol levels over the course of four weeks.  It has also been shown to reduce suicidal ideation in depressed patients which demonstrates a powerful impact on the nervous system.

If you are interested in losing weight, we offer a different solution – one that focuses on simply helping you feel better by helping you mitigate the effects of stress and help you sleep better.  Our practitioners will set you up for success to that end.  Our goal at Rebel Med is to bring the mind/body connection back to medicine.  To that end, we offer biofeedback and mind-body medicine in addition to acupuncture. 

Schedule a consultation with one of our providers to discuss how we can help you and answer any questions you might have. We won’t walk you through weight loss; we will start you on a journey of feeling less stress, being more resilient to stress, sleeping better and being the best version of yourself at any age.

Rebel Med NW is a concierge integrative & functional medical clinic located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA. We were pleased to be voted Seattle Met Top Doctor by our peers from 2017 to 2023. Rebel Med NW provides Naturopathic Medicine, Acupuncture, Physical Medicine, and Primary Care services to the Seattle community. We practice a philosophy of holistic wellness, evidenced based & functional medicine approaches in medicine and "We are here to bring the Mind-Body Connection back to Medicine".

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