The start of the New Year is the most common time when people try to lose weight. Whether you want to shed extra pounds gained over the holidays or your weight loss plan is part of a long-term New Year’s resolution, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can increase your chances of success.
What is traditional Chinese medicine? According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), TCM is a practice of using “herbal medicines and various mind and body practices, such as acupuncture and tai chi, to treat or prevent health problems.”
In traditional Chinese medicine, a form of eastern traditional medicine, excessive weight gain is mostly due to the accumulation of “dampness.” Dampness in Chinese medicine occurs when the process of food intake, digestion, absorption and transportation is not balanced. For example, when one eats too much — especially too much fatty food during the holidays — the transportation transformation function of the stomach and spleen will be poor, and excess food will be accumulated as dampness. To lose weight, the main strategy in traditional Chinese medicine is to eliminate this dampness. People who want to lean on eastern traditional medicine principles can do this by following a TCM diet for dampness.
Here are some methods a TCM practitioner often recommends for eliminating dampness and losing weight.
Chinese Medicine Weight Loss Tips from a TCM Practitioner
Traditional Chinese Medicine #Tip 1: Eat Foods with Special Flavors
According to traditional Chinese medicine diet guidelines, bitter, sour and pungent foods are beneficial for weight loss while sweet, salty and fatty foods can lead to weight gain. The fruits shan zha (Fructus Crataegi), bitter melon (Karela) and Jiaogulan tea (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum) are often used for digestion support and weight management.
Jiaogulan tea, in particular, with its soothing flavor and health benefits, works very well for weight management. Combined with diet and exercise, Jiaogulan can be a great addition to your weight loss plans. As with any herbal supplement, however, see how your body responds to small amounts before increasing your intake gradually.
NOTE: Jiaogulan is not recommended for children or pregnant/lactating women. High doses may cause slight nausea and increased bowel movements. Consult your doctor if you are taking any blood pressure lowering, blood thinning, or immunosuppressant drugs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine #2: Try Acupuncture Treatment to Manage Sleep and Stress
In addition to food, lack of sleep (yes, lack of sleep) and excess stress can have profound effects on weight gain, according to various studies. To help manage your stress levels and improve sleep, research shows that acupuncture can be highly effective. Acupuncture treatment works by stimulating the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” hormones (such as enkaphalin, and norepinephrine). This process creates a relaxing and calming effect, which can counteract the urge to eat excessively.
Traditional Chinese Medicine #3: Receive Ear Acu-Pressure to Help Reduce Food Cravings
Ear stapling or auricular acupuncture is another type of traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture that can help you lose weight. Ear stapling works by manipulating certain points on the ear that control food cravings. Auricular acupuncture has also been shown to help treat drug addiction problems, including both tobacco and heroin use.
Auricular acupressure is administered by placing adhesive tape with vaccariae seed on several acupuncture points in the ear including hunger, shen men, spleen and stomach. According to the traditional Chinese medicine perspective, these acupoints can restore and harmonize the flow of energy in the intestines, which can improve digestion.
Traditional Chinese Medicine #4: Utilize Traditional Chinese Medicine Herbs to Burn Fat
Various herbs can help you lose weight by suppressing appetite, increasing metabolism and burning fat. Some of the best traditional Chinese medicine herbs for weight loss include He Ye (lotus leaf), Fu Ling and Huang Qi.
Bao He Wan, an over-the-counter Chinese weight loss formula, contains a variety of herbs. For the best results, consult a Chinese medicine practitioner who can create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine #5: Incorporate Sunlight & Movement into Your Routine
For seniors and those with special conditions that are not able to do strong exercise, tai chi is a suitable exercise that can help reduce stress and body weight. Founded in martial arts, tai chi is a form of exercise often performed outside that involves slow movements and deep breaths.
Tai chi offers both physical and emotional benefits. Along with reducing depression and anxiety symptoms, tai chi can help tone and build muscle strength without the use of weights. For those that are injured or new to exercise, tai chi can also increase your endurance to help prepare you for more vigorous types of exercise.
These tips are not just about losing those extra pounds — it’s primarily about improving your overall health and well-being. Through traditional Chinese medicine, you can lose weight while also bringing balance to your body and the way it functions.
For weight loss tips customized to your individual needs, visit a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner in your local area. You can schedule an appointment with a TCM practitioner at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) Whole Health Center in Lombard, Illinois by calling (630) 629-9664 or at the Whole Health Center in Pinellas Park, Florida by calling (727) 873-7870.
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About the Author
Dr. Zhanxiang Wang