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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to Optimize Metabolism
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

There is not one moment when your body is not engaged in the process of metabolism. Whether you are running a marathon or plopped down on the couch, awake or sleeping, in every single cell of your body, biochemical processes constantly occur, making all life possible. The conversion of food into small particles, which can then be used to charge the digestive system, is one example of a metabolic process. For an interesting visual conception of this activity, imagine the digestive organs as a bubbling cauldron, and the bursting flames underneath, as a representation of metabolism in action.

The concept of Qi, according to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, is defined as the most essential energy needed for all living things to exist. Qi is what circulates throughout your body along invisible tracts of energy called meridians. When you get a treatment from your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, it is this vital substance that the needles work with to balance the body's energy. The concept of Qi bears a strong resemblance to the process of metabolism.

All systems in your body rely on the energy gained from the conversion of nutrients from food, as well as the oxygen from air, in order to have a viable fuel source. This includes the reproductive, neurological, cardiovascular, nervous, urinary systems, and many more.

As an extensive list of conditions and symptoms can occur, the following list contains only a partial tally of some of the signs a faulty metabolism can create:

  • Poor digestion
  • Weight gain
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog (fuzzy thinking)
  • Low physical energy levels


Weight gain is a common complaint for those with an impaired metabolism. It can be frustrating because often the intake of food is the same as before the extra pounds arrived or, even worse, less food is eaten and still the problem arises. Fortunately, acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer help in combating this problem, as concluded by a study published in the medical journal BMJ Open Gastroenterology, in a study entitled "The Effects of Auricular Acupuncture on Weight Reduction and Feeding-Related Cytokines: A Pilot Study."

The study participants were divided into two groups: one received proper auricular treatments and the other received 'sham' acupuncture. Sham acupuncture means that acupuncture points selected for treatment did not directly address the issue of weight gain. Auricular acupuncture involves needle treatments performed on the ear. The ear is considered a microcosm of the body and can be used to treat many problems.

It was determined after only one week of acupuncture treatments, that the group receiving proper treatment showed a noteworthy and statistically important improvement in percentage of body weight. In addition to the reduction in body weight, it was uncovered that the production of ghrelin, also known as the 'hunger hormone,' was lower for the group receiving the appropriate auricular treatment. Thus, the researchers concluded that acupuncture may work for weight loss due to the suppression of ghrelin.

If you have a history of irregular eating or overeating, this may negatively impact the rate and efficiency at which your metabolism functions. Whether you already have a diagnosis or suspect something isn't quite right with your system, an appointment with your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may prove helpful for many reasons. In addition to addressing the organs and glands that help operate the metabolic functions, acupuncture treatments can help suppress your appetite, bring a sense of calm, and improve the overall Qi circulation in the body.

Ito H, Yamada O, Kira Y, Tanaka T, Matsuoka R.  "The effects of auricular acupuncture on weight reduction and feeding-related cytokines: a pilot study." BMJ Open Gastroenterology 2015 Feb 9; 2(1):e000013. doi: 10.1136/bmjgast-2014-000013. eCollection 2015.  Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26462269

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About the Author:   Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.