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Auricular Acupuncture for Weight Loss

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

The ear contains acupuncture points that, when tapped into, can help you lose weight. This is because the outer ear is a microcosm representing organs--including the spleen, stomach, and mouth--that are responsible for appetite, satiation, cravings, and overall weight.

A 2015 study published in BMJ Open Gastroenterol entitled "The effects of auricular acupuncture on weight reduction and feeding-related cytokines: a pilot study" evaluated auricular (outer ear) acupuncture and its effectiveness as a treatment for weight loss concluded "there was a statistically significant difference in the percentage change in body weight and active ghrelin levels in each individual participant." Stimulating certain points along the cartilage of the ear had suppressed several appetite-related hormones, including ghrelin, which is termed hunger hormone for its ability to trigger appetite, increase food intake, and promote fat storage.

Your practitioner may also use ear seeds, beads, pellets, or an intradermal ear needle.   Ear seeds are small round seeds from the vaccaria plant and ear beads or pellets are made of metal.  All are non-invasive and are secured to the ear point with a small adhesive patch.   The intradermal ear needle is an extremely short needle with a shallow insertion depth.  Intradermal ear needles work particularly well in the more challenging and persistent cases of weight loss.  Regardless of the tool used, these are left on or in specific ear acupuncture points so patients can easily access the needles to for self-treatment between appointments.

Here are a few ways auricular acupuncture helps manage weight:

Improves Eating Habits

Located on the outer ear structure, the Hunger point leaves no mystery as to what symptom it addresses.  Needling here aligns food preferences with nutritional requirements of the body. For example, your result could be an increased desire for veggies and easily digestible proteins, accompanied by a disinterest for indulging in overly sweet, oily or salty foods.

Controls Cravings

The Mouth point is especially useful in staving off intense cravings for fatty, sugary or salty foods.  It also has the extra advantage of minimizing compulsive snacking associated with stress.  Anything that passes into the body orally, including alcohol and certain drugs, falls under the benevolent influence of the Mouth point.  This could mean a reduction in the number of times a cigarette or a slice of pie enters the mouth.

Reduces Stress

The process of changing food habits and incorporating new eating rituals can be stressful, increasing your desire to snack. Shen Men does not directly influence appetite or digestive issues, however needling here instills a sense of peace and mental clarity.

Improves Digestive Health and Portion Control

The Stomach and Spleen ear acupuncture points give your digestive organs a tune-up, helping them become more functionally sound. As the Stomach and Spleen become more efficient, cravings and the tendency to overeat can become things of the past. Even utilizing the Stomach point on its own activates the region of the brain that controls satiety, so appropriate portions of food are consumed. 

Sources:
Auricular Acupuncture Weight Loss Found Effective. (2013). Healthcare Medicine Institute. Retrieved from https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1218-auricular-acupuncture-weight-loss-found-effective

Ito, H., Yamada, O., Kira, Y., Tanaka, T., & Matsuoka, R. (2015). The effects of auricular acupuncture on weight reduction and feeding-related cytokines: a pilot study. BMJ Open Gastroenterology, 2(1), e000013. doi:10.1136/bmjgast-2014-000013

Contact an acupuncturist today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

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.

Ask The Acupuncturist

Q: I always crave sweets and chocolate while my husband will always choose salty foods like potato chips over candy. Why do we crave certain flavors and what does it mean from a Chinese medicine point-of-view?

A: Acufinder Poll Results, Spring 2006What flavor do you crave, most often?Sweet (941 votes) - 60.59%Salty (405 votes) - 26.08%Sour (56 votes) ... Read More