Acupuncture needles act to stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural "feel good" hormones. This can create a calming, relaxing effect, which counteracts the need for excessive eating brought about by increased stress, frustration, or anxiety. In this respect, acupuncture can calm those so afflicted and help them lose weight without resorting to drugs.
Studies have shown that when acupuncture is combined with traditional methods of weight loss (read: exercise and proper diet), patients lose more weight. Moreover, these patients are able to sustain their weight loss - there is typically no "yo-yo-ing". In most cases, this will involve a continued series of acupuncture treatments starting at once per week and ultimately tapering off to once per month for maintenance.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the belief is that excessive weight gains are caused mainly by an imbalance in the body due to a malfunction of the spleen and liver organ systems. Acupuncture points that correspond to the endocrine system and kidneys can be employed during treatments to address water retention and stimulate the rebalancing of nervous and hormonal systems. In addition, the spleen and thyroid gland are targeted to decrease systemic blood sugar levels. Finally, the adrenal and ovary glands can be incorporated into treatments for weight gain due to menopause or premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Ultimately, the goal with acupuncture for weight loss is three-pronged: 1) to decrease cravings for unhealthy foods (usually sweet and salty); 2) to increase the basal metabolic rate; and 3) to optimize the body's digestive function. By addressing all three, acupuncture can help patients achieve a sustained weight loss program.