Traditional Chinese Medicine and Weight Control

Many of us eat for emotional reasons. When you feel sad or depressed, you might eat in an attempt to make yourself feel good. Inactivity and the availability of copious amounts of "fast" and sugar-loaded food also contribute to the high number of overweight people in the United States.

Western (Allopathic) Medicine and Weight Control

The allopathic solution to weight control is simple: eat less and exercise more. The problem is that not all diets are the same in their ability to properly nourish the body. Many fad diets purposely eliminate one complete food group (the zero-carb or no protein diet), or focus on eating one food to the near exclusion of all others (the grapefruit diet). These diets work in the short run because the body cannot metabolize food for fuel when a complete spectrum of nutrients does not exist. This is like losing weight from malnutrition, and is a very unhealthy.

Restrictive operations - stomach stapling (vertical banded gastroplasty) or gastric banding

Restrictive operations make the stomach smaller. The theory is, with a smaller stomach, you will feel full a lot quicker than you are used to. This also means that you will need to make big lifelong changes in how you eat-including smaller portion sizes and different foods-in order to lose weight. The most common restrictive surgery is adjustable gastric banding. In this operation, a small band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch. In stomach stapling (vertical banded gastroplasty), an incision is made in the abdomen. Surgical staples and a plastic band are used to create a small pouch at the top of the stomach.

Limitations and Risks

If you do not chew your food well or do not stop eating soon enough, you may feel discomfort or nausea and may sometimes vomit. If you drink a lot of high calorie liquid such as soda or fruit juice, you may not lose weight. If you continually overeat, the pouch may stretch. If the pouch stretches, you will not benefit from your surgery. You may also develop nutritional problems and need to take vitamins.

A review of studies on stomach stapling (vertical banded gastroplasty) notes that 60% of excess weight (the weight above what is considered healthy) was lost, although a large portion of people regained the lost weight after 3 to 5 years.

Risks common to all surgeries for weight loss include an infection in the incision, a leak from the stomach into the abdominal cavity (resulting in an infection called peritonitis), and a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism). About one-third of all people having surgery for obesity develop gallstones or a nutritional deficiency condition such as anemia or osteoporosis.

Herbal Remedies

There is also a disturbing trend toward using so-called "herbal" remedies to lose weight. Remember, herbs are medicine, and you should never take herbs without first consulting an NCCAOM board-certified herbologist. There have been cases of dangerous and deadly results from misusing herbal ephedra that was chemically treated and highly concentrated, then sold as weight control supplements. A board certified herbologist would never prescribe herbal ephedra by itself and in large, chemically treated, concentrated doses. Ephedra in and of itself is not a dangerous substance. In the hands of a trained, board certified herbologist, it can be an effective and safe tool for treating disease.


Hoodia is another newly rediscovered herb that is currently being mass-marketed as a weight loss supplement. Hoodia is in the plant family Apocynaceae, stem succulents that can reach up to three feet high and present exuberant flowers, often with flesh color and strong smell. Hoodia is a protected plant that grows in the Namib Desert. Common names include "Bushman's Hat" and "Queen of the Namib." Bushmen from the area have purportedly been using hoodia for centuries to help ward off hunger, dehydration and starvation during long trips in the desert. Recently, Western companies have harvested hoodia, chemically treated it, concentrated it into pills and are marketing it as a "natural" herbal appetite suppressant and weight loss remedy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fen-Phen

Below are some questions and answers from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research about the drug fen-phen. Keep in mind that fen-phen will probably not be the last pharmaceutical used by allopathic doctors in weight control and appetite suppression. Most all of these drugs have serious and sometimes deadly side effects.

What is "fen-phen"?
What is the difference between fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine?
What is the new evidence that prompted withdrawal of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine?
Why isn't phentermine being withdrawn from the market?
Why wasn't this problem discovered earlier?
What is valvular heart disease?
What is the relationship of fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine to heart disease?
What are the signs and symptoms of valvular heart disease?
Is the valve disease reversible?
How is valvular disease treated?
Should I stop taking fen-phen, fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine right now?
Should I get an echocardiogram if I've been taking fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine?
Should I get an echocardiogram if I've been taking fenfluramine or dexfenfluramine?
Does "herbal fen-phen" have the same problem?
Can selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox and Paxil be substituted for fenfluramine in the phen/fen combination?
I have heard the FDA recently denied a citizen petition that sought to suspend the approval of Redux (dexfenfluramine). Why did the FDA deny that request?
Is this just a disease of women?

"Ear Stapling": Dangerous and Ineffective

"Ear Stapling" is practiced by some medical clinicians who often possess an incomplete and rudimentary knowledge of acupuncture to promote weight loss. The "staple" is an actual staple made of metal, approximately one centimeter in length and three millimeters wide. It is crimped deep (approximately two millimeters, transversely) into the cartilage of the ear and leaves two exposed wounds per staple. It is left in the ear for one month or more at a time and may be constantly sore, painful, irritating and extremely tender to the touch. The chance for inflammation and/or infection is very high.

A licensed acupuncturist who has received a three to four-year Masters of Traditional Oriental Medicine or a Masters in Acupuncture does not learn ear stapling in graduate school and would never use this dangerous technique. Always consult a licensed and board certified acupuncturist before receiving "ear stapling." You will save yourself much pain and grief.

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Weight Control

Dr. Hsu has always said: "There is no magical cure for weight loss!" Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are complementary therapies. An overweight or obese person must be willing to make a deep, long-term commitment to controlling their weight. Any therapy for weight control must be combined with a proper diet and exercise.

Acupuncture for weight loss works on different levels. Acupuncture can stimulate the body's production of serotonin and endorphins. Thereby relaxing the person so they can avoid stress eating. Acupuncture has also been shown to improve the muscle tone of the gut to decrease hunger. Furthermore, acupuncture affects the hypothalamus which among many other things, plays a large role in the mechanisms of hunger.

Some people are anxiety eaters. TCM is particularly helpful in these cases because of its centering, calming and balancing function. Once stress is relieved, the desire to eat for comfort is lessened. For another look at how stress can affect the body, visit our page on stress relief.

Traditional Chinese Medicine makes the following dietary recommendations:

  • Eat small meals
  • Eat warmed, fresh cooked food
  • Avoid cold drinks and frozen food
  • Avoid fried foods
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid anything with added sugar
  • Avoid fast food and junk food

Ear acupuncture, or auricular acupuncture, is very effective for weight control. Acupuncture stimulates the auricular branch of the vagal nerve and raises serotonin levels. Both of these actions increase the smooth muscle tone of the stomach, thereby suppressing appetite.

TCM also recommends daily brisk walking and swimming as gentle forms of exercise for effective weight control.

Acupuncture for Weight Control

Lose weight and feel great with New York AcuHealth's Weight Control Program. Acupuncture is an effective method of appetite suppression that has shown to lead to weight loss. People report feeling full so that they eat less, and still have energy. Temporary side effects may include dizziness, headaches and nausea, but there are no permanent side effects.

After an initial consultation, the program includes of a series of 10 twice-weekly sessions. Treatment consists of the following:

Dr. Hsu creates a treatment protocol and chooses ear and body acupuncture points accordingly.

Dr. Hsu places small acupuncture ear needles in specific points chosen exclusively for a patient's condition. These needles are removed after the treatment.

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