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In Chinese Medicine, to reduce body fat, get your head round the idea that ‘fat’ is diagnosed as a form of ‘phlegm’. You may not like the idea of this, but Chinese medicine has roots going back thousands of years, and being ‘fat’ has never really been a big problem: indeed fat was often a symbol of wealth.
However, an ancient system of medicine like this must be able to explain human conditions such as being overweight so the closest they got to it was this word ‘phlegm’.
How can acupuncture for weight loss treat this 'phlegm'? More to the point, how can it then reduce body fat?
Phlegm arises when one or more of a number of health mechanisms go wrong. In classical Chinese medicine, the flesh is ‘ruled’ by the Spleen energy, which turns food energy from the Stomach into Blood and Qi (that's more or less 'blood and energy', but the Capital B and Q introduce a far bigger idea, which includes the roots of your personality as well.)
It does this with the help of Kidney Yang energy, which supplies the Ming Men Fire, the Lungs which supply air Qi, and finally the Heart
which supplies the living Qi to make it into ‘Blood’ proper (capital B
means this is what is called Blood in Chinese medicine).
So you start with what you’ve eaten, and various Organs work on it to turn it into Blood and Qi.
The Spleen then circulates this Blood and Qi, (with the help of the Heart and the Lungs) round the body. If the food isn’t pure, needed or digested properly, you get waste matter in various forms, one of them being phlegm.
Phlegm can then become surplus flesh: 'fat'.
Before taking those processes one by one let me just mention your metabolic rate and the Chinese medicine equivalent, Ming Men Fire. It’s important because unless there is that fire in our belly, your efforts to reduce body fat and lose weight are probably doomed.
Using acupuncture for weight loss covers a wide range of factors, mental, emotional, physical - even social. Let's talk about your Stomach and Spleen energies.
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Acupuncture for weight loss and to reduce body fat, as practised by many acupuncturists, concentrates on your Stomach energy. But that's only one of a number of Organ energies that may be out of balance leading to your weight gain situation.
Suppressing your appetite with acupuncture for weight loss and to reduce body fat, if done using only Stomach channel or ear points (the usual points that are chosen for this) is a very short-term solution, and doesn't always work anyway.
Much more long-lasting changes to your health occur when your whole system is put into balance, and that means more than just your Stomach energy. Still, your Stomach function will be important, so let's talk about it.
The Stomach function in Chinese medicine covers much more than the stomach organ. It covers your appetite, likes and dislikes, but also the whole process of deciding and getting what you'll eat.
Then it covers the consideration you give to food preparation, and how you eat, chew and swallow it.
So if you give no thought to these matters and swallow it all in a rush, your Stomach energy will probably let you down.
Nowadays emphasis in the West is on the chemical constituents of foods: that they be nutritious, not poisonous and not fattening.
In Chinese Medicine, these factors were important, of course - nobody wanted to eat poisonous or harmful foods, though of course they liked junk foods, as do we all.
They weren't bothered about fat in foods, however. In fact, fat was good, but remember that they didn't have animals that had been force-fed, nor the artificial trans-fats we now know are so bad for us.
What they did have was a way of deciding on the merits of food from what is really an 'energetic' viewpoint. This is still very useful today, and often a better way of choosing a food, as long as it's unrefined and unprocessed, than our modern chemical/nutritional method.
You can read more about this ancient method here.
If you’re overweight your Stomach energy may already be out of balance. If so, whatever you give your stomach organ won't reduce body fat or achieve weight loss.
More than that, sticking to your diet may be difficult because your Stomach has likes and dislikes that are pretty ingrained. If your Stomach energy is out of balance these are hard to shift: you’ll diet religiously for a few days then be unable to resist temptation.
From a scientific point of view there is growing evidence that fat in
foods isn’t fattening (unless it's what are called 'trans-fats' in
which case they're poisonous, so don't eat them!): it’s more likely to
be excess calories that eventually turn into fat.
In fact there's a list of such foods to avoid, which we'll put on another page. But you CAN eat saturated fats, for example from animal sources, unless the animals were fed antibiotics, steroids, etc. when there are other reasons for avoiding them.
It is rather a minefield...
If your Stomach energy is out of balance, resisting foods containing those calories is mighty difficult! Why? Well, here's a hint: the Chinese sometimes say that we have two brains, one in the head and one in the stomach.
Guess which is more powerful?
(Women often say that men have a third brain, a bit further down than the stomach, and even more powerful. A sign of a man's age is whether he is more interested in food than sex!)
In deciding which foods to eat and how to eat them, your Stomach energy makes use of something else in your system. This is called your Gall Bladder energy which in Chinese Medicine is reckoned to be the chief decision-maker.
Physically, and in Western medicine, your gall-bladder organ stores bile which is used to break up fat in food that you've eaten and is passing through your small intestine.
But in Chinese Medicine, the Gall-Bladder (capital G-B) function is to decide. Nowadays, with the wealth of information thrown at us every day, our Gall-Bladder easily gets overwhelmed.
There's more about the Gall-Bladder function here, but one of the characteristics associated with a strong Gall-Bladder is courage: an old name for courage is Gall!
You'll be pleased to know that there are ways in which you can improve your Gall-Bladder function, though they take time to work.
Treatment with acupuncture for weight loss should always consider the Gall-Bladder function.
Going on: even with the best food in the world, chosen with circumspection, prepared with loving care and attention, chewed and eaten with reverence, your Stomach needs one other vital factor.
No Fire, no digestion. No digestion, no chance to reduce body fat and lose weight. If your digestion, even of the best foods, is poor, probably your Ming Men Fire is deficient.
By the way, it's not the same as the amount of hydrochloric acid in your Stomach. You could have too much acid yet be deficient in Ming Men Fire. Too much acid is likely to be Stomach 'Fire'.
It’s like the fuel for the stove where you cook food. If the fuel isn’t burning at the right level, your food won’t cook, in which case what passes on to the next stage of digestion won’t be much use to you, you’ll still feel hungry, and over-eating will further weaken your digestion.
Relax! There are things you can do to improve your Ming Men Fire. But if your energy is low, they may take time to work, and you’ll certainly benefit from treatment to hasten the process.
In particular your Stomach won’t 'rotten and ripen' (the Chinese description for your Stomach function!) what you swallow. In other words, it won't turn it into what the next stage of digestion needs.
So you need to have a Stomach energy that is in balance, a healthy Gall Bladder function, and effective Fire. Acupuncture works on all three of these.
But, to reduce body fat, turning food into good Blood and Qi is no use until the Spleen and Heart energies can put them where needed to reduce body fat and lose weight.
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