Acupuncture to Support Weight Loss

Dr Juanita Jolly explains how Acupuncture may support weight loss…


Many people have asked me if acupuncture can help you lose weight. I strongly believe that diet and exercise play a huge role in weight loss, but from a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, there can be some internal imbalances that may slow down your progress.


So, let’s consider how metabolism, diet & exercise work from a Chinese Medicine perspective by looking at Yang, Spleen & Damp functions.




Firstly, metabolism is seen as a “Yang” function. Yang is responsible for the movement, digestion and assimilation of food. It is also responsible for the absorption of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and the elimination of wastes. When the Yang function is impaired, the body’s digestion, absorption and elimination functions decrease, which may result in fluid retention and weight gain. Exercise is also seen as a Yang function and is essential for improving our metabolism and burning off any excess calories that we don’t use.


In Chinese medicine, Yang is seen as the “fire” and driving function of the metabolism in the body. It keeps us warm and is responsible for adrenal and thyroid function which is why Chinese medicine sees many people with an underactive thyroid as being “Yang Deficient”. So, it is important to ensure your Yang is in balance to support a healthy metabolism.




When we look at the Chinese medicine organ systems, the most important for weight loss is the Spleen. This system is not to be confused with our actual spleen organ – it’s simply the Chinese medicine term for a bodily system. The Spleen system pertains to digestion, assimilation and transportation, and its major function is to transform and transport the food and fluid we ingest. This transformation and transportation also rely on a Yang function.


Imagine our stomach is a big cooking pot which receives all the food and fluid that we eat. Underneath this big pot is a fire to heat it up – this fire represents the Spleen Yang. The Spleen Yang is responsible for making the pot bubble and allowing our stomach to digest and absorb. So, we really need to look after this digestive fire to ensure that our metabolism can work efficiently.


There are a few lifestyle factors that can damage our Spleen Yang such as having really cold drinks with ice, eating too many cold raw foods in the winter and overindulging in sweet, refined carbohydrate heavy foods. In Chinese medicine, the organ systems relate to different tastes. The taste for the Spleen is ‘sweet’ – and if we overindulge with too many sweet foods, we can damage the Spleen. When a person craves sweet foods it is a true sign that their Spleen is out of balance!




Excess weight and a slow metabolism are not only seen as a Yang Deficient condition but also a “Damp” condition. Let me explain this further. If you remember the Spleen’s major function is to transform and transport food and fluid around the body for assimilation and elimination. If the Spleen Yang function is impaired, this transformation and transportation function is decreased and this can result in the formation of Damp.


Signs and symptoms of Damp include difficulty losing weight, fluid retention, feeling heavy & fatigued, poor digestion & bloating, diarrhoea, sticky stools or constipation, craving for sweets, and the formation of cellulite. When someone presents with Damp, sometimes the weight simply won’t shift – even though they are doing everything in their power to lose it!


Resolving Imbalances


So now that we understand the imbalances that can occur from a Chinese Medicine perspective to slow down weight loss, how do we resolve them?


Firstly, we determine an individual traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis by thorough questioning and examining the tongue & pulse. Acupuncture points are then selected according to the patient’s individual imbalances, such as resolving Damp and building the Spleen Yang. Thin hair-like needles may be used on the acupoints to stimulate the energy flow, build Spleen Yang and resolve Damp. Moxibustion may also be used by burning a herb called mugwort over acupoints to improve the Yang function and “digestive fire”.


Clancy and I recently attended a cosmetic acupuncture work shop with world-renowned Dr Radha Thambirajah. Dr Radha was good enough to share with us some point combinations and techniques that she has used for weight loss and the reduction of cellulite (that Chinese medicine sees as Damp).


Usually, treatment would consist of acupuncture twice a week for 8-12 weeks and combines very well with our “Shake It fat loss program” eating plan. We can now say that we are very excited to improve your Spleen Yang and resolve your Damp to get you not only looking good but feeling great!