Lose It: Weight Loss And Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help with weight loss by evaluating the root of the problem. Acupuncture and herbs, along with changes in diet and an exercise plan, can help curb appetite, assist the digestive system, transform and transport food throughout the body and encourage regular elimination.

Here are three main contributors to weight gain and how TCM addresses them.

Hormones: Testosterone and estrogen imbalance can be likened to yin and yang. Yin is more feminine, still, dark, quiet, inward and moistening (our fluids are yin) and is likened to estrogen. Yang is more masculine, loud, outward, moving, hot and bright. It is likened to testosterone. The body continually achieves balance between these two elements. As we age, the hormone levels of testosterone and estrogen adjust and can create changes in the body such as weight gain. For example, women with higher estrogen develop increased fat storage, and women prescribed estrogen may be prone to weight gain. Treatment would include an herbal formula designed to adjust the hormones and a diet recommendation that would include foods that nourish yin, such as yams.

Dampness: In TCM the term dampness refers to water retention combined with fat stores due to overstimulation of insulin from poor diet and overeating. If this happens chronically, it weakens the spleen system (which is in charge of transformation and transportation of food in TCM, a different definition than that of the Western-medicine spleen).

Long-term depletion causes blockage of organs and channels leading to serious health risks for the kidney, spleen, heart and lungs. This happens in stages as acute damp retention becomes chronic and leads to deficiencies in the spleen and kidney, which leads to more chronic phlegm retention. An obese person would experience health issues such as diabetes and heart disease in this case. Treatment is best in the early, acute stages where dampness is still primarily middle-heavy. Herbs and acupuncture would drain the damp and a new diet would be implemented to prevent future issues. Foods such as barley, and soups to warm the spleen are benecial.

Eating habits and lifestyle: Overeating, eating quickly, indulging in processed foods and foods too cold, such as iced drinks and raw vegetables, impair the smooth function of the digestive system. Stress and irregular eating habits also can cause weight gain, as well as eating sugar to boost sagging energy or to calm emotions. In addition, eating heavily at night is not advisable because the body burns at a slower rate at night as it replenishes the yin cycle. Treatment in this case would include an adjustment in lifestyle and acupuncture for stress relief and appetite control.

TCM does not just see food biochemically. Food has qualities including temperature, taste, shape and color, which benefit specific organs and encourage their smooth function. For example, sour and green foods benefit the liver, bitter and red foods benefit the heart, and pungent, white foods benefit the lungs. If one has too much yang energy, there is too much heat and therefore cooling foods such as watermelon and cucumber would help achieve balance. In the case of a decline in yang, one would feel cold, so warmer foods like lamb and ginger would benefit. If one has too little yin, heat signs are present because the yang has become more exuberant. You would nourish the yin in this case with foods like yams or goji berries. Not only will the weight gain be addressed but the root of the issue as well. Ask me if you’re interested in learning more about TCM for your weight loss goals.

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