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Last month, a colleague approached me about exploring the role of acupuncture in weight loss. As a traditional Western medicine physician, I was skeptical about its merits. While many of my patients have used herbs and other holistic treatments, I have never been a believer. But, since I am willing to do anything to help my patients, I decided to use myself as a guinea pig to see if acupuncture was something I should be recommending.

First, I did some research. I wanted to know the science behind acupuncture. I wanted to understand how it all worked.

Acupuncture works to control weight in a few different ways. First, acupuncture helps your body release endorphins (aka “happy hormones”.) Many people who are trying to lose weight experience cravings which can lead to overeating. Cravings are often caused by low levels of endorphins; acupuncture can help you lose weight by increasing endorphin levels, thereby decreasing cravings. As many of my friends will attest, I am a “chocaholic” who suffers from severe chocolate cravings. It takes all of my will power to limit my chocolate intake to an acceptable level. I would love to have this weakness under control.

Acupuncture also helps reduce stress. This finding piqued my interest as I find myself in a constant state of stress and anxiety. Could acupuncture really help me “de-stress”? That would be great. But how could decreased stress help with weight loss? Studies have shown that people who are stressed have high cortisol (aka “stress hormone) levels and cortisol increases appetite and alters metabolism. By helping the body release more endorphins, acupuncture helps neutralize cortisol.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture also works to restore the balance and flow of the body’s Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy. It is believed that restoring balance to the flow of Qi in the stomach can help suppress an overactive appetite. Emotional issues which can lead to overeating, such as stress and anxiety, can be helped by balancing the Qi to the liver.

I wasn’t sure about the Qi explanation, but the endorphin release and cortisol neutralization explanations made a lot of sense in my overly-scientific mind. So I began a course of acupuncture treatments.

And now, I am a believer! Each session helped me feel relaxed and calm. After my sessions, I actually felt more centered. And, unbelievably, my cravings for chocolate have decreased. For the first time, I can look at a dessert menu without temptation. I haven’t overeaten since starting my acupuncture treatments. I am thrilled that I gave acupuncture a chance and will be continuing my treatments. I even lost a few pounds along the way!

Of course, you need to make sure you find a good acupuncturist. I visited Michael Bennett, who has degrees in both acupuncture and Chinese/herbal medicine. Michael’s office is in Manhattan (Fifth Avenue at 38th Street). If you would like to use my acupuncturist, give him a call at 347-565-4255 or e-mail

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Comment by Joanna Dolgoff, MD on October 19, 2009 at 3:40pm
To read more blogs, or to find out about my weight management program please visit my website at

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