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May 21, 2015

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Ancient technique finds new use in weight control

For those struggling to control their weight, acupuncture may be able to help. But this isn’t the traditional acupuncture that many people are already familiar with. Instead, traditional Chinese medicine doctors are now using needles to embed dissolvable protein threads into acupuncture points, where some claim they can stimulate the metabolism and lead to weight loss.

Acupuncture techniques have been practiced in China for thousands of years to treat a variety of maladies and health complaints.

Acupuncture embedding is also not a new practice. For years, doctors have embedded catgut strings under the skin in acupuncture points to relieve chronic diseases as well as pain and nausea after chemotherapy. Over time, TCM doctors also began using embedding techniques to control weight and appetite.

“The theory is that there are points on the body where stimulation can suppress appetite and digestion while also activating sympathetic nerves that can bolster metabolism, improve blood flow and inner energy circulation,” said Dr Liu Jianguo from Shanghai Ren’ai Hospital’s traditional Chinese medicine rehabilitation department.

“The body can achieve a quicker fat processing period during weight loss. It is fat, not water, that is being reduced during the therapy, so people don’t suffer or feel fatigue. People also don’t need to maintain a special diet during the therapy, but of course a health diet is always recommended for keeping fit,” said Liu.

Today’s embedded acupuncture therapies for weight loss no longer use catgut strings. Instead, biological threads made from corn and beet are used to ensure safety and comfort.

Usually, the therapies are done every two weeks, and can be accomplished in about 20 minutes. As every patient is different, doctors can recommend appropriate treatment schedules.

“Another advantage of acupuncture embedding is that it can be used for people who are not satisfied with certain parts of their body — like their flabby arms, love handles and chunky thighs — which can be difficult to fix through regular weight loss programs,” said Liu.

Doctors can choose proper embedding points to suit each patient’s needs and physical condition.

“Places like the belly, waist and thighs where fat accumulates and where there are few blood vessels are ideal spots for embedding. Here the effects are the most obvious,” Liu said.

Though acupuncture embedding is a convenient and simple procedure, doctors say patients must go to licensed hospitals and clinics for the therapy. The procedure must be conducted in a sterile environment and only licensed doctors are qualified to perform embedding.

Children, pregnant women, people with skin infections and those with serious heart disease should not receive acupuncture embedding.

“Usually people will feel hot and some areas may become red and swollen two to three days after receiving acupuncture embedding. These feelings will go away after a few days,” Liu said. “Some people may have diarrhea, which is because the body is excreting inner toxins. Drugs are not needed to control the diarrhea. Some people may have bruises near the site of the embedding, which is caused by bleeding of the capillaries beneath the skin. This will heal by itself in one or two weeks.”

Doctors encourage people who have achieved weigh loss after acupuncture embedding to maintain a healthy diet low in fatty and salty foods.

“The fat and weight a person drops during acupuncture embedding can return if they go back to their unhealthy lifestyle,” Liu said.


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