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Try acupuncture to lose weight

health and fitness Updated: May 29, 2012 16:23 IST
Parul Khanna Tewari
Parul Khanna Tewari
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

You’ve tried the fad diets – from Atkins to the Dukan. They didn’t work for long. You’ve gymmed, jogged and tied yourself into knots with yoga. Not very much happened. By now you’re wondering: is your too, too solid flesh absolutely immovable? Don’t give up hope. Alternative medicine experts from across the world have come up with a new solution. Acupuncture (a centuries old Chinese practice), they claim, will help you lose weight.

In the ’70s, a few countries began to research the treatment, and reports from the US and Japan suggested that inserting needles in a few points of the ear could help cure obesity. Today, countries like Hong Kong and Singapore use acupuncture to treat obesity as well as other ailments such as addiction, says Dr Anish Gupta, director principal of the Indian Institute of Acupuncture Research and Allied Sciences.

What it is?

Acupuncture specialists believe that diseases can be prevented and treated through the insertion of needles into certain points in the body

Though the thought of sticking needles into your body seems dreadful, acupun- cture works to restore and maintain health by stimulating specific points in the anatomy. Inspired by the experiments carried out in the West (in the US, acupuncture is considered part of complementary and alternative medicine, and 19 per cent of the population have tried it at some point), India has begun to pay attention to the technique, with the result that there are now proper medical courses devoted to the healing technique.

This is not mere mumbo-jumbo, says Dr Ved Prakash Banga, director, Acupuncture India Centre. When a point is stimulated, its effect on the brain can be seen on an FMRI (Functional MRI) scan. But the procedure is not as simple as inserting needles on some points. As Dr Anish Gupta explains, “Application of needles is often used in combination with moxibustion – burning certain herbs on or over the skin.” Acupuncture can be carried out in several ways: traditional body needling, moxibustion, electric acupuncture (electro-acupuncture), laser acupuncture (photo-acupuncture), microsystem acupuncture (focused on a particular system, such as the ear) and acupressure (pressure with fingers on points).

How does it works?
Acupuncture works in several ways to help you lose weight. For one, it helps boost metabolism and increase circulation in the body (better blood and oxygen flow keeps the body healthy – yoga is supposed to do that). Next, specific needle placements are thought to lower insulin and lipid levels in the blood. Finally, the application of acupuncture needles helps mobilise the body’s energy reserves, which leads to weight loss and lowered cholesterol, says Dr Anish Gupta. Acupuncture may also help reduce cravings for certain foods and encourage a decrease in your natural appetite.

“In the case of overweight people, an acupuncture specialist will begin with a physical and psychological examination in order to understand the reasons for the patient’s weight problem – hormonal, psychological or physiological,” says Dr Banga. “Then, on the basis of the patient’s constitution, needles are inserted in specific areas (the stomach and spleen govern obesity).”

Acupuncture treatment by itself is not likely to be enough to result in permanent weight loss. So, as dietician and Brunch columnist Shikha Sharma says, it is important to supplement acupuncture with a proper diet and exercise. The acupuncturist will tell you what to avoid eating. “Eat small meals and warm cooked food,” says Dr Anish Gupta. “Avoid or reduce the consumption of cold beverages, frozen and iced food, fried fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine and simple sugars. Acupuncture can increase the metabolism and reduce the appetite but it’s no magic wand. It works in conjunction with other factors.”

If these criteria are met, you should start losing up to 2.5 kg a month within three months of starting the treatment. The average treatment session lasts about 20-30 minutes, and ideally you should have one session a week.

How it feels?
In expert hands, you should feel only a mild sensation when the needles are inserted into your body. If you feel pain and get bruises, then you’ll know the treatment has not been properly carried out. If it’s done badly, it can have serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.

So do some research. According to the ministry of health and family welfare, an acupuncturist should have a minimum qualification of an MBBS, BAMS, BUMS or BHMS, and she/he should also be adept at yoga and naturopathy or any other system of medicine approved by the ministry. After that, she/he should have been fully trained in acupuncture by IGNOU, says Dr Anish Gupta.

All about Acupuncture
Acupuncture specialists believe that diseases can be prevented and treated through the insertion of needles into certain points in the body. Each point corresponds to a certain organ. Diseases happen due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This leads to a block in the energy flow. Through acupuncture, the energy is regulated, and the paths unblocked.

Cured by the needles
Dr Anish Gupta, director principal of the Indian Institute of Acupuncture Research and Allied Sciences, lists conditions for which acupuncture is effective.

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and chemotherapy:
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Low back pain
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry
Postoperative pain
Rheumatoid arthritis
Tennis elbow

- From HT Brunch, June 19

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