Many people struggle with emotional eating or have physiological health conditions contributing to their weight.  Both food and obesity are complex subjects. At the Acupuncture Clinic of Boulder, people frequently ask me if acupuncture helps with weight loss.  The short answer is yes. Acupuncture can regulate the endocrine system, modulate metabolism, promote digestion, lower oxidative stress and regulate blood sugar. It also has an effect on the hypothalamus, a major appetite regulator. (1) A 2019 review and meta-analysis on acupuncture for weight loss . . . found that acupuncture effectively reduced waist circumference and BMI, but only reduced weight when combined with diet, lifestyle, and exercise. Study participants in the acupuncture group experienced a reduction in body weight compared to the control group. (2) When talking with patients, I first explain how acupuncture can help regulate these body systems, but it is also important to talk about habits and how their weight gain occurred. Many people use food as a self-soothing mechanism and overeat when overtired, feeling isolated or overwhelmed. With acupuncture, we also address underlying anxiety and depression, contributors to absent minded and binge eating. Frequently I hear a diagnosis from clients saying, “I am pre-diabetic”.

This is a time for the alarm bells to ring. Pre-diabetes means you have a higher than normal blood sugar level. It’s not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes yet. But without lifestyle changes, adults and children with pre-diabetes are at high risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, the long-term damage of diabetes — especially to your heart, blood vessels and kidneys — may already be starting. There’s good news, however. Progression from pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes is not inevitable. (3) So the question here is, what is getting in your way from making changes to your lifestyle and putting yourself first? Healthy habits start with small changes; changes you can learn to enjoy, and acupuncture can be an easy addition.

In honor of Heart Health Awareness month, I want to take the opportunity to spread some awareness about diabetes. Did you know that adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke? (4). Type 2 diabetes is an incurable (but preventable) disease that is increasing at a frightening rate throughout the world. Diabetes occurs when the body’s pancreas either stops producing or responding to insulin (a hormone that controls the levels of sugars in your bloodstream), which causes elevated levels of glucose in the blood. According to the Center for Disease Control, diabetes is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States and the number one cause of kidney failure, blindness, and lower limb amputation. It can lead to frequent infections, strokes, and heart attacks. (5)

Sadly, in the last twenty years, the number of adults being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has more than doubled and children, teens, and young adults are being diagnosed more than ever before (6). The beautiful thing about type 2 diabetes is that it can often be prevented with a healthy lifestyle: a nutritious diet, regular exercise, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, controlling stress, and maintaining a healthy weight. In today’s day and age, unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Processed, unhealthy foods have become such the “norm” in our society that eating a nutrient dense diet is often dreaded and considered “dieting.” Many of us get only one or two servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Hustle culture has left us eating on the go, not having time to meal prep or sometimes not cooking at all. In addition, stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. As of March 2020, the prevalence of adult obesity (a leading contributor to diabetes) has increased to 41.9% [nearly half our population] and childhood obesity is also on the rise (7).

Obesity is dangerous and leads to comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes, yet our food companies are even adding sugar into our children’s pureed baby foods and formulas!

Sugar addictions can start from early childhood. If you are eating processed foods, they may be full of sugars, additives, and food dyes and still be marketed as “health foods.” A short list of these foods include: cereals, yogurts, granola/protein bars, fruit juices, fruit snacks, fruit bars, gummy vitamins, and smoothies. The good news is that you can take control over your own health. While these diseases may be incurable, they are usually preventable and can be managed with lifestyle. Acupuncture and herbal remedies are also helpful for both prevention and management.

The effects of obesity and diabetes in modern day society are devastating, but with proper lifestyle modifications and alternative medicine it can be prevented and managed. Focusing on a nutrient rich diet, daily exercise, and controlling your stress can help to prevent diabetes. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are beautiful tools to help prevent, manage, and control type 2 diabetes. Experience the benefits of acupuncture and take control of your health today! 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture has been practiced for over 5,000 years. It is a safe and effective method for treating disease and restoring balance to your body. Acupuncture systemically helps to decrease inflammation in the body, improves circulation, releases endorphins from your brain, and calms your nervous system. It is effective for treating conditions related to pain, sleep, digestion, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and even more complex diseases such as hypertension or diabetes. Many people have diabetes and go undiagnosed for years without any symptoms, but once they do become symptomatic, common problems include: increased hunger, thirst, and urination, problems with vision, slow healing sores, frequent infections, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. When we look at a diagnosis from the lens of Chinese Medicine, each person can present differently so no two people are treated exactly the same. We are looking for where in the body there might be a deficiency (what the body is lacking), where there might be excess (such as inflammation), or if there is stagnation, a blockage preventing free flow of blood and what we call “qi” or your vital energy (such as constipation or varicose veins). After we identify the imbalance we can work to restore homeostasis through specific placement of the needles and custom herbal formulas. Typically with Type 2 diabetes there is an imbalance in how the food we eat is broken down into what our cells and tissues use as energy to fuel the body. Our goal is to improve that process by providing the body with the nutrients and tools it needs to repair the dysfunction in the energy of that organ. Once diabetes has progressed further, it is typical to see circulation to the limbs become impaired, which can lead to symptoms of numbness, tingling, or trouble with wound healing. At this stage we also want to improve the circulation of blood and qi to those areas. Once you have started with your acupuncture treatments and recommended lifestyle modifications, you will slowly start to notice your blood sugar levels become more stable, your energy and mood starts to improve, weight loss becomes easier, cravings start to decrease, and hunger and thirst become manageable. It can also help to improve symptoms of neuropathy and improve wound healing time. A study published by Sage Journals showed that electro-acupuncture at the point Weiwanxiashu (Ex-B-3)

increased insulin levels and improved glucose tolerance as well as decreased total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-C levels in an animal model (8). This study was confirmed in a human study showing that acupuncture was able to statistically increase weight loss in obese diabetic patients as well as stabilize their blood glucose and insulin levels (9).  Furthermore, a review of 21 studies totaling 1943 participants showed a statistically significant reduction in both the fasting and two hour blood glucose levels, as well as an improvement in blood lipids, blood pressure, and weight loss in diabetic patients (10). Additionally, a review of ten studies showed that all reported a significant improvement in diabetic neuropathy (11). There are thousands of studies and centuries of practice that demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture and lifestyle modifications on preventing and managing type 2 diabetes, but the choice to take control of your own health is up to you.


  4. University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center. November 5, 2019. 

The 5 Most Surprising Facts About Diabetes – UM Charles Regional Blog

Adult Obesity Facts | Overweight & Obesity | CDC

  • Tian H, Cao B-Y, Li R, et al. Effects of Electroacupuncture Stimulation at Different Spinal Segmental Levels in a Rat Model of Diabetes Mellitus. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2018;36(1):29-35. doi:10.1136/acupmed-2016-011131
  • Cai Shuhang (2018) “Therapeutic effect of acupuncture on new type 2 diabetes with obesity patients” Diabetes New World (September 2018) pp.9-11.
  • Chen C, Liu J, Sun M, Liu W, Han J, Wang H. Acupuncture for type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2019 Aug;36:100-112. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.04.004. Epub 2019 Jul 2. PMID: 31383426.
  • Cheok YC, Mohd Shariff Z, Chan YM, Ng OC, Lee PY. Effectiveness of acupuncture as adjunctive therapy in type 2 diabetic: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2023 Sep 20;18(9):e0284337. doi:
  • 1371/journal.pone.0284337. PMID: 37729132; PMCID: PMC10511073. 
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