“Deeply relaxing and effective.” That’s how I once described to a friend my acupuncture treatment from Integrative Acupuncture Clinic.
As soon as the needles are lightly placed on the appropriate areas of my body, I feel an immediate energy movement and any pain drops significantly or dissolves completely. At the completion of the needle insertions, my muscles soften and relax until I am in an almost etheric state. And after just 15 minutes on Integrative Acupuncture’s soft bedded table under light covers, with celestial music playing in the background, I am asleep.
Falling asleep during an acupuncture session is common, says Nell Clark, the acupuncturist who treated me for a series of acupuncture sessions for weight loss.
“Acupuncture releases serotonin and other neurotransmitters that bring the euro system into parasympathetic response which is ‘rest and digest.’ I would also add ‘heal’ to this. We are in this response during sleep, meditation and body work i.e. acupuncture, massage and energy healing,” says Nell.
And according to research in the journal Endocrinology, acupuncture dulls activity in the part of your endocrine system that produces stress hormones. This may explain also why tension immediately dissipates from my body once all of the needles are inserted.
It would make sense then, especially for people with adrenal imbalances like myself, to seek acupuncture as a treatment for weight-loss. But it does so much more than balance your adrenal glands.
While some might think of acupuncture as an alternative to weight loss, this method was one of the first services I turned because of the premise behind it that weight gain can be the result of blocked energy flow.
Nell says that blocked energy flow to and from the regulating center of the brain (the hypothalamus) is responsible for balancing the entire body “to run like a finely tuned instrument," adding that the hypothalamus is “the body’s dispatch center that regulates hormones and neurochemicals, and helps to control body temperature, circadian rhythm, thirst, and hunger.
The guiding principal is that acupuncture can power up any other weight control strategy by curbing appetite, quelling cravings, increase metabolism, improving digestion, regulating obesity-related hormones and enhancing the way nutrients are used. It also strengthens the function of the liver, spleen, and digestive system,” Nell says.
Years ago, I knew nothing about acupuncture. I tried a handful of community acupuncture centers, and although I did feel a little more relaxed after each session, I found the scale of its effectiveness to be the equivalent of a pebble in a world of boulders. There were simply alternative de-stress and pain-reducing therapies that I indulged in that proved massively more effective for my health and well-being such as reiki, exercise, meditation, relaxing at the hot springs or massage.
It wasn’t until my reiki practitioner moved into the Integrative Acupuncture building that I tried a series of acupuncture sessions. Then I understood why Fort Collins’ health-seekers in the know have turned to the finely tuned practice of Nell Clark and Integrative Acupuncture.
Integrative Acupuncture is a reputable enclave of highly-trained wellness gurus that hosts licensed acupuncturists, registered massage therapists, a certified energy practitioner and a yoga instructor. Through these licensed experts, holistic and allopathic is used to integrate the healing process of the body as a whole and at an affordable cost.
Nell Clark, Licensed Acupuncturist, Diplomat of Oriental Medicine and Registered Nurse, integrates her decade-long background as a nurse in emergency medicine and Chinese medicine into a personalized service that leaves her patients looking better and feeling better with more well-balanced, properly functioning bodies.
Before my series of four acupuncture sessions for weight-loss, I had just finished the first part of my weight loss journey focusing on an inside-out approach starting with the mind. After series of three hypnotherapy sessions for weight loss, I had more energy, vitality and felt much more self-accomplished than I had in nearly a decade regarding my body image and weight. I had already dropped a size and I was feeling motivated. But there was another piece of the puzzle missing: the body.
So I signed up for four acupuncture sessions over a month and the outcome was more than I desired. Each week, I lost at least an average of one pound – without doing anything differently. (Nell recommends 6-10 weight-loss acupuncture sessions so I’m sure my results could have been more dramatic if I continued acupuncture over a longer period of time).
Nell says that although results are slow, “clients notice their bodies functioning better with increased energy levels. Along with dietary recommendations, exercise, and quality sleep, many clients have reported a reduction of weight of 5-10 pounds after having regular acupuncture session for 6-8 weeks.”
I was still about 15 pounds away from my desired weight. I still exercised and ate relatively healthy, I just wanted more weight to come off steadily and stay off. And so the second part of my weight-loss journey began.
If you’re hesitant to try acupuncture because of needles, be assured it’s not what you think. The needles are so thin and tiny, you feel only a light sensation upon placement, if any. I actually mentioned to Nell that it felt good like it was “hitting the spot”. The feeling immediately after placement is the best! Once they’re placed at the desired pressure point, a sense of relief may wash over you, similar to the relief you might feel during a massage therapy session after a pressure point that once was in pain has been massaged.
Before Nell inserted any needles, she always asked to look at my tongue to get an overall picture of my health and to know where to put needles as well as checking my pulse.
“The tongue is a diagnostic tool for acupuncture to observe the state of organ systems within the body. Different landmarks, the color of tongues connect to different organ systems. It helps us to identify where we should place the needles,” Nell explains.
I remember on the third session I was recovering from a fever that I caught through my 3-year-old. I did not disclose this but Nell immediately figured it out.
Nell felt my pulse for merely seconds until she said, “You had a fever?”
I laughed. “How did you know?”
She explained the attunement and rhythm of the pulse beats indicate specific deficiencies as well.
The first few sessions when Nell looked at my tongue she mentioned deficiency primarily in the spleen, and some in the liver. She then inserted points around my ankles that related to the spleen channel to help metabolize food.
Nell says that if the spleen is deficient, it creates a lack of enzyme production to assist in processing food.
It makes sense that I had a spleen deficiency because I could feel movement and sensation the most in the lower part of my body - around my ankles, feet and the lower part of my legs.
The pressure points on top of the feet relate to the liver.
“When the liver is not working properly it can cause blood sugar problems and create cravings for different foods. Also, if your body is not detoxing properly which is one of the liver’s primary functions, it can cause inflammation, decreased metabolism, and contribute to weight gain,” says Nell.
Nell also placed some microscopic seeds taped in the top part of the inside of my ear to reduce cravings.
This is what Nell refers to as “auricular acupuncture, a micro-system with different points that have a direct connection to the brain. There are points in the ear that can be accessed to assist in weight-loss. Nell put needles in the stress point, crave point and thyroid point to reduce sugar cravings, decrease appetite and help boost metabolism (as well as needles in the stomach and spleen points to aid digestion.)
I was supposed to leave the taped seed on in my ear for a few days. The seed is so tiny you don’t feel it and you’ll end up forgetting about it until a craving comes along.
“If you do get a craving, just press on it, or take a walk or drink some water to distract yourself,” Nell said.
The following days I tried the self-acupressure on the ear seed when I was offered pizza one night and when presented with fattening appetizers at a lunch functioning a couple days later. You really do have to wait a few minutes because the signal transmission is not immediate. It took me about five minutes and then my craving completely evaporated. I liked it so much I asked Nell to insert another seed in my ear at the following session.
At the beginning of my fourth session upon tongue inspection, the visible deficiencies must have disappeared because Nell seemed elated at the sight of it.
I attribute the needles being placed at those strategic points to my weight loss and energy boost over the following month.
During every session, Nell also included the additional perk of acupuncture facelifts which made me glow from the inside out. It gave my skin a boost of collagen and vibrancy. I gained a clearer complexion, and my skin tone looked brighter and more even. If I saw this much improvement in four weeks, I sometimes wonder what I would look like if I did it consistently long-term. (That might be another story!)
Another bonus that I believe helped contribute to my steady weight loss was Nell’s tincture mix of liquid herbs that I drank daily called “Xiao Yao San - Stress Relief.” The tincture is in a small bottle with a dropper inside. I would take two droppers full of the mixture every morning in my lemon water (you can’t really taste it once it’s dissolved in a glass of water).
Nell describes the Stress Relief bottle as a “classical formula in Chinese Medicine to assist in the flow of QI (energy) throughout the body. When there are blockages in the system and organs, this will decrease circulation within. This formula helps to regulate the liver system to unblock stuck energy so the liver can maintain its function of detoxing and blood sugar balance.”
Xiao Yao San Stress Relief is just one of the many tincture bottles that retails at Integrative Acupuncture that Nell makes herself, sprouting from her background in Chinese Medicine. She also sells tincture bottles to aid you in a good night’s rest, for colds and the flu, allergies and menopause to name a few. (On a side note, I also noticed that my severe spring and summer allergies to pollen disappear as soon as I take the Xiao Yao San Stress Relief mixture each morning. This is the first year since moving to Colorado that I’ve been allergy-free!)
I recommend this tincture in addition to your acupuncture treatment although you might also want to explore other therapies in addition to acupuncture though to help speed up the weight-loss process.
If there is an emotional component to you being overweight, Nell recommends exploring energy healing. She also recommends massage therapy to assist in draining the lymphatic system, especially when clients are having issues with fluid metabolism, edema, or swelling.
Although my series of acupuncture sessions for weight-loss are over for now, I still continue to take the Stress Relief mix every morning. It gives me an energetic boost and it seems vital in chi movement, especially if you’re not getting acupuncture of a regular basis.
Using acupuncture for weight loss may just be one of the most sophisticated treatments yet so under-exposed. Perhaps it’s because our society hasn’t fully embraced the component of energy in the body and its role in the interconnectivity of every organ and every cell as well as the necessity of real herbs, real food and real plants that Chinese Medicine is known to use for treatment.
But until the rest of the world catches up, I’ll continue to be on the front end of receiving the flourishing benefits from Integrative Acupuncture’s reliable network of practitioners.