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Acupuncture for Addictions and Weight Loss

'Tis the season for new years resolutions!

"I'm going to quit smoking", "I'm going to lose weight", "I'm going to stop drinking so much", "I'm going to cut down on coffee," - the classic resolutions.

They're healthy ones though, so lets look at how acupuncture may help you achieve your resolution.

Acupuncture for Smoking, Alcohol and Caffeine Addictions

There are several ways acupuncture may be utilized to help quit addictions.

The 3 key ways are:

1. Utilization of NADA protocol/ear acupuncture

2. Detoxing the digestive system and liver

3. Addressing emotional attachment to substances or emotions that arise (like irritability) during the early stages of quitting

NADA Protocol/Ear Acupuncture

The NADA protocol, which stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association is highly utilized in the U.S for drug and alcohol addiction. It involves the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ear acupuncture through inserting 5 points into the ear lobe. Similarly to reflexology, ear acupuncture is based on a micro system of the body - the body is mapped onto ear with different points representing different areas of the body. These five points are used to reduce cravings, promote a sense of calmness and improve sleep. The NADA Protocol is used in a group therapy setting, however the points alone can also be beneficial. (1, 2)

Improving Digestive System and Liver Function

When the digestion system is impaired, rubbish and toxins can build up in the body. Focusing on digestion with acupuncture can improve the 'Qi' of the organs, enabling them to function as they should and to clear out the rubbish you don't need such and caffeine and nicotine.

Emotional Aspects of Addictions

Different organs are responsible for different emotions in TCM, you can read more on this topic here. The energetic function of organs can be weakened by an overload of emotions (i.e. stress, grief, anger) or become in excess of toxins like dampness, heat, dryness in TCM. This may contribute to the forming of an unhealthy attachment to substances or the addiction may develop as coping mechanism for traumas.

This may not be the case in all addictions, however in most addictions there will be an element of stress and irritability when trying to give up. These emotions are often attributed to the livers energy stagnating the Qi of the body. Liver Qi can be free-coursed by acupuncture, cupping and exercise.

There are no "magic points" that stop addiction, instead TCM diagnosis can help discover the root of the addiction, and treatment may help to let it go.

Acupuncture for Weight Loss

Excess weight is a tricky condition to discuss and treat, as there are so many lifestyle factors that contribute to it. And again, unfortunately there are no magic points that make you lose weight overnight!

Acupuncture's role in weight loss lies in its ability to improve digestive function, ease pain, and the lifestyle advice given by the acupuncturist.

Digestive Function

In TCM, the Spleen and Stomach are crucial to digestive function. The Stomach is responsible for 'rotting and ripening' food, turning it into a substance that the Spleen can then 'transform and transport'. The spleen transforms the ripened food into Qi and nutrients your body can use, and transports these nutrients to other organs and consequently to the rest of the body. The Spleen and Stomach are also the starting point for the separation of turbid urine and faeces from pure fluids like nutrients, Qi and blood.

If the Stomach and Spleen, as well as the Large & Small Intestines, Kidney and Bladder organs are not functioning correctly, turbid fluids can build up in the body resulting in varying forms of 'Dampness'. Instead of the turbid fluids and dampness being excreted through the bowels and bladder, it can hang around in areas like the abdomen and legs. More discretely and invisibly it may reside in blood vessels and organ cavities further weakening digestive function from the TCM perspective.

The Stomach and Spleen are commonly weakened by lifestyle habits such as overeating, rich, fatty, sugary diets, lack of exercise, stress and overthinking.

Signs and symptoms of digestive organ impairment are: Sugar cravings (spleen weakness), salt cravings (Kidney weakness), tiredness, bloating after meals, feeling puffy or heavy, irregular bowel motions.

Easing Pain

Pain prevents exercise. If everyday activity is limited, weight gain may be inevitable. Exercise will most likely be recommended as part of your acupuncture treatment plan, meaning pain also needs to be addressed through the acupuncture treatment.

Lifestyle advice

It takes commitment to lifestyle changes to reap the desired results when trying to lose weight. Elise the acupuncturist (a self-confessed sugar lover herself) knows it is difficult to stick to the rules you set yourself. She won't beat you up for skipping an exercise session (that would be illegal!), or make you feel guilty for being struck by tasty temptations. Instead she will encourage you to add good food's to your diet rather than going cold turkey on bad foods, and she will work with you to set realistic exercise goals.

If you're serious about quitting an addiction or losing weight, you can contact Elise at Community Acupuncture Oamaru here, or book in for an acupuncture treatment online here to begin creating a plan that works for you.

Go you good thing!


1. Acudetox. (Cited 2018), The Spirit of NADA.

2. Image Credit: Accessible Acupuncture. (Cited 2018), Addictions and Acupuncture.

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