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Lose It: Weight Management and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Weight gain and obesity are far too common amongst adults. The most recent data show that in the United Kingdom, over 62% of adults are considered to be overweight. This is a slight increase from the previous year which indicates that the need to shed unwanted pounds is not currently trending in the a healthy direction.

Weight gain is often accompanied by other complications and  health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. These chronic illnesses provide even more reasons why it is important to maintain a healthy weight. For those who are currently struggling to lose weight, read on to learn more about weight management and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Struggling to lose weight? Chinese Medicine Patterns of Weight Gain

The solution to obesity is far more complicated than simply saying that patients must “eat less” and “get more exercise”. If it were truly this simple to lose excess weight, then there would be very few people who are currently struggling to lose weight.

Since that is not the case, it is clear that the reasons for weight gain are far more complex. There are many factors that can contribute to weight gain, and those who are overweight may present with more than one of them. In TCM, the following patterns can lead to weight gain:


1.Spleen Qi Deficiency: It is the job of the spleen to transform the nutrients in food and transport them so that they may be properly absorbed and converted by the lungs and heart into both Qi and blood.   When the spleen is deficient, it can lead to dampness. When dampness is present, patients may feel heavy and swollen. If the dampness goes untreated for too long, it can turn into phlegm. When phlegm is present, the body is not able to properly metabolize fluids. Those who have spleen Qi deficiency may experience unwelcome symptoms such as fatigue, gas, indigestion, and weight gain.


2.Yang Deficiency: According to TCM, yang is comprised of the energy that is needed for the body to properly function. When yang is deficient, it is indicated by a weak pulse and a slow metabolism.  Other symptoms of yang deficiency may include water retention, coldness, and pale skin. A study out the School of Nursing at China Medical University in Taiwan demonstrated that those with yang deficiency often had higher levels of triglycerides and higher levels of stress.


3. Stomach Heat: The role of the stomach is to take in food and route it to either the spleen or small intestine. When experiencing stomach heat, patients may present with acid reflux, stomach pain, thirst, and constipation. Some patients may experience a red tongue with yellow coating.

Heat generation in the stomach is related to excessively eating sugary or fatty fried foods. The reflux and indigestion caused by stomach heat often leads to sleep disturbances and a disruption to the circadian rhythm.


4. Liver Qi Stagnation: The role of the liver is to ensure that everything in the body is flowing as it should. An increase in stress and anxiety and poor stress management will lead to Qi stagnation. Commonly reported symptoms that may indicate liver Qi stagnation are pain, diarrhea, depression, and chest distension. Like spleen Qi deficiency, when left untreated, liver Qi stagnation can also lead to a buildup of phlegm, hormonal imbalance, and weight gain.


5. Dampness:   When the spleen is not in proper balance, it will not be able to do its job of mobilizing fluid and food. Not only does this mean that the nutrients in food will not be absorbed well, but when this flow of fluids is disrupted, the result is fluid accumulation that leads to dampness. As with spleen Qi deficiency, patients with dampness may experience bloating.

Acupuncture for weight loss

Since there is no single cause of obesity, that means that there is no single cure. In TCM, practitioners aim to understand the cause or causes that are leading to excess weight and treat them using a whole-body approach.

One possible treatment for weight gain is acupuncture. This ancient practice has been used in TCM for centuries. It is helpful in dispersing phlegm thanks to its ability to mobilize and strengthen Qi. Once Qi is able to flow properly, patients often report improved feelings of wellbeing.

  • Regular acupuncture session can:
  • Regulate hormones that cause weight gain
  • Improve metabolism
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Eliminate water retention that contributed to weight gain
  • Improves digestion

Of course, acupuncture alone will not resolve all weight gain. Practitioners of TCM for weight loss may couple the practice of acupuncture with Chinese herbs.

Chinese Herbs for Weight Loss

Chinese Medicine herbs for weight loss, like acupuncture, have a long history of use in TCM. The following herbal remedies to lose weight may help:

1.Ginseng: Ginseng has been used for years to promote good health, and they are now used as Chinese remedies for weight loss. It has been approved for use in the treatment of fatigue in some parts of Europe due to its ability to enhance and nourish the immune system. A study out of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine of Korean Medicine demonstrated that ginseng can lead to weight loss and improve gut health. Ten participants were given ginseng over an eight-week period, and the results showed a decrease in both weight and body mass index (BMI).

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2.Hawthorn Berries: Also known as Shan Zha is often used by TCM practitioners, thanks to its ability to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and it is sometimes called herbal fat burner. It has also been shown to reduce lipid formation and therefor reduce the maturation of fat cells. When tested, a study out of the Department of Pharmacodynamy and Toxicology at Mashhad University in Iran showed that the when given hawthorn berry, there was lower body weight and less fat accumulation than those that were not. So it is often used in Chinese Medicine for belly fat.

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3. Goji Berries: Goji berries, which are eaten dried or steeped in tea, are native to Asia. They are a natural antioxidant that is high in phytochemicals. Their ability to reduce oxidative stress has been shown to aid in weight loss. Used in a study by the University of the West in Santa Catarina, Brazil, participants who supplemented with goji berries experienced a decrease in waist circumference and also had an improved lipid profile when compared to participants who did not take the supplements. 

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Additional Traditional Chinese Medicine for Weight Loss Tips

In addition to the above, there are plenty of lifestyle changes that can be made to help those with obesity to shed the extra weight. For example:

• Lifestyle Changes: Poor quality sleep and stress also play a role in weight gain.  To improve sleep quality, be sure to get plenty of moderate exercise to stimulate feel-good hormones that will help to induce relaxation. Incorporating exercise like tai chi will help to alleviate anxiety and depression while strengthening the body, which is one of the easist and most natural ways to lose weight.

• Consume Warm Foods: Coldness can lead to the accumulation of dampness and phlegm. If you are trying to lose excess weight, choose warm foods instead. To combat coldness, add foods such as soup or ginger tea to your diet.

• Eat at a Certain Time: The spleen and the stomach are at their peak from the hours of 7 am to 11 am. At this time, the spleen propels Qi upward throughout the body to aid in digestion. Avoid eating after 6 pm to allow the body time to rest and metabolize the day’s nutrient intake.

• Avoid Sugars and Fried Food: Foods that are high in sugar or those that are fried will result in weight gain. When fatty foods and other sweet treats are eaten, the stomach and spleen will do a poor job of transporting nutrients. The result is more dampness and the accumulation of phlegm.


Those who are struggling to lose weight are in good company. Many adults and children share these struggles, and there is unfortunately a lot of misinformation about how to take weight off and keep it off for good. Practitioners of TCM recognise that since there is not just one cause of excess weight but many factors that contribute to it, the approach to weight loss must be multifaceted.

It is important to understand the cause of weight gain before offering treatment options. Spleen Qi deficiency, yang deficiency, stomach heat, liver Qi stagnation, and dampness can all lead to weight gain. Depending on the cause, treatment options may include acupuncture or a combination of Chinese herbs such as goji berries or ginseng. It is also important to get plenty of exercise and quality sleep.

When it comes to diet, be sure to including warming soups and teas while avoiding fried foods and sugar. After 6 pm, give the digestive system a rest and avoid eating until the next day. To learn more about Chinese Medicine to lose weight, speak with a TCM practitioner about the nonsurgical, drug-free options for weight loss.

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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.

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