Home HEALTH Acupuncture and Food Addiction : What You Need to Know

Acupuncture and Food Addiction : What You Need to Know


There is, it would seem, an increase in the prevalence of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity attributable to obesity. In the United States, an estimated 170 million Americans are either overweight or obese. Along with common obesity risk factors— like eating habits, lack of physical activity and genetics— there is an increasing interest in food addiction, which shares certain neurobehavioral similarities with drug addiction.

Although various definitions have been proposed to identify food addiction, we can simply say that it’s a compulsive eating behavior of energy-dense foods (e.g. fries, ice cream, chocolate) which trigger organic chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine. Food addiction symptoms such as loss of control over your food cravings, eating more than planned, continued relapsing in spite of the feeling of guilt and incapability of decreasing your food intake; lead to obesity and weight management complications.

Throughout history, acupuncture therapy has acquired a reputation in different cultures as a disease prevention procedure and therapeutic treatment, and it has recently been identified as an effective treatment for people who suffer from obesity with both metabolic and weight-reducing mechanisms.

If you’re struggling to cut junk food and lose weight through dietary change and exercising, then an insight into the potential effects of acupuncture on food addiction could provide you with a more effective technique to overcome repeated failures and better your life.

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1) Similarities Between Food and Drug Addictions

Several sources of evidence have shown that food and drug addictions share a certain number of biological and psychological similarities in terms of their motivational effects.

For example, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior on similarities and differences of food and drug addictions suggests they’re both excessive behaviors with physical signs; and that drug-addicted individuals’ carving will undergo the same mechanisms and neurotransmitter systems of the brain that evolved to stimulate the production of endogenous opioids, and thus the desire of eating.

To put it simply, you may think of food addiction as an intense pleasure that comes from eating, even when you’re not hungry. If we follow analogical reasoning, we can say the same about drug addiction, but the latter has much more severe effects on the brain.

2) The Use of Acupuncture as a Drug Addiction Treatment

Much attention has been aroused on the potential use of alternative medicine forms, notably acupuncture, as treatment modalities of addictive disorders, specifically drug abuse treatment programs. Actually, acupuncture has been widely recognized as an agent for the treatment of addiction to drugs and other chemical substances.

Acupuncture plays a key role in modern drug addiction treatments because of its biological effects on mesolimbic dopamine neurons. In 1985, Dr Michael Smith, the co-founder of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) in the United States, developed a protocol for the treatment of drug abuse using ear points and showed that acupuncture produces substantial relief, prevents craving and increases the rates of participation in treatment programs. Recent studies demonstrated its effect on brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

In relation to addiction detox, it’s common that drug addicts end up developing a certain form of resistance to addiction treatments due to withdrawal symptoms. In this sense, the incorporation of acupuncture detoxification has been shown to decrease the temptation for drug consumption and substance need, lower the hangover symptoms and ease the overall withdrawal process.

3) The Use of Acupuncture as a Food Addiction Treatment

When it comes to food addiction, the wealth of scientific literature supports the proposal that acupuncture can, indeed, ameliorate withdrawal signs of excessive food consumers. In fact, a mouse study pointed out that acupuncture is associated with a decrease in the expression of neuropeptide Y, an orexigenic peptide which induces appetite in rats, and an increase in insulin sensitivity and satiety. A more recent study examined the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of both food addiction and obesity and recommended its use as a paramount part of conventional addiction treatments.

However, pharmaceutical treatments remain crucial as most research studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture —alone— in addiction treatment remain non-conclusive. On the other hand, the combination of acupuncture and conventional drug addiction treatments has been shown to improve the overall health condition of the patients. Thus, the use of acupuncture as a drug addiction treatment has to be considered as a supplement to medical interventions and treatment programs provided by health professionals to support sobriety and recovery.

4) How to Overcome Food Addiction by Yourself

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When it comes to cutting their strong desire to eat, people often remain in denial and refuse to acknowledge the fact that their excessive food consumption is a serious problem affecting the quality of their life. Once you acknowledge the situation you’re in, you can prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the next steps or the recovery stairway by:

  • High palatable foods: Reduce your consumption of energy-dense foods and replace them with healthier foods, notably ones that help you burn fat;
  • Meditation: Take time to examine your eating habits and acknowledge what you’re going through and how compulsive eating is affecting your life. By changing your way of thinking you’re more susceptible to stick to the clinical treatment;
  • Weigh your options: Make a list of nearby food addiction treatment centers, rehab centers, psychologists, psychiatrists and other health professionals who can assist you. Also, get an insight into the different treatment mechanisms to see what’s best for you.

Also, keep in mind that there are various programs designed to help food addicts such as Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous.

The Bottom Line…

Acupuncture is a highly beneficial alternative medicine treatment of substance use and food addiction with proven effectiveness.

When you’ll decide to seek help, keep in mind that the treatment process often starts with detoxification which may induce severe withdrawal symptoms. To help you cope with them, acupuncture is your best friend!

All in all, it’s an easy, cheap, and safe alternative mechanism for treating food addiction, obesity and other weight management complications.


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