What are overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity are growing to epidemic proportions globally. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is categorized as overweight, and a body mass index (BMI) over 30 is considered as obese. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overweight and obesity are severe chronic diseases. Within the United States (US), the prevalence rate of obesity was 42.4% between 2017 and 2018. About one in every three adults is overweight, and more than two in five adults are obese. Overweight and obesity are staggering health issues.

What are the symptoms of overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity can lead to metabolic syndrome, atherosclerosis, high blood cholesterol, sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

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How do overweight and obesity occur?

Overweight and obesity occur for a variety of reasons. Generally, overweight and obesity are caused by consuming too much and physical inactivity. It is caused by consuming too many calories stored as fat when an individual is physically inactive. It is also due to a poor diet as a gradual result of eating poorly. A poor diet includes eating a large amount of proces-sed or fast food, consuming too much alcohol, dining out frequently, eating large portions, comfort eating, and consuming sugary drinks. A lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle is another important factor; when the calories can not be burned off. As a result, it leads to weight gain. Genetics also plays a role in overweight and obesity. Medical reasons such as hy-pothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome are also factors of overweight and obesity. When overweight and obesity occur, an individual may face various health issues.

What are the causes of overweight and obesity in Oriental Medicine (TCM)

According to Lingshu Jing (Divine Pivot), one of the two parts of the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon), overweight and obesity means people have fat, ointment, and meat. It categorizes overweight and obesity as an issue caused by Spleen and Kidney deficiency, and Liver depression. The common manifestations are phlegm, dampness, heat, and blood stasis.

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What Oriental Medicine can do to help with weight management?

Oriental medicine can help with weight management, such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, moxibustion, cupping, and diet. Overweight and obesity is mainly lifestyle issue; therefore, one can combat them by introducing one or some of the following Oriental medicine modalities.

Acupuncture can help with weight management because acupuncture is involved with neuroen-docrine axis regulation. Therefore, it regulates eating habits and energy metabolism (Zhang et. Al, 2018). In combination with diet restriction, body acupuncture is effective for weight loss and reducing inflammatory reactions. Therefore, acupuncture could be used as a synergistic treatment option for weight control (Ismail et. al, 2015).

In Oriental medicine, ear acupuncture or auricular acupuncture is also for weight management by needling acu-points on the ear. In addition, it can also help control food cravings (AOMA, n.d) and stimulate the digestive points for weight loss support (Well Being, 2010).

Traditional Chinese herbs are used to tonify Spleen Qi, increase energy and stamina, enhance the immune system and eliminate phlegm and dampness from the body (Well Being, 2010). In addition, study shows traditional Chinese herbs can be used as a holistic modality to suppress appetite, increase metabolism, burn fat, and re-balance the organ systems that govern diges-tion and metabolism. For example, He Ye (lotus leaf), Fu Ling (Chinese tuckahoe), and Huang Qi (astragalus root) can all be used for weight loss (Wang, 2019).

Moxibustion can also be used to help with weight management. Moxibustion uses mug-wort/moxa to warm body areas and acu-points by stimulating circulation and inducing a better flow of Qi and Blood (Hsieh, Tseng, Shen, & Chuang, 2018). A study done in 2018 revealed that acupuncture and moxibustion help reduce waistlines (Hsieh, Tseng, Shen, Chuang, 2018). In a twenty-minute session of moxibustion study, participants were able to lose 1.5 kilograms (about 3.3 pounds) within eight weeks compared to the control group, which only lost just 0.038 kilograms.

Cupping is another holistic modality of managing weight. It is done by stimulating the skin's sen-sory nerves (Chirali, 2014), loosening up connective tissues, and opening capillaries. This pro-cess allows newly oxygenated blood to pour into the area of application. It helps body cell grow and repair and accelerates metabolism (Absolute Wellness, 2018). As a result, it allows the body to be more metabolically efficient. Cupping has benefits that include reducing stress and anxiety, eliminating water retention, removing toxins from the body, stimulating the diges-tive system, controlling food cravings, promoting effective metabolism and bowel movements, etc. Cupping is commonly used for digestive system diseases, high blood pressure, weight loss, etc. (Chirali, 2014).

Diet is an effective way of weight management. Dieting works if an individual takes in fewer ca-lories and adapts a healthy eating pattern. Therefore, eating good foods and avoiding bad ones is crucial. It can also change an individual’s behavior and relationship with food (Harvard Medi-cal School, n.d).

According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), healthy weight loss includes a reaso-nable and realistic weight loss goal and a reduced-calorie and nutritionally-balanced eating plan. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a healthy diet includes the following: an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products, a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds. In addition, the diet is low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol. It also must stay within one’s daily calorie needs (Center for Disease Control, 2021).

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