Obesity has become an ubiquitous condition of our times. It affects people’s appearance, self-esteem, and may pose a threat to physical health. What are the causative factors of obesity? Is there a one size fits all solution for the reduction of the condition? Dr. Yu Ya-wen, a Taiwanese traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner, provides different weight loss regimens for five common types of obesity, and introduces two simple, easy-to-do Cliffs Notes-style versions for weight loss.”
Obesity can cause harm to multiple physiological functions of the human body, which significantly increases the risk of metabolism-related, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and certain cancers that increase the chance of mortality. Many studies have found traditional Chinese medicine to be effective in treating obesity in a variety of ways, such as regulating intestinal flora, increasing hormone levels, and regulating fat metabolism.
Western medicine believes that obesity is the accumulation of fat caused by an imbalance between energy intake and energy usage due to a range of factors. Yu Ya-wen from Royal Jade Traditional Chinese Medicine Clinic in Taiwan said in an interview with the Health 1+1 program that Chinese medicine believes “fat people are associated with more phlegm.” TCM’s definition of “phlegm” includes the whole of all by-products from abnormalities, for example, high blood sugar, high blood lipids, high triglycerides, and so on. Due to the imbalance of the internal organs, these “wastes” cannot be excreted from the body, and continue to accumulate, causing cell degeneration, which may form tumors or subcutaneous or visceral fat.
Therefore, the concept of TCM treatment of obesity is to allow the internal organs to function normally and excrete waste (including fat) from the body through recovery. The five viscera and six internal organs referred to in Chinese medicine are the general designs for the complete organs and systems of the body. The five viscera refer to the heart, liver, spleen, lung, and kidney; Six internal organs refer to the gallbladder, stomach, large intestine, small intestine, triple burner (a body cavity consisting of three parts, containing all the internal organs), and bladder.
According to different physical characteristics, Chinese medicine divides obesity into five types, which correspond to different solutions. From the perspective of TCM, people have different constitutions. Constitution is a unique characteristic formed during the growth and development of a person, which is affected by congenital inheritance, and augmented by post-birth acquisition from natural and social environments.
Yu emphasized that acquired influences such as diet composition, lifestyle, environment, and other factors are the keys to obesity.
From the perspective of TCM, Yu analyzed the solutions corresponding to the five types of obesity. She also added that some people may not be easily classified into a single type but may indeed be a combination of several of them. So, if any one type is valid, the effect will be better because you can focus on improving it.
I. Spleen Deficiency and Dampness Type
The spleen is an important viscera that transports and transforms water inside the body. If the splendor is healthy, the body’s metabolism can process water in the body normally. If the spleen is damaged, it will affect metabolism and make water stay in the body, a symptom known as “dampness.” Modern medicine believes that the spleen is an immunity monitoring organ, while TCM refers to the spleen not just as an anatomical organ, but more on the concept of function. In addition to immune function, it is also part of the digestive system.
Pathological features of spleen deficiency: soft muscles, soft fat, frequent edema (under the eyes, limbs), prone to sweating herpes, eczema, skin allergies, excessive female secretions, discomfort during menstruation, pale complexion, and easy fatigue. The three meals are often not taken at regular times, and food is eaten cold.
- Remove pathological products
Adding barley white rice, red beans, ginger, and astragalus can help eliminate edema in the body and benefit the spleen.
- Increase metabolism
Muscle-building exercise can help metabolism and remove edema and fat. Yu said that the classic Chinese medical book “Huang Di Nei Jing” mentioned that “the spleen governs the muscles of the body.” When the spleen is not good, it is necessary to do additional exercise on the muscles. After strengthening the muscles, the spleen will also become healthier.
II. Stomach Heat, and Phlegm Stasis Type (Mainly in Men)
The stomach gradually becomes hot during the process of digesting food. Stomach heat itself is to help digest food. However, if stomach heat builds up, one often feels the need to eat again even after having eaten leading to a tendency to overeat.
Pathological features of stomach heat: a preference for strong food tastes, likes to eat meat, sweets, and cold foods. Needs to drink frequently, tends to become thirsty, and experiences digestive fluid reflux..
- 1. Remove pathological products
Supplements such as hawthorn, lotus leaf, cassia seed, corn silk, and coptis can help dispel stomach heat.
- 2. Regulate visceral functions
Using acupuncture to clear stomach heat can also suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake.
Chinese medicine has discovered that the human body has a “meridian” system. The theory of TCM believes that the meridian is the channel of energy inside the body. The internal organs are connected to the surface of the body through the meridian. Some points on the meridian that have special functions are called “acupoints.” Activating these acupoints will treat diseases of the corresponding viscera inside.
- 3. Increase metabolism
Do more aerobic exercise to increase energy consumption.
III. Liver Depression and Qi Stagnation Type (Mainly in Women)
TCM believes that the liver is responsible for regulating the smooth flow of qi throughout the body and at the same time regulating emotions. If the liver function is out of balance, the movement of qi will be blocked, causing physical dysfunction, and mood swings such as depression and anger may also occur. Yu said that the liver, as mentioned in Chinese medicine, refers not only to the liver as a physiological organ, but also includes the autonomic nervous, endocrine, and emotional systems.
Chinese medicine believes that qi is the “energy” or “vitality” that constitutes life inside the body, and refers to the substances that replenish nutrients in the body as blood. Qi and blood are interdependent, flow throughout the whole body, nourish the organs and tissues, and maintain the vital activities of the body.
Pathological features of liver depression: Endocrine disorders, frequent insomnia, dreaminess, nervousness, anxiety, often feel tired.
- Clear pathological products
Regulate hormones first, then use medicines that soothe the liver and regulate qi, such as roses, chrysanthemums, safflowers, and peach kernels.
- Improve visual function
Acupuncture can be used to regulate the autonomic nervous system, or aromatherapy can relieve stress.
- Increase metabolism
Do exercises that soothe your nerves, such as Pilates and yoga.
IV. Deficiency of Qi and Blood Type
Pathological features of qi deficiency: Weak body, cold hands and feet, poor complexion, unbalanced nutrition, easy fatigue, and failing memory.
The three meals should be taken at regular times and quantities. Eat more blood-enriching foods rich in iron, such as dark green vegetables. Do light exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling.
V. Kidney Yang Deficiency and Turbid Phlegm Type (Mainly Middle-Aged and Elderly People)
Chinese medicine believes that the kidneys are the most important part of the body, storing the body’s substances and inherent functions, and promoting physiological activities. Kidney yang promotes and warms the functions of various viscera and tissues in the body. Yu said that kidney yang is the provider of vitality to the body, and monitors metabolism.
Pathological features of kidney yang deficiency: Endocrine disorders, abdominal obesity, fear of cold, backache, frequent urination.
Eat more foods that heal the kidneys, such as mutton, leeks, and black sesame. It is recommended to use moxibustion, baths, and saunas to strengthen metabolism. Excessive exercise is not recommended due to excessive depletion of vitality.
Moxibustion therapy is one part of acupuncture in TCM involving certain thermal routines. It is a treatment method to achieve health care by igniting moxa leaves and using moxa sticks, to heat the acupuncture points of the body.
Two ways to lose weight
Yu emphasized that endurance is the key to losing weight. She recommended two easy-to-implement CliffsNotes versions for weight loss approaches.
- Eat the right food and in the right sequenceOne-half of each meal should contain cooked vegetables of assorted colors, one-quarter high-quality protein (mainly lean and white meat), and one-quarter high-quality starch (rice, sweet potato, etc.). Keep the order of serving as vegetables or protein first, followed by the starch. Those with poor gastrointestinal tracts can eat protein first, which can prevent blood sugar from fluctuating too much and avoid fat accumulation.
- Sleep at the right timeNine to 10 pm as a bedtime routine can cultivate a good sleep mood and facilitate falling asleep by around 11 pm Sleep should occur no later than 12 am
TCM believes that the twelve periods of a day (one period is equivalent to two hours) correspond to the twelve main meridians of the body. In each period, the blood energy on the corresponding meridian will be particularly prosperous, and the viscera governed by that meridian are also more active. This is the theory of the midnight to noon and ebb- and flow doctrine.
Yu said that the gallbladder meridian runs between 11 pm to 1 am, and the liver meridian runs from 11 pm to 3 am During this period of deep sleep, the body can effectively detoxify. From the perspective of Western medicine, hormones such as growth hormone begin to secrete at 11 pm, which can help burn fat.
Acupoints Massaging to Lose Weight
Yu said that you can use your fingers, fists, or a massage stick to stimulate the following acupoints.
The position about the width of two fingers on both sides of the navel can stimulate gastrointestinal peristalsis.
The position about the width of four fingers below the navel is a commonly used acupoint in gynecology, for treating problems such as female hormone imbalance.
The position about the width of five fingers above the navel that can suppress appetite.
Yu also suggested that every morning, try rubbing the abdomen around the navel in a clockwise direction, to stimulate the relevant acupoints at the same time.