Can Acupuncture Help Treat Eating Disorders?

There is a commonly held belief that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice or simply a “diet that went too far.” But eating disorders are serious mental health conditions characterized by eating behaviors that affect a person’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. 

Treatment for eating disorders requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes your primary care provider, along with mental health specialists and nutrition experts. Acupuncture is a form of complementary medicine that may support your eating disorder treatment plan.

At Legacy Pain and Regenerative Medicine, we take a holistic and comprehensive approach to health and wellness. Our chiropractic physician, Dr. Trace Alexander, is certified in clinical nutrition and acupuncture. 

Here, we want to share some of the benefits of acupuncture for those struggling with eating disorders.

About eating disorders

Most eating disorders involve a preoccupation with weight, body shape, and food that leads to changes in eating behaviors. Like other mental health conditions, eating disorders affect how a person feels and thinks.

The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. 

Anorexia nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa see themselves as overweight even though they may be severely underweight. Their distorted body image triggers an intense fear of weight gain that leads to extreme measures to restrict intake to promote weight loss or prevent weight gain.

Bulimia nervosa 

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a persistent cycle of binging and purging. People with this type of eating disorder eat large amounts of food over a short period of time, feeling as though they have no control over their intake.

The overeating triggers feelings of guilt and shame and a fear of weight gain that leads to the purge. Vomiting, abusing laxatives, or spending hours exercising are some of the methods someone with bulimia nervosa may use to purge the food and calories. 

Binge-eating disorder (BED)

People with BED feel a lack of control over their eating and frequently consume large amounts of food in a short period of time. The overeating causes feelings of shame and guilt. However, people with BED don’t purge. 

Treatment for eating disorders

Getting help early is very important for a person struggling with an eating disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with eating disorders are at greater risk of suicide. They also may develop medical complications such as digestive problems from vomiting and laxative abuse, or heart damage from malnutrition.

Treatment for eating disorders typically includes:

Like most mental and physical health conditions, you gain the most benefits from a personalized treatment plan. If you’re searching for an alternative therapy to support your traditional medical plan, then you may want to consider acupuncture to help treat your eating disorder.

Acupuncture and eating disorders

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body. In TCM, the acupuncture needles restore the flow of your body’s life force — called qi (pronounced chee) — to promote health and healing. 

Current research shows that acupuncture stimulates your nervous system and triggers the release of biochemicals that promote your body’s natural healing to optimize physical and emotional well-being. 

When used as a complementary treatment for people with eating disorders, acupuncture reduces anxiety, boosts feelings of relaxation, and improves quality of life. The alternative therapy may also support your body’s natural repair process to help heal any physical damage.

So, what’s the answer to the title question? Yes, acupuncture does help in the treatment of eating disorders when it’s part of a comprehensive care plan. 

To schedule your acupuncture consultation with our certified acupuncturist, call the office most convenient to you — we have offices in Plano and Addison, Texas — or click the “book online” button. 

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