Acupuncture for Cravings?

We’ve written about acupuncture for withdrawal from narcotics, and acupuncture support for quitting smoking. Lately, we’ve also had a lot of questions about food cravings: Can acupuncture help to reduce cravings?

Cravings are a selective, intense hunger that can be pretty intense and make us do things that might not be good for us over the long run—whether that be one puff of a cigarette, or betting another fifty dollars. They can interfere with our ability to be present at work or pay attention at school, affect our mood and disrupt our personal relationships. So why do we crave?

There are a number of theories and there are probably a variety of mechanisms at play. Whether cravings happen because of a deficiency in the brain neurotransmitter serotonin, which has a calming effect, or a need for comfort (interestingly, carbohydrates boost our levels of the hormone serotonin), or a desire for the activation of opioid receptors, and/or difficulty with balancing blood glucose, we have found acupuncture to be an extremely effective way to decrease all kinds of cravings for a great deal of folks.

One of our favourite treatment for cravings is the NADA protocol, the insertion of 5 tiny needles in the ear that is regularly used for substance abuse withdrawal and harm reduction in clinics and hospitals throughout North America. At GCA we have heard quite a few people report significant reduction in their sugar cravings after a few treatments of acupuncture. We also regularly support folks who are quitting cigarettes. We usually suggest about 10-12 treatments at 2-3 visits a week to start. Sometimes the cravings disappear for a really long time, and sometimes they decrease or come back every once in awhile. How someone responds will determine how many times they end up needing treatment.

Given how much criticism people can face for their uncontrollable cravings, we think it’s important to maintain compassion and to remember that sometimes cravings are an important part of our survival mechanisms. Craving water if we’re dehydrated is one example of a drive that is important for sustaining life. For the times that cravings push us into things we later regret, community acupuncture offers non-judgemental support. If you have questions about how community acupuncture can support you to deal with cravings, please get in touch.

A seated practitioner works on a patient's feet while the patient relines in a lazyboy; several other people sleep in recliners in the background.
photo by Vanessa Tignanelli

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