Acupuncture can help anorexia, is this something new to you?

 Anorexia nervosa with acupuncture treatment

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder and mental health condition. It is a severely debilitating psychiatric disorder characterized by relentless self-starvation with compulsive behaviour. It is associated with low rates of recovery and has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. The neuro basis of anorexia is alteration of part of brain activity, abnormal brain circuit and reduced blood flow. From biochemical point of view, low serotonin level is present in patients with anorexia. The evidence for existing psychological and pharmacological interventions to treat anorexia nervosa is not strong. Use of complementary therapy to treat the condition could improve mental health outcomes for these patients. There was a pilot study for a further trial on acupuncture and acupressure and massage health outcomes for patients with anorexia nervosa. This study was by Smith C et al from Australia. There were 26 patients with anorexia revosia. Their conditions were stable and had treatments as usual. The intervention was given twice a week for the first 3 weeks, and then the interventions was on weekly basis for three weeks. Acupuncture group received acupuncture at the points hegu (LI4), zusanli (ST36), neiguan (PC6), taichong (LR3), yanglingquan (GB34) and additional points which were based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis. The control group received acupressure and massage. The clinic outcomes which measure body-mass index (BMI) and eating disorder psychopathology, anxiety and depression, were assessed at baseline and at the 6 weeks following completion of the intervention. Participants described both interventions including acupuncture, acupressure and massage positively and experienced a sense of calmness and relaxation. This study shows positive effect of acupuncture and acupressure and massage on patients with anorexia nervosa, which leads to further research on this issue. The potential mechanism could be that acupuncture changes brain activity, increases brain blood flow and increases serotonin level.

How patients with anorexia nervosa view acupuncture therapy?

There was a study to collect the view of patients with anorexia nervosa who received acupuncture treatments. 26 patients with anorexia nervosa received six weeks acupuncture treatments. These patients highly valued the acupuncture treatments in particular the characteristics of empathy, positive regard, acceptance, non judgemental responses and trust. Having someone to talk to, being less stressed and contact, with study staff were also perceived to be important.


Fogarly S et al Complement Ther Med (2013) 21:675-81

Smith C et al J Altern Complement Med 2013 Oct 8

Potential benefit of acupuncture for eating disorders

Students with eating disorders are at risk of dropping out of University. A survey of just over 200 students with eating disorders found that 32% were diagnosed eating disorders after starting their coursed. 18% said that their condition had forced them to drop out of their degree course. 39% had to take a break from their studies.

Do you know that acupuncture can help in the treatment of eating disorders? There was a pilot study from Victoria University of Melbourne Australia. They studied the effect of acupuncture in the treatment of eating disorders in female patients. 9 women (5 with anorexia Nervosa, 4 with bulimia nervosa) with mean age 23.7 year old participated in this study. The result showed that acupuncture improved the participants’ quality of life as measured by the physical/congnitive and psychological components. There was also evidence of decreases in anxiety and perfectionism. There was a potential benefit of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of eating disorders particularly in the improvement of quality of life.


Fogarty S et al Complement Ther Med (2010) 18:233-40

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