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Do Weight Loss Pills Work? Try Acupuncture as a Natural Alternative

Weight loss pills may give short-term results, with many side effects. Try acupuncture for a more holistic approach to achieving healthy weight loss.

Woman holding weight loss pills and measuring tape

It’s hard to be surfing the internet without running into weight loss pills advertisements. With Malaysia being one of the most overweight countries in Southeast Asia, it can be tempting to try out diet pills that promise a quick fix to the ever-expanding waistline. But most things that sound too good to be true probably are. Weight loss pills are not without their potential side effects.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a healthy body will achieve its natural healthy weight. The goal is always to maintain a balanced state of health, with the qi (vital life force) flowing freely and keeping all the body’s organ systems functioning in tiptop condition. One of the main modalities of TCM is acupuncture. It helps restore and maintain a balance between yin (passive energy) and yang (active energy). It is holistic treatment with far less side effects and long-lasting positive health effects.

Weight Loss Pills: How They Work and the Side Effects 

Woman holds hand on chest due to high heart rate.
Weight loss pills can have many negative side effects such as increasing blood pressure and heart rate, as well as causing gastrointestinal symptoms.

Depending on the type of weight loss pills, they can interact with the body in several ways. They may affect the workings of the brain to suppress appetite, by making you feel full sooner and longer. Certain types also intervene with the way your cells use energy. Because of the complex way in which our body works, and the targeted nature of drugs, weight loss pills can have many side effects.

For example, one of the earliest types of weight loss pills caused an uncontrollable increase in body temperature. Other side effects include an increase in blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Gastrointestinal problems like constipation, bloating, diarrhoea, vomiting, and nausea can also arise.

Recent developments in weight loss drugs include drugs that are “off-label”. As reported by Chemical & Engineering News, these drugs were originally developed for a particular illness like diabetes, but have the effect of weight loss. These still have some of the side effects mentioned above. Another common issue with weight loss pills is that the patient may gain the weight back.

TCM As an Alternative to Weight Loss Pills 

TCM offers a different approach. In addition to improving your diet and getting serious about movement and exercise to help improve the flow of your qi and burn off excess fat, work with a certified TCM practitioner who will come up with a custom regimen of acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, moxibustion and tui na (Chinese manual therapy) for you. 

“Chronic work stress, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy dietary habits cause Spleen Qi Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation, resulting in the formation and accumulation of stagnant fluids (水饮), Dampness, and phlegm in the body,” Real Medical Senior Physician Brandon Yew explains.

Acupuncture and Weight Loss 

There are many acupoints used in acupuncture to rebalance the body, which helps you lose the extra unnecessary weight. Many studies have shown that acupuncture together with other positive lifestyle changes can significantly reduce excess weight. While the mechanisms are still being studied, many researchers believe one of the ways in which acupuncture works is by optimising the satiety centre in the brain. It effectively prevents you from overeating, something that our present lifestyle sometimes leads us to.

In addition, acupuncture is believed to regulate hormonal levels and improve the body’s metabolism, thus increasing the rate of calorie-burning.

3D illustration of the zu san li acupoint
Acupressure on the zu san li acupoint strengthens Spleen qi.

Acupoints to use

“In terms of the TCM framework, the zu san li (ST36, 足三里) acupressure and acupoint, for example, strengthens Spleen qi to dispel Dampness, phlegm, and stagnant fluids. You can find this point on the anterior aspect of the lower leg, four fingers-breadth below the outer depression of the knee joint, and one finger-breadth (middle finger) from the anterior crest of the tibia,” Physician Yew says.

“On a whole, acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do. Place fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints and apply the appropriate amount of pressure. You want to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness, for it to be effective. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least three minutes per acupoint,” Physician Yew adds.

Other acupoints to massage include: 

  • He gu (LI4, 合谷): Helps soothe the Liver to dispel Stagnated Qi, aids the Spleen in dispelling Dampness and phlegm.
  • Yin ling quan (SP9, 阴陵泉): Propels Spleen qi to dispel Dampness, phlegm and stagnant fluids.
  • Feng long (ST40, 丰隆): Propels Spleen qi to dispel Dampness, phlegm and stagnant fluids.
  • Tai chong (LR3, 太沖) – Soothes the Liver to dispel Stagnated Qi, improving qi and fluid circulation.

Acupuncture also has the effect of restoring the balance between your sympathetic and para-sympathetic systems, allowing your body’s metabolic functions. When feeling balanced, you are less likely to overeat or feel too sluggish to exercise.

Other Factors That Cause Weight Gain

Asian women are stressed out of work. She is in the office at night
One of the factors that can cause weight gain is a hectic lifestyle.

Barring some genetic conditions that make you pile on extra weight, weight gain can stem from a lack of exercise, excessive food intake, and a hectic lifestyle. It bodes well to think about how you eat, how to make exercise enjoyable, and even how your posture is when you’re just sitting.

Consider your diet

Starting with nutrition, be mindful and consume healthy foods and supplements that sufficiently fuel your body. There are many plant-based health drinks that contain macronutrients such as whey protein, that are also fortified with natural herbs such as Chinese wild yam (shan yao, 山药) and hawthorn berries (shan zha, 山楂) that can help with healthy weight loss. Meanwhile, the TCM herbal formulas that have the same effects of strengthening Spleen qi and dispelling Dampness and phlegm include Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi (香砂六君子) and Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang (苓桂术甘汤). 

Natural treatments

“One of the most common issues that we see are patients who love to exercise but find that exercise causes more pain and discomfort. Chiropractic treatment helps by making exercise pain-free, allowing patients to feel good and push their limits without getting hurt. It also helps patients engage the correct muscles and muscle groups when exercising so that they can achieve the body shape they want,” adds Dr. Simon Chen, a chiropractor.

“You may also have poor posture which indicates a lack of core activation. Not activating your core muscle will mean that there is less energy burnt, and more accumulation of the energy as fat that tends to gather around the abdomen,” he further shares. 

Weight loss pills might work for some, but this approach is often short-lived and doesn’t consider your overall health. It also has many side effects and is likely unsustainable. A more holistic approach like acupuncture and other TCM modalities are more long-lasting. They have fewer side effects, leaving you feeling and looking better and healthier long-term.


  1. Universiti Malaya Faculty of Medicine. 2021. Obesity in Malaysia is a ticking time bomb.  [Accessed 5 December 2021]. 
  2. Cleveland Clinic. 2020. Appetite Suppressants. [Accessed 6 June 2022]. 
  3. Chemical & Engineering News. 2021. New weight-loss drugs could shift the scales.  [Accessed 6 June 2022]. 
  4. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2018. Acupuncture on Obesity: Clinical Evidence and Possible Neuroendocrine Mechanisms.  [Accessed 6 June 2022]. 
  5. Pacific College of Health and Science. 2019. Acupuncture Can Help with Weight Loss. [Accessed 6 June 2022]. 

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