Does TCM Help in Weight Loss?

4 min read


By Wing Joo Loong Team

Key Takeaways

  • In Chinese medicine, excessive weight gain is often due to 'dampness' accumulated in the body. Dampness occurs when the process of food intake, digestion, absorption and transportation of body fluids are not balanced. 
  • TCM views excess fats or weight gain as a sign of imbalances within the body. When managing weight loss, TCM focuses on restoring the body's natural balance to eliminate dampness and improve metabolism.
  • Poor dietary habits, stress and a lack of exercise can impede the flow of Qi and blood and make it harder for the body to transform food and remove metabolic waste.

Did you know? Obesity and weight gain could be an indication of bodily disharmony. If you are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, it is well worth considering TCM as it supports weight loss by restoring balance and improving the way your body functions. 

What Causes Weight Gain?

Slow metabolism

Having a sluggish metabolism could be a sign of imbalance in your kidneys, spleen and stomach. Other than acting as natural filters to remove waste and excess fluids from the body, a healthy kidney is also key to having an active metabolism. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that our kidneys form the foundation of Yin and Yang in the body. When the kidney Yang is deficient, it slows down our metabolism which in turn leads to fluid retention and weight gain. 

Signs of kidney Yang deficiency include puffiness, lethargy, low libido and lower back pain (sometimes accompanied by pain in the knees and legs) which tends to worsen in the cold weather.


Internal Dampness

TCM practitioners believe that fat tissues are mostly associated with ‘phlegm’ and 'dampness' in the body. In addition to the kidneys, our spleen and stomach are also important in regulating our digestive system and water metabolism. The spleen transforms food into new Qi and blood and regulates the movement of body fluids. When the process of food intake, digestion, absorption and transportation of body fluids is not balanced, internal dampness arises — leading to water retention, slower metabolism and weight gain. 

Signs of dampness include feeling of heaviness, water retention, phlegm discharge, heavy sensation in the head and body, soreness and pain in the joints, abdominal distension and/or loose bowels. 

TCM Tips for Weight Loss / Slimming

TCM advocates incorporating a balanced diet, regular exercise and other good lifestyle habits to restore bodily harmony. 

1. Avoid Overeating

Overeating can lead to poor digestion, food stagnation, slow metabolism and internal dampness. Fullness is a sign you may be overloading your digestive system. The ideal sweet spot is to stop eating when you no longer feel hungry, but before you feel full. 

2. Foods to Avoid

Avoid excessive intake of cold, raw, sweet, greasy, deep fried and spicy foods as they weaken the spleen and stomach, making the body susceptible to unwanted weight gain. 

3. Nourish Your Spleen to Boost Metabolism

Classic herbal soups such as sì shén tāng (四神汤) and liù wèi tāng (六味汤) can help strengthen the spleen and regulate digestive functions. Other herbs such as astragalus (北芪 běi qí), codonopsis (党参 dǎng shēn), American ginseng (泡参 pào shēn), Chinese yam (淮山 huái shān) and red dates (红枣 hóng zǎo) also have tonifying benefits on the spleen. These herbs are also commonly used together in herbal soups.

4. Improve Your Digestion and Break Down Fats

Sour foods such as hawthorn (山楂 shān zhā) and roselle (洛神花 luò shén huā) can help stimulate the secretion of digestive fluids and break down fatty substances. Combining natural herbs like roselle (洛神花 luò shén huā), hawthorn (山楂 shān zhā), liquorice (甘草 gān cǎo) and plum (乌梅 wū méi) helps improve digestion, boost metabolism and promote weight loss. 


5. Detoxify and Drain Dampness

Diuretics like Chinese barley (薏苡仁 yì yǐ rén), poria (茯苓 fú líng), white atractylodes (白术 bái zhú), astragalus (北芪 běi qí), red beans and green beans help promote urine production, thereby draining dampness, relieving fluid retention and detoxifying the body. 

6. Move Qi Regularly  

Get moving, make time for fitness. Start small and give your body time to adjust to this new routine. Even ten minutes of daily exercise such as HIIT, brisk walking and yoga has wonderful benefits on your overall energy level and health. Before long, you will be hitting 30 minutes or even more, losing weight in a natural, healthy fashion. 

7. Ease Constipation

Regular bowel movement helps ease stagnation and get rid of metabolic wastes from the body. Herbs such as cassia seeds (决明子 jué míng zi), hawthorn (山楂 shān zhā) and roselle (洛神花 luò shén huā) can help ease constipation and support healthy weight loss.

The information above serves as a general guide only. Please consult a certified TCM physician for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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