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Print Posted on 11/09/2016 in Category 1

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the Treatment of Disordered Eating Patterns By Jamie Lieber L.Ac.

The awareness and treatment of disordered eating patterns have improved dramatically
in recent years. The behaviors associated with this diagnosis are often seen as a
desperate attempt to deal with the internal and external pressures caused in part by
unrealistic expectations and the stresses of living in a highly developed society. Chronic
disordered eating patterns, left undiagnosed and untreated, can easily lead to more
severe medical and emotional issues and they tend to be a real challenge for our
managed care system to address adequately because of their complex nature.
Disordered eating patterns include many compulsive behaviors such as yo-yo dieting,
binge eating, anorexia (withholding of food), and bulimia (purging) as well as obsessive
thoughts about food. These behaviors and thoughts may cause a minimal disruption in
their lives or can lead to severe and life threatening mental and physical health

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is a very comprehensive medical practice that
embraces a holistic approach to medicine and stresses the importance of viewing the
body as a interconnected and interdependent system. Treatment always represents an
attempt to treat the root causes of disease through a focus on restoration of balance
and harmony through direct intervention such as acupuncture, massage, herbal and
nutritional therapy. Acupuncture is performed through manipulation of a system of
energy lines in the body called meridians. Twelve main meridians provide connection to
the major organs and it is important for the highly trained medical professional to
understand which ones are effected in order to provide appropriate treatment for any

TCM also has the tools to treat many common physiological symptoms that are seen as
resulting from disordered eating patterns. Digestive disruptions and discomforts such as
abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and
acid reflux are symptoms commonly associated with eating disorders. Acupuncture and
herbal therapies are often helpful addressing these digestive complaints once the
primary destructive behaviors have been resolved. Headaches, gynecological disorders,
sleep disturbances, and emotional imbalances also accompany eating pattern
disturbances and can be addressed through appropriate TCM treatments as well. One
cannot underestimate the importance of the healing direct “touch” of TCM treatments.
The importance of touch not only conveys connection and warmth but validates the
patientsʼ need to learn how to love and nurture themselves again. Trust and feeling of
safety between the practitioner and individual being treated is crucial also in providing
adequate care. True emotional healing through trust must take place in order to
develop the confidence and positive energy necessary to become more proactive and
empowered in their journey toward recovery.

In more severe and life threatening cases conventional western medicine clearly has a
crucial and primary role in addressing organic and systemic failures and overloads.
However once the patient has moved into the “recovery” and maintenance phases,
TCM is invaluable in providing the kind of holistic treatments necessary for a successful
long term recovery. A true complementary approach where allopathic
physicians (western medicine), TCM practitioners and other health care professionals
(nutritionists, therapists etc.) team up together for the ultimate resolution of the
emotional and physical issues is an ideal paradigm that can provide more success for
long term health and well-being.

Jamie Lieber L.Ac. received her Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is board-certified
in the state of California. She has a private practice in San Francisco and worked for the New
Dawn Residential Program offering acupuncture, meditation and yoga. 

In Partnership with the American Eating Disorder Association- -SINCE 1999