The hypothalamus contains several groups of nerve cells, which have the ability to impact emotions, regulate body temperature, and control thirst, the feeling of fullness and salt cravings (when sodium levels are too high within the body, the hypothalamus sends a signal to drink fluids). Body weight is controlled by the hypothalamus through modifying our metabolism. The activities of the hypothalamus are influenced by stress, light, steroids, insulin, pleasant food smells, and invading microorganisms. This explains why we tend to overeat when we are stressed out, when the daylight time becomes shortened and when we smell something good.

Hypothalamus Controls Appetite. When menopause comes, the imbalance of estrogen, progesterone, GABA, serotonin and dopamine profoundly influences the neuronal activity of the hypothalamus, which can cause women to be more emotional, to crave sweets and salty food, and to have insomnia, hot flushes and night sweats. Many women tell me that they cannot stop eating even though they know they are not supposed to eat too much of a certain kind of food. In this scenario, if they eat the wrong kind of food such as cookies and ice cream or drink too much coffee, their stomachs will not receive the full sensation; they can keep eating until they damage the majority of their nerves and blood vessels. We have trillions of neurons and blood vessels; if we destroy 60% of them, our body can still compensate. Once the majority of the nerves and blood vessels are damaged, it is too late to change. When we consume sugary stuff, our rewarding center lightens up, our body releases a lot of dopamine and we feel happier for a moment. The problem is that our body's function is not improved by eating junk food. We have to continue eating those rewarding foods to maintain our happiness. If we use healthy ways, such as physical exercise, taking herbs or having acupuncture treatments to produce more dopamine, we can gain the benefit but not pay the cost. On the other hand, if we just put a piece of chocolate into our mouth, we will do damage to our nerves and blood vessels. Simple sugar is even worse than alcohol or tobacco because you can eat sugar any time in any amount without getting drunk or being punished. On the other hand you can only drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes at certain times and places. A positive side is that when people eat sugary stuff, they become friendlier and sociable at the moment. Why can most men eat one piece of chocolate, then stop, while women have to eat ten pieces? Because women's estrogen levels fluctuate each month from 10 to 100 while men do not have these big hormone changes unless they are alcoholics or drug addicts.

Acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Tai Ji, Qi Gong and other relaxing treatments help redirect energy and blood flow to the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovaries and adrenal gland, so the above glands can produce balanced hormones. On the other hand, acupuncture can reduces stress instantly. Because your digestive, endocrine and nervous system function are compromised when you are more stressed, less relaxing hormone such as progesterone, serotonin and GABA are produced. By reducing stress, acupuncture improves your whole body’s function. The balance of all the relaxing and stimulating hormones are the key factor for keeping healthy weight and eating habit. When you have balanced hormones, you do not crave for sweets and other junk food.

Author's Bio: 

Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, a graduate of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with 11 years of formal training, including 6 years of residency, a Ph.D. degree holder in medical sciences from the US, an author of two books: Acupuncture and Hormone Balance, and Chinese Acupuncture and Herbs for Common Diseases, a Harvard Medical School trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her website is and her clinic is located at 475 hillside avenue, Needham, MA02494.