Welcome to Clothing Optional, a series in which we test out all the newest products and treatments meant to help us look better naked.
Most of us can probably agree that the prospect of being less-than-fully-clothed in front of other people can set off an endless fireworks show of insecurities about every tiny flaw that exists on our bodies. A 2011 Glamour magazine survey found that the average woman has over a dozen daily negative thoughts about her body and that a whopping 97% of women have experienced at least one moment in their lives where they actively "hated" their shape. Though I've had my fair share of self-image issues in the past, at 26, I'm grateful to have reached a point where I accept my not-exactly-flat stomach and soft upper arms, knowing that anyone who's seeing me naked hopefully knows me well enough to appreciate that having a flawless, modelesque body isn't what I have to offer, but that I'm still a babe because of any number of other positive attributes, including my cute boobs and even cuter personality. This relaxed perspective of my body has made wearing bikinis (and less than that) a whole lot less stressful.
There is one thing that still makes me feel extremely uncomfortable to be nude, however: bloating. Ever since entering my mid-20s, which also coincided with starting a plant-based diet (aka, lots of fiber), I've dealt with digestive issues, which can sometimes be painful and often lead to looking like I'm carrying a precious five-month-old garbanzo bean baby in my belly. It's frequent that after I eat, I feel like I have a brick sitting inside my intestines for a few hours, and while I've tried de-bloating tactics like probiotics, ginger tea, and topical diuretics, I'd yet to narrow down a remedy that visibly worked as well as I wanted it to.
Then I tried acupuncture for the first time a couple weeks ago. My debut session at Robert Youngs Acupuncture in Beverly Hills was mostly directed at emotional de-stressing, which I didn't even know acupuncture could help with, and it was shockingly effective. But I also learned during my appointment that placing needles along certain energy points of the body, or meridians, can be helpful for digestive and bloating issues. So I decided to go back to see if it'd work.
According to Youngs, who's been in the acupuncture business for 15 years, traditional Chinese medicine can resolve a number of tummy issues, from acid reflux to painful gas, and the treatment process will vary depending on a number of diagnostic assessments. One thing acupuncturists often do at the beginning of their sessions is examine patients' tongues (yes, their tongues) to get an idea of what's going on inside the body. The tongue is, as Youngs puts it, "an organ you can see." Different colors and patterns on the tongue can reveal what organ of the body is holding onto energy stagnation, causing bloat, and that will signal where the needles should be placed.
In my case, there seemed to be some stagnation in my spleen and stomach. Blocked energy in these areas was causing not only bloating, but also irritability, fatigue, and distressed bowel movements (TMI?). Youngs strategically placed a dozen or so needles around my ankles, shins, and lower abdomen, the latter of which turned pink at the base, meaning they were immediately inciting energy flow. Positioning the needles at these specific points aimed to break up the stagnation in my spleen and stomach to help relieve my particular breed of bloating.
FYI: For me, the needles didn't hurt, although some patients do experience some dull pains during their sessions. After the needles were placed, I was left to lie flat with the lights off, zoning out to the sound of binaural beats for about 20 minutes.
Let me cut straight to the chase: I am not exaggerating when I say that five minutes after the needles were placed, I felt the bloating in my gut, which normally feels stuck and immobile, physically start to shift and dissipate. By the time my session was over, I somehow didn't feel bloated at all. I'd never had a digestive tea or diuretic work that quickly before.
Even after one session, I am totally convinced that acupuncture for bloating works in the short term, but the rumor is that by regularly going once or twice a week for a month or so, especially if you supplement with certain Chinese herbs along the way, acupuncture can help with chronic bloating, too. Youngs names Hou Po (or magnolia bark) and Mu Xiang (or costus root) as two powerful herbs for treating everything from mild indigestion to IBS. These are herbs that traditional Chinese medicine practitioners often have on hand.