Hello! I’m very grateful to have spent another week, my second last, at Kakikofu. I have included two insights from this week below.
Reflection 1: Food and eating advice is truly tailored to each individual.
This week Kaori Sensei kindly taught me the principles to consider when selecting appropriate foods for clients. This is the field of ‘Yakuzen’ or Medicinal cooking based on Chinese medicine. The depth and breadth of what is considered was eye-opening. For instance, to understand the root of the issue and what foods will support this issue, the client’s body constitution, symptoms, and ailments are considered in the context of the five vital substances and the organ network theory. Depending on the needs of the client, the food is selected. The warming and cooling characteristics of the food, the five flavors of food (sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, and salty) and their function and effect on the different organ systems as well as the 16 specific functions that different foods inherently have (eg: supporting blood circulation or having a cooling effect) are all considered. Combining the above, the practitioner then recommends specific foods or dishes for the client.
This idea of tailoring advice became further apparent when I asked Kaori Sensei about recommendations around sleep length, hydration and exercise. Kaori Sensei thoughtfully explained how while there may be a general recommendation, the Kampo approach is far from a one-size fits all approach. Kampo practitioners are always operating in tandem with the individual, the client in front of them. It truly is tailored health care, with advice considered carefully for the reality of each client.
Reflection 2: Kampo provides a different way of understanding health behaviors and their benefits, and thus is able to generate a kind of incentive and awareness that is often not tapped into. For example, there is an understanding that the vital substances of the human body including Chi (energy) have Yang properties (active, daytime, light, sunshine) and the blood substance has Yin properties (darkness, nighttime, sleep). While sleeping and resting are thought to cause blood stores to be replenished, overusing the eyes is seen as consuming the blood substance. For example, there may be a particular client who experiences wakefulness or restless energy before they go to sleep, and find themselves scrolling through their phone, unable to sleep. One possible explanation among many others, is that they are having trouble getting to sleep because they have this energy, or ‘chi’ (yang properly) that’s risen up and activated their mind because it has not been counterbalanced by the blood substance (ying property) which has been used up through the day and through scrolling. There are many examples of how Kaori Sensei and Hiroshi Sensei explain client symptoms in the context of Kampo theory and allow the client to go ‘aha!’, as they understand why they have certain symptoms or why they tend to engage in some behaviors. Ultimately this provides clarity around behavior change moving forward.
This week has highlighted the real value of tailoring health care and how when treatment is individualized, the explanations and recommendations both directly support the client and generate incentive and buy-in from the client.