The Importance of Diet Therapy: An Interview with Juliette Aiyana, LAc, Part One
By Brian Carter, MSCi, LAc
Juliette Aiyana educates all her patients about Oriental dietary therapy with great clinical success. Juliette enjoys cooking and eating food, and is dedicated to educating the public about the efficacy of Oriental medicine.
Before becoming an acupuncturist, Juliette practiced bodywork for 10 years, and is currently an instructor at the Swedish Institute of Massage. Juliette practices in New York City, and writes a food column called "Juliette's Kitchen" for The Pulse of Oriental Medicine.
Brian Benjamin Carter (BBC): Can you tell us why you emphasize dietary therapy so heavily in your practice?
Juliette Aiyana (JA): Well, first Brian, thank you for asking me to be interviewed! I think the work you are doing in this field is relevant and necessary, and I am happy to contribute.
Now, to answer your question: I emphasize dietary therapy because people love to eat and we have to eat to survive. We have so many relationships with food - cultural, emotional, even political. I discuss these relationships in an article, "Our Food Relationships," at www.pulsemed.org. Basically, we must explore these relationships to achieve a healthy balanced philosophy relating to food.
When I was first diagnosed with ovarian cysts, my gynecologist recommended I take a strong birth control pill for three months, and if that did not solve the problem she would schedule me for surgery. I left her office thinking, "There has got to be another way out of surgery," so I went to my old massage school (The Sarasota School of Massage Therapy) to speak with the founder, Miri Rosen-Pyros, whom I admired as a wonderful, educated healer. She listened to my story and asked, "Do you eat chocolate every day?"
I said "Yes," thinking to myself, "What difference does that make? I am super-skinny, so who cares if I give in to a little Godiva every day?" She said, "They are called 'chocolate cysts,' you know." I was dumbfounded. She turned me on to the book called Food and Healing. Reading that book was extraordinarily enlightening. I learned that the coffee I drank, the cheese and the antibiotics and hormone-fed meats I ate every day, contributed to those cysts. I thought that giving up chocolate would be the hardest part, but it was harder to stop eating cheese. I actually had the cheese DTs! There were serious cravings for me to fight, but I got through it. I started reading Nutrition Action Magazine and took Western nutrition in college. I became totally enthused about dietary health and tried all kinds of lifestyle diets.
Years later, during my training at the Florida Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we had a class in Chinese dietary therapy. I was super excited. I immediately used what I learned with patients. Another classmate and I typed up our own educational handout to give to all of our patients.
Concurrently, I was accepted into a private internship with Patrick Sullivan, a practitioner of saasang Korean constitutional medicine. One of the things he taught me was the value of applying dietary therapy based on constitutional type (which we mainly discern by Korean-style pulse diagnosis). If the patient has a yin constitution, then we balance them with yang foods and vice-versa. I experienced a lot of success with patients during my internship because they were hungry for the diet information and they applied it. Patients often come to us as a last resort, and they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They're ready to make a change. Now I use both constitutional type and pattern discrimination to tailor a plan for every patient who walks in my door. When my patients help me help them, they heal faster and more deeply.
BBC: Some practitioners think it's not worth trying to get patients to change their diet. What happens to patients when their practitioners ignore the diet?
JA: I went to school for Oriental medicine because it's a whole system of healing· not just acupuncture! I was taught, "First, adjust diet and lifestyle. If that doesn't work, use herbs and acupuncture." Since our patients tend to come to us as a last resort, we have to use all of the resources Oriental medicine teaches. If we don't, the patient won't receive the highest possible benefit. I train in the martial arts, and recently my class was practicing Five Element punching. My sifu stopped the class to say (I am paraphrasing a bit - forgive me, sifu), "When we learn the Five Element punches we have to learn all of them well, not just Metal or Fire. Each generates the next. Like in Chinese medicine, the practitioner balances all the elements - not just one or another. Every one is important." In Oriental medicine, one therapy we learn is diet. To me, there's no question whether to apply it. It's part of Oriental medicine.
One of my favorite classics is the Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach (Pi Wei Lun). I base most of my practice on this school of thought, plus saasang Korean constitutional medicine (which views the Earth element as the center of all life/qi). This is very important. If the Earth or center is not balanced and strong, then all the other organs will suffer. We all know that the Spleen is responsible for transforming and transporting the gu qi. If the Spleen is vacuous and/or cold and damp, it cannot perform this function. When it cannot perform its proper function, then it cannot send qi and blood to the other organs, which will in turn suffer detriment. Let's say a patient suffers from Spleen qi vacuity and Kidney yin vacuity. If the Spleen cannot transform the gu qi, the body will seek qi from the Kidney, which will further damage the Kidney qi. In my experience, if there is Kidney yin vacuity or a "you-fill-in-the-blank organ" vacuity, there are probably signs of Spleen vacuity as well that must be addressed. The qi has to get to the organ to perform its function. We should also consider the Spleen's T&T (transformation and transportation) when giving patients patent medicines and vitamin supplements. If the Spleen can't break them down, then they're wasted. And if my patient eats cold, damp foods or greasy fried foods, it will only serve to oppose my treatment.
BBC: Do you encourage your patients to take responsibility for their well-being?
JA: In my experience, the more patients take responsibility for their health, the better they heal. They learn to treat their bodies with kindness and compassion. I always hope that they'll learn to treat their spirits the same way, so when I talk to them about dietary therapy, I always tell them, "It may take time to learn to balance your meals, but that's OK. It's a learning experience and, before you know it, you will instinctively know what to eat and what to avoid." When they come in, like many of my patients do around the holidays, feeling and looking very guilty about consuming the wrong foods, I laugh or nod with them in agreement, "Yes, it's tough to avoid this stuff, so do your best to get through it." I don't want them to feel guilty and "rebel" against my advice or mentally beat themselves up when they lapse. I remind them of the old adage "Moderation in everything," but there are some cases where a patient is so ill that I have to support him or her in really sticking to the plan, no matter what. * * * Stay tuned for part two of the interview with Juliette Aiyana, and be sure to read her food column, "Juliette's Kitchen" at www.pulsemed.org.
Click here for previous articles by Brian Carter, MSCi, LAc.