Welcome to the Land of Hepatonia!

Yesterday, I went to see an acupuncturist.  I’ve received acupuncture treatments before, with results varying from “shockingly successful” to “nothing much seemed to happen at all,” but I do believe in the potential benefits of the practice in general.

The U.S. Armed Forces are among the many, many organizations that have been known to employ the practice of acupuncture...
The U.S. Armed Forces are among the many, many organizations that have been known to employ the practice of acupuncture…

Yesterday’s visit wasn’t about me trying to address any specific, pressing problem, though; instead, based on recommendations from a couple of friends, I was checking in to have my “body type” determined.  This isn’t “body type” in Western terms, such as “mesomorph” (= “muscular”) or “ectomorph” (= “slim”), etc. — rather, this has to do with one’s body organs, and which are relatively stronger within a given individual’s body, versus which are relatively weaker.  The idea is to determine which body type you are, and then alter your diet so as to play to your own organs’ strengths, theoretically resulting in much greater health and vitality for you.

The doctor I saw explained it in terms of animals…  First, he said, consider the lion…

The lion doesn't have much regard for things like salads, right?  The lion is all about the red meat...(photo by Luca Galuzzi)...
The lion doesn’t have much regard for things like salads, right?  The lion is all about the red meat…but exactly why is that…?  (photo by Luca Galuzzi)…

The lion eats that which we, in the West, are warned off of: red meat, one of the banes of the high cholesterol world.  And yet, as this new doctor pointed out, lions don’t have high cholesterol.  Lions aren’t obese.  Lions — even those that live to ripe old ages — aren’t all that prone to heart disease.  And the reason why the lion can gorge on a steady diet of red meat and not much else, is that the lion has a powerhouse liver.  This produces the enzymes necessary for breaking down all that red meat.  The lion is geared for this diet, and in fact, thrives on it.  Keep your kale and your lettuce far from the Queens and Kings of the Jungle!  They’re not built for it, and they won’t fare well with it.

Now consider the cow…

The cow opts for grass as the cornerstone of its diet, pretty much all day, every day...
The cow opts for grass as the cornerstone of its diet, pretty much all day, every day…but again: why??

The cow will virtually never be found sharing victuals with the lion, and would be far, far more likely to be on the lion’s dinner table than beside it.  The cow eats grass, and other similar vegetable matter.  Why grass?  Why not red meat?  This — said my new doctor — is because the cow has a magnificent large intestine, which is the organ most well-equipped to process such foodstuffs as grass.  Just as the cow’s system would balk at trying to properly digest the lion’s diet, so, too, would the lion’s system throw up its hands in surrender if forced to choke down the diet of a cow, because the lion’s large intestine is comparatively weak.

The idea is that in nature, animals eat what they’re designed to eat, and they generally do very well under such a program.  And my two friends who have been aligning themselves with the diets that have been suggested for their body types by this same doctor have both reported feeling better overall (slightly better on some days, to way better on quite a few others) since they began their new food regimens.  And just as importantly, they also have both stated that falling off of the diet, even briefly — that is, eating things that are supposedly difficult or harmful for their body types — pretty much always ends in sorrow and regret for them, as their bodies stumble and groan and call in sick to work almost immediately.  In short…as far as they’re concerned, this body type thing seems to hold true.

So I took myself in yesterday to see the same doctor that they saw.  The session was pretty user-friendly.  I had to lie on a table, face-up, shoes and socks off, and the doctor asked me a small battery of questions, checked my pulse a few times in both arms, examined a few pressure points or energy junction points, then pronounced me to be of the “hepatonia” body type.  I was a bit surprised to learn that this is more or less akin to the body type of the lion that I mentioned up above.  I apparently have a mighty liver, but in this context, my large intestine and lungs would be thought of as “weak.”  The fact that I’ve historically been prone to bronchitis does nothing to contradict this pronouncement, either…  But the most interesting thing here, as far as I was (and still am) concerned, is the fact that last year, my regular (i.e., Western) doctor had warned me that my cholesterol numbers were edging toward the upper ceiling of the range considered to be “average” or “normal” or “acceptable,” and I should rein in my then unfettered urges toward devouring everything in my path that fell into the categories of shellfish, eggs, cheese, and red meat.  In contrast, my new acupuncturist doctor yesterday was saying that not only do I not need to steer clear of such things at all, but that in the case of beef, I should actually point myself toward it like a heat-seeking missile, and eat it every day!  The only thing on the Western cholesterol no-fly list that I still need to avoid is — to my great dismay, as it’s a set comprised of my favorite foods in the world — shellfish.

Not being able to eat shrimp makes me weep (mouth-watering photo by Frank C. Müller)...
Not being able to eat shrimp makes me weep (mouth-watering photo by Frank C. Müller)…

I’m also deeply saddened to know that if I wish to follow this program as a card-carrying hepatoniac, I must furthermore now eschew other favorites such as saltwater fish, grapes (that includes the more dry and the more wet variants of grapes, as well: that’s raisins and wine, respectively), cherries, most “tropical fruits” (pineapple, kiwis, papaya), leafy greens (you get to have my kale, apparently), bananas, plums, and the entire berry family.  On the other hand, in addition to beef, I’m encouraged to consume all manner of wheat products (and wheat is one of the boogeymen most currently feared by Western dietary wisdom!), coffee, tea, sugar (!!), poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, freshwater fish, virtually every kind of nut there is, spinach (the only green leafy thing I can have), the squash family, tomatoes, rice, corn, oats, almost any oil, root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, radishes, yams…), ginger, garlic, most citrus fruits, apples, melons, mangos, pears (especially Asian pears), ginseng, onions, cinnamon, curry, wasabi, and honey.  I’m also supposed to sweat a lot, so my practice of hitting the gym 3-5 times per week to toss around weights and then climb onto a cardio machine for an hour is already literally what the doctor is ordering for my body type, and doesn’t need to be altered.

So there you have it: a whole new food regimen, recommended from an entirely different viewpoint.  And I know that it was a struggle to get my cholesterol down even after largely cutting out shellfish, red meat, eggs, and cheese…and my acupuncturist doctor was saying that this was so because I was cutting out all of those things rather blindly, without taking into account what my individual body is built to handle.  He’s saying that if I continue to forgo the shellfish, but I seek out beef, and help myself to eggs and cheese as I desire, my cholesterol numbers will still decline back into the favorable range.  And to be honest, I’m intrigued enough by all of this to want to put it to the test, at least for a few months.  I recently focused on cutting way down on wheat and gluten, and I didn’t really notice much in the way of health improvements, even though the rest of the world seems to advise cutting back on these items, and reports great leaps forward in happiness and healthiness after doing so.  It could be that — as my new doctor is suggesting — my body will actually thrive on wheat (among other things).  Yours may well not so thrive, but then this is all just another example of that kind of diversity that makes the world go ’round.

And so with all this in mind, I embark on a hepatoniac’s journey — think of it as like a hero’s journey, but more food-based, with lots of red meat and wheat, and a tragic absence of shellfish and berries.  Reports to follow, along with a great willingness to discuss any and all of this with any and all of you who may be interested!  Now please go and have a giant bowl of shrimp cocktail for me, because I’m not allowed…


    • I surely will — I’m headed out later today to stock up on groceries for the practicing hepatoniac, including beef, beef, and more beef. This follows on the heels of my inaugural hepatoniac’s dinner of last night: steak and blue cheese fries! Progress reports to follow…

  1. Steve, how did your cholesterol fare after your new diet? I’m a fellow hepatonia with high cholesterol. I have been on my new diet for about a week and am very curious to see how it has worked for others.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Hi, Michael — I have to confess that I’m actually overdue to get in and have it checked. Been doing a bit of traveling this season, so I’ve let the doctor trip sit on the back-burner. Soon, though! Very soon…

  2. Hi Steve. I found your blog post after being “diagnosed” with hepatonia last week at my first acupuncture appointment. The list of recommended foods is pretty different from what I normally eat — what I thought was a healthy diet free of processed foods, with lots of produce and not much meat. Oh, and wine, goodbye wine. The acu-doc has recommended several months of treatment to restore my body to balance and hopefully put my rheumatoid arthritis in remission. I wonder if you stuck with the hepatonia-friendly diet over the past year, and how you’re feeling now? Thanks for any update! ~Kelly

    • Hi, Kelly — thanks for writing in! I’ve largely stuck with the hepatonia diet, although I deviate occasionally, as some of my favorite foods are on the no-fly list in general, but my acupuncture doctor deemed most of them okay if I only indulge moderately once or twice a month. You’re right about the no wine rule, though, and I do find that now that I’m aware enough to monitor this, my body doesn’t seem to like grapes, or grape-related items (wine, raisins) as much as my taste-buds do. My beloved shellfish don’t seem to mess with me when I eat them, but pineapple does (which makes me very sad…). It’s odd to be told to eat things like red meat and wheat products, but to steer clear of leafy green vegetables, but mostly I feel good. I also now have an appointment to have my cholesterol checked again this coming week, and since several people have written in to inquire, I may just post the results here…so please stay tuned for that! And good luck with your own adventures into hepatonia!

  3. Hi I’ve just been diagnosed in the hepatonia category, but I haven’t started the diet yet. Leafy greens & berries are a staple for me – & chocolate – & I rarely eat meat. So, I’m not overally thrilled, but I think it will give it a try. I was just wondering when you had your blood work done if it showed any improvement or was it the same? Thanks!

    • Hi, Rachel — thanks for the interest. I’ve been lax on posting my blood test results here, but I did go in a few weeks ago, and the results came back showing some positive change. To be honest, I didn’t experience all that much in the way of significant movement in either direction in most of the categories, but I managed a fairly whopping improvement with respect to my triglycerides (down 85 points!). Not sure if it was mainly due to the hepatonia diet or to finally being tough about cutting shrimp out almost entirely from my food intake, but I did have some success overall this time around. Good luck to you on your own journey into hepatonia!

  4. Hi Steve,
    Are you still following the hepatonia diet? Also, do you mind providing us with another update and if you have actually ‘seen’ or felt any changes with your new diet? I am a strong believer of Eastern Medicine and I was recently told I was a pancreotonia. I was a little shocked as to what I was told were beneficial foods to me b/c honestly, I was eating all the opposite things. Therefore, I haven’t met anyone who has actually gone through the process and seen results, which is why I was inquiring. Secondly, was the acupuncturist you visited in Los Angeles (Koreatown). I felt from your description, we had gone to the same doctor. Thanks!

    • Hi, Ji–

      Sorry to take so long to respond to your question — I was away from home for a few days…

      I’ve actually drifted from the hepatonia diet at this point. I do believe that it helped in terms of my cholesterol readings coming down a bit, but all the red meat was kind of disagreeing with my system. I was told to eat a ton of beef, but while that did seem to help with my energy levels, it was making me feel really bloated and uncomfortable all the time. That’s no way to live! I did find, though, that cutting out some of the foods I was told to cut out (for example: grapes!) did help with decreasing similar symptoms. Overall, I’d say that eliminating what I was told to eliminate via the hepatonia diet does help me…but eating what I was told to eat doesn’t always end up having the same positive results!

      I do know a couple of people who were diagnosed as having the pancreatonia body organ type, and following the diet *does* help them…and deviating from it seems to have fairly negative consequences! But maybe you can just give it a try for a couple of weeks and see how it treats you? We’re all different, so you may end up loving it…

      And yes, the acupuncturist I saw was in LA Koreatown!

      Good luck with the adventure… 🙂

      • Hi Steve – not a problem! Thank you so much for responding. I agree…While it’s important to know your body type and eat accordingly, if something doesn’t feel right, people know their own bodies best. As for me, although I am pancreatonia and was told I can eat cucumbers, I actually have a sensitivity to them. Therefore, I realize that the foods listed are a general guideline per body type, but if there are further foods to avoid that you are aware of, you should listen to your own body.

        Thank you again!! It’s only been a week for me, but as I continue, I hope to see some body changes. 🙂

      • You’ll definitely discover ways in which you’ll do best if you tailor the diet to your own unique make-up. Like I said, my body seemed to like cutting out the things I was told to cut out as a hepatonia person…but not everything I was advised to include worked out well for me. A bit of trial and error within the given guidelines should help you to figure out if the pancreatonia diet is really for you. I hope you have good luck with it!

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