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What is Body Constitution?

Today I would like to discuss the eight body constitutions and their corresponding diet. In order to understand the relationship between them, we first need to know what "body constitution" is. When vitamins were first discovered, there was the common concept that vitamins are indispensable for maintaining health, that there is no such thing as ingesting too much vitamin content, and that no harm can be done to the body through vitamin intake, regardless of quantity. Moreover, the prevailing belief was "the more vitamins, the better." However, not long after the discovery of vitamins, many people came to have a vitamin-related disease called hypervitaminosis. At that time it was tentatively concluded that no matter how beneficial vitamins may be, excessive intake of vitamins can nevertheless cause undesirable side effects. However, I have reached a different conclusion: the side effects suffered by many are not caused by the excessive intake of vitamins but are primarily due to the incompatibility between certain vitamins and certain body types. In other words, what matters is not so much the quantity of vitamin intake but whether certain vitamins are agreeable with an individual's body type.

Numerous so-called wonder drugs, which garner much notice and interest, are quickly welcomed and accepted. Yet those "wonder drugs" prove not to be effective for everyone, because certain drugs may be effective only for certain body types, but not for all.

For example, when penicillin was first introduced, it was praised as a gift from God. Yet people came to realize later on that penicillin could potentially be as fatal as poison. Consequently, the use of penicillin has been limited. I believe that penicillin may be effective for a particular body type, but for another body type it may be like a deadly poison.

For instance, ginseng, which has been considered a miraculous medicine in Asia, is effective only for certain body constitutions; for other constitutions, ginseng may cause serious disorders, such as paralysis and diabetes mellitus. It follows, therefore, that each body constitution has its own self-governed remedy for various ailments.

Another example is an allergy. While one medicine may have favorable results in treating an allergy for a person with a certain body constitution, the same treatment, on other occasions, may contain an ingredient or element that ironically causes allergic reactions in a person of another body constitution.

Another case concerns atopic dermatitis. Not every person is prone to suffer from atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is a particular disease that occurs only in persons with a certain constitution? those who should abstain from meat as much as possible if they are exposed to a constant diet of meat.

A while ago, a man who had atopic dermatitis was cured from it after he joined a certain religious organization. He thought that his recovery from this disease was through his religious faith and God's mercy on him; actually, the religious organization prohibited a meat diet, and he refrained from eating meat in order to adhere to his religious duty. Consequently, he was healed from atopic dermatitis, the primary cause of which is a diet with meat.

We often witness that a particular food, though it is nutritionally beneficial for certain individuals, can cause problems, such as food poisoning, for others. Some may suffer from vibrio vulnificus after eating shellfish at a beach in the summer. There are numerous similar examples, which I do not have the time to enumerate one by one. If we simply assume that all human beings have the same body type, the same constitution, the reason behind all these medical inconsistencies will elude us. Therefore, I believe that if we acknowledge that these unsolved problems are explained by the distinction between different body constitutions, we will be in a better position to deal with these problems.

In addition to the above, because this matter of body constitution is so crucial, we may say that medicine itself finds its beginning in the very theory of constitution. Regrettably, this theory of body constitution has not become a field of study in traditional medicine. As you may well know, Hippocrates, who can be called the father of western medicine, spoke of what he called Four Humors. This is nothing other than a theory based upon individual body constitutions, yet its trace can no longer be found in contemporary medical theories. Though persons in physiological, neurological, and pathological fields have conducted various research endeavors on body constitution, their subsequent findings have never been accepted by mainstream medicine.

Aside from those in the medical realm, people in general have failed to identify factors that differentiate various body constitutions and thus have no way to discern between different constitutions. Therefore, people began to entertain doubts that differences in body constitution actually exist; thus, the theory of body constitution has never garnered the attention of the medical community.

The Basis of the Eight Constitutions Theory

In this part of my lecture, I would like to talk about the basis of the Eight Constitutions Theory. What are the factors that make up the basis for this theory?

We often see people who are large in stature, are healthy, and have rather narrow shoulders. These kinds of individuals are thick-waisted, but their bodies taper from the waist to the shoulders. According to disposition, individuals of this type are taciturn and reticent?they want to keep conversations short. They usually say that talking makes them tired. Compared to others, they are shorter of breath and tend to pant when going up even a gentle slope. They may want to sing well, but they cannot do so, because they are short of breath. Does it not seem that they have a different lung capacity than others'? Actually, they do. Individuals with these conditions are of the type hepatonia. Among all eight constitutions, the hepatonia constitution is characterized by the weakest lung capacity. In fact, X-rays taken of hepatonia individuals even indicate that their lungs are uncommonly small; their air capacity is thus very limited.

Along with these individuals, we also see those who are considered gluttons or epicures. Their body type is called pancreotonia, which is characterized by having a pancreas that is comparatively larger than the other organs.

In contrast, some individuals are small eaters. Their lack of eating causes people to wonder how these small eaters can live on the small amount of food they take in. These individuals have a body constitution called vesicotonia, which is characterized by a small stomach.

To conclude this section, it follows that the underlying principle that distinguishes the different constitutions concerns the relative strength and weakness of particular organs. Beginning from the time of conception, human organs develop and are eventually characterized by a degree of strength or weakness. This is the basis upon which the distinctions between different body constitutions are established. Therefore, in my research I came to the conclusion that human beings can be categorized into eight body constitutions according to the degree of strength and weakness of their organs.

The human body consists of ten internal organs altogether: five solid organs and five hollow organs. And we can arrange these organs in order of strength, from the strongest to the weakest. In the same manner, these organs can also be arranged in order of weakness, from the weakest to the strongest. When we arrange the organs according to this order, the results are eight distinct groupings.

We considered these eight groupings as characteristics of eight body types, or body constitutions, and named these constitutions pulmotonia, colonotonia, pancreotonia, renotonia, hepatonia, cholecystonia, gastrotonia, and vesicotonia.

Here I may add that I use the terms constitution, disposition and human frame to refer to each of these distinct groupings among people. Why do I use the word constitution to refer to the physiological differences that characterize people, when there has been no preceding research conducted on the concept that people can be categorized according to variations in the relative composition of their internal organs? Though it may seem illogical, I was considering the possibility that the word constitution originated from these eight constitutions among people.

Appropriate Hereditary Imbalance and Acquired Over-imbalance

Although some organs are stronger and others are weaker as they function together in a state of imbalance, this does not imply that the organs by themselves are abnormally structured or unhealthy. Rather, this state of imbalance is hereditary and is an imbalance of organ function that does not affect the body overall in a negative way. Different degrees and varieties of hereditary imbalance among people result in roughly eight general combinations of instinct, talent, interest, philosophy and creativity. These combinations are responsible for the individual traits that differ from person to person. Consequently, the world is full of interesting diversity. In other words, the appropriate hereditary imbalance, which one is born with, is not a cause of health problems; furthermore, it is closely related to individuality among human beings. The varieties that contribute to this individuality can be roughly divided into eight general categories.

This prompts us to ask what the way to discern these different body types is. God the Creator has wonderfully installed the key to finding out our body constitution on the blood vessels of our wrists. In Asian medicine, diseases were diagnosed by taking a type of pulse that can be called a disease pulse. However, the disease pulse changes constantly to correspond to the patient's current condition. This disease pulse may change between morning to evening and from the previous year to this year. This pulse also varies depending on the patient's age. In contrast, the pulse that we use for discerning body types can never change throughout an individual's lifetime; this pulse always remains the same. We can discern the different body constitutions by taking this pulse. The way to take this pulse is quite different from the traditional way, but this method can be easily learned through practice.

I have found that there are only eight different readings for this pulse. I have spent a considerable amount of time to find a ninth reading, but I have been unsuccessful. In other words, according to my extensive research, only eight constitutions exist. This is the brief history of how the Eight Constitutions Medicine was established.

The physiology corresponding to each of the eight constitutions is based on their respective appropriate hereditary imbalances. The physiologies of the eight constitutions can be categorized according to a variety of criteria, such as the amount of blood an individual has, how much he perspires, and which parts of his body have higher body temperatures. All these differences in physiology are caused by the variations in appropriate hereditary imbalances among the internal organs.

The next thing we address is the pathology of the Eight Constitutions Medicine. In practicing this "constitutional medicine," it is our belief that a disorder may develop if a person has a certain lifestyle involving his diet, level of exercise, and type of job?that is not compatible with his body constitution. Such a lifestyle can divert the state of the body from appropriate imbalance to excessive imbalance. To explain, every organ has the tendency in which strong organs are inclined to become stronger and weak organs, weaker. An inappropriate lifestyle is a lifestyle that constantly provides the body with factors that cause strong organs to be overactive in function and weak organs to be suppressed in function. For any body constitution, this inappropriate lifestyle results in an acquired over-imbalance, which leads to various diseases.

Constitutional Treatment and Diet

What then is the proper treatment method? In a word, "constitutional" treatment seeks to restore the body from a state of excessive physiological imbalance back to its state of appropriate imbalance. A newly developed theory of acupuncture can make this restoration possible. I invented this theory myself, and I am quite impressed with it, if I may say so myself. I can confidently say that further development of this acupunctural treatment theory will lead to effective treatment for many presently incurable diseases.

Finally, I would like to discuss the matter of nutrition. The biggest factor that causes excessive imbalance among internal organs is diet. Eating certain foods may strengthen organs that are already strong or further weaken already weak organs, thus causing excessive imbalance. I have drawn up lists of food items that contribute to a beneficial diet or a harmful diet for each of the eight constitutions. The thesis which contains these lists was published in the 7th volume of 1974 Myoungji University journal.

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