Dr. Yuka Seki is coming under the spotlight recently as a Cooking specialist with her healthy recipe development, along with her practice in preventive medicine as a doctor.
She is pursuing research especially about the relationship between fermented food and intestinal environment.
We had an opportunity to interview her and ask her about her preventive medicine.
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Preventing sickness starts from improving intestinal environment
Dr. Seki comes from a family of doctors and she naturally decided to become a doctor herself. What made her decide to pursue the subject of preventive medicine?
“From the very start, I was more interested in the cause of sickness rather than its treatment.
Also I was curious about how food consumed into the body is metabolized and is used to form your body.
At the same time, my interest was in the prevention of sickness. How people can prevent themselves from becoming sick.
I came to think that lifestyle-related disease can be prevented by oneself, and after graduating from Medical school, I started working for the Department of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism, at a University Hospital.
However, I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I said to myself, what I want is not a treatment but the prevention of sickness through a healthy diet.
Someone once told me ‘this ideology isn’t the work done by doctors’.
Admittedly, it is true that doctors are professionals in treating sicknesses, but not professionals in staying healthy.
Medical research at the University is about the latest treatment methodology and the development of medicines, and I learned regrettably that it was not what I wanted to do.
Later I changed my work to perform a physical exam as well as providing nutritional guidance at a dialectologist clinic, and now I provide nutritional guidance at a private practice.
During my work experience in the dietary counseling, I noticed that people whose intestinal environment became unstable and also have poor digestion tend to fall ill.
Therefore, I am now researching how to improve the intestinal environment and also using a treatment to improve this.
I’ve enrolled in a doctorial course in Public health at the Okayama University and am studying the relationship between fermented food and the intestinal environment.”
I became conscious of Miso while studying in New York
We’ve learned that you studied cooking in New York. But why did you go abroad?
“There was a special school which teaches both cooking skills and nutrition science in New York.
I couldn’t find such a school in Japan and that was the reason I went to New York.
I love cooking so much anyway and I even thought once about becoming a chef and quitting Medical school. ”
Dr. Seki studied at the school for 6 months and after being awarded a diploma, she worked at various restaurants as an intern in New York.
Dr. Seki has obtained the title “Miso sommelier”. How did Miso come into your focus?
“It’s because Miso and fermented food is good for improving the intestinal environment.
But what started it for me was that when I was staying in New York, I tried to make miso on my own and it was very successful.
It was easy and actually much tastier than a commercially available miso.
When I returned to Japan, I carried on making my own Miso using chick peas or other beans, and became more interested in Miso and therefore I studied for the Miso sommelier.
There are various types of fermented food, and Miso is one of the superfoods as it is lower in carbohydrate compared to Amazake (a sweet drink made from fermented rice), is rich in minerals as well as high in anti-oxidants.
I hope Miso will become widely available to eat outside of Japan as well.
When I was going to school in New York, I cooked miso soup for my classmates and they loved the taste and really enjoyed it.
What I made was not Japanese traditional Miso soup but Miso soup with beet and other locally available vegetables. It went down really well with my American friends.
I thought there should be a wider variety of ways to eat Miso and because of this, I hope to engage and inform about unusual varieties of ‘Miso Soup’ to the whole world.”
What is common between an ancestor’s 4000 years of wisdom and modern medicine?
The official profile of Dr. Seki says “She was touched with the ideology of Ayurveda while studying at the cooking school in New York,
and upon returning to Japan she completed the fundamental course at the Traditional Ayurveda school in Japan.
She also visited the Ayurveda Clunic in South India to learn the actual practice in its birthplace.”
What attracted her so much about Ayuruveda so that she would travel all the way to India?
“When I received a lecture about Ayuruveda cooking at the school in N.Y., I became very interested in Ayuruveda including its usage of spices as I love to use spices in my cooking.
As I pursued the study, I saw the light.
In Ayuruveda, a drop in digestive strength is considered as the cause of sickness.
When you fail to digest food, the food becomes toxic and that accumulated food can cause sickness in your body. I was satisfied with this understanding.
Allergies, especially a gluten allergy is under the spotlight. It is an allergy that some people cannot digest gluten and instead causes inflammation.
It is exactly the same thought that is provided by Ayuruveda.
There are a lot of people with allergies and immunity system problems that are deeply related to their food intake and many of the people with these problems are having disorders within their digestive organs.
It is great to learn that Ayuruveda was aware of this 4000 years ago. ”
These pieces of interesting information such as Dr. Seki’s continuing interest in food since her student time, her research as a medical doctor, and the philosophy of Ayuruveda are consistent.
“In any case, modern life has a lot of factors which cause you to lose digestive strength.
Eating fast, eating whilst actively doing something, eating processed food, having an unbalanced diet, stress etc can all be factors.
When you lose digestive strength, your body cannot absorb the right nutrition and will cause deficiencies in your body, which can consequently lack energy, and therefore your body is tired and your immunity decreases.
I believe we need to treat this not only with western medicines but also with dietary counseling.”
Let’s enjoy cooking and be healthy!
For the question “what do you want to do most?”, she answered “to support women”.
“When more women are healthier and lively, men and children are happier.
I want to share with more women the importance of cooking and its effect on health, even it if it only a bowl of miso soup in order to look after your body. ”
Dr. Seki is travelling to America again soon.
“Cooking is a tool to communicate without words. Anyone from across different countries can share delicious flavors.
In a way, cooking is a common language. I want to use this tool to communicate globally in support of people who want to live longer and healthier.”
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