The Shiatsu Society is the regulating body for Shiatsu in Ireland. To find a qualified and insured practitioner in your area simply visit www.ShiatsuSocietyIreland. Every quarter they choose a practitioner to feature on their website and this season it’s me ? so I thought I’d share the article with you ……….. it’s about the origins of food in my Shiatsu Practice – I hope you enjoy

Sitting in the kitchen of Lois Dana Retreat Centre, during our annual weeklong Shiatsu training residentials, I first tasted Miso and Kudzu soup. As my talented and generous teacher, Josephine Lynch, explained the energetic properties of this salty paste in Chinese Medicine, I felt my kidneys relax. My spine softened and the muscles across my chest eased. My whole nervous system was calmer than it had been for weeks. It was at that moment I understood that food was more than just fuel, it was medicine. Using the five element system of Shiatsu and Traditional Chinese Medicine (see graphic below) I began to deepen my knowledge of the energetics of food.

My previous culinary experiences had been during travels in my early twenties, preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for eight hundred people on an Israeli Kibbutz plus making egg and chips for British tourists at a beach bar in Greece. In these instances, food had been the function for the day ahead or to soothe the head from the night before. However now I was having a relationship with food. I knew it’s season, it’s colour, it’s flavour. I knew which body part, which emotion and sensory organ it affected. At this epiphanal moment, I experienced food in a whole new way. It made perfect sense to me that the Liver would need sour food to cut through fatty sluggish congestion that slowed energy flow and metabolism. I found it obvious that the immune system, housed in the large intestine, would be improved with pungent food such as ginger and garlic. When I thought of the colour orange I could taste sweet on my tongue, my saliva increased and therefore I knew that the Spleen was responsible for the regulation of blood sugars.

For me, the connections seem easy and with many hundreds of clients in my practice over the years, the solutions that the five element system offers works for them too. Memorably a client who wished to get pregnant I diagnosed as having suffered shock in early childhood and had become cold in the lower abdomen and Small Intestine. She also suffered anxiousness, insomnia and cold feet. This all pointed to the Heart & Small intestine lacking in Chi to move and warm the body and blood. I prescribed warming and red foods such as tomato and coconut soup, roasted peppers with fresh coriander, calming Chamomile, Valerian tea plus a bedtime practice that included self shiatsu points and breathing practices; within two months she was pregnant.

My postgraduate studies in Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Buddhism, Tantra and Taoism have deepened my experience, my courage, my understanding and my relationship with food. In 2013 I began teaching regular, drop in, Conscious Cooking Classes in Dublin City Centre. Over six years, a community developed and I taught a wide range of people, not trained in Chinese Medicine, to use the five element system for maintaining health, balance and wellness. In my books and blogs, I share recipes, insights, health practices and personal experiences that have helped transform pain and trauma for myself and my clients. Asking simple questions such as “How am I feeling?” and “What do I need?” as the first step into connection with the power we all have to affect our wellbeing. Food and the Five Elements can guide us to answers. We are energy made manifest and as such we are constantly changing. To maintain balance and understand the body’s ever-changing symptoms, cravings, feelings and emotions we can use the Five Element system and let food be our guide.

“The Five Elemental energies of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water encompass all the myriad phenomena of nature. It is a paradigm that applies equally to humans.” – The Yellow Emporer’s Classic of Internal Medicine 2BC


To use the Five Elements in everyday life, visit the free app at which asks

  • how you are feeling?
  • what you are craving?

and guides you to a recipe that suits you for the day

Joanne completed the three-year Shiatsu training in 2002 with distinction and became a Registered Practitioner (RPSSI) in 2009. She is currently the Chairperson member of The Shiatsu Society of Ireland (SSI) and holds clinics both in Dublin City Centre and Baldoyle, North Dublin. Her Shiatsu Practice specializes in Hara Shiatsu and Dietary recommendations according to the Five Elements in Chinese Medicine. She host Online Healing Cookery Courses and runs delicious, nutritious and healing Shiatsu retreats.