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Doctors Discover Nutrition: Nancy Santini, MD, Internal Medicine, Puerto Rico

Doctors Discover Nutrition:     Nancy Santini, MD, Internal Medicine, Puerto Rico

My reason for coming to the Kushi Institute was to find the right foods (healing foods) to help my mother with breast cancer and to help my patients. I wanted to research and investigate if foods caused cancer or illness. But mostly, I wanted to research if foods can affect your health and the possibilities of reserving cancer, since my mother passed away.

My educational background did not include nutrition or  a clear association between food and illness.

By doing my own research on nutrition relating to illness I found the Kushi Institute on the Internet. I decided to come here to get the knowledge for all my patients. I came here in September 2013 for the first week of the Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1, Module A.  I wanted to get the education to help my patients so I could combine Allopathic Medicine with the needed medical treatment and healthy lifestyle practice. In medical school, they always taught us that we should live healthy, but how we do this is the BIG question. The Kushi Institute has a great mission in teaching everyone how to cook for healthy eating, but they also teach you how to do the basics: low impact exercise to relax yourself, to disconnect yourself from one’s own stress, how to visualize yourself in an environment that is in harmony with your inner spirit, etc. From the very first day I learned this. In general, they teach you how to live in harmony and in balance within yourself and with your environment on a daily basis.

I’m back for my second and third week of the Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1 Module B & C, for a deeper understanding and learning of the macrobiotic philosophy and lifestyle. Also I am getting more cooking experience. The more I learn and know, the more fascinated I get and it motivates me to come back and keep learning. Now I am understanding how my body works; how my body feels bad with some foods and feels good with other foods. Before macro, I would eat hamburgers with cheese, French fries, and sodas. Now I understand why I felt constipated, bloated, sleepy, and weak. Now that I am practicing the macrobiotic lifestyle, I feel more energetic, I have regular bowel movements, clear thinking, and I feel great in general.

The Kushi Institute has become a vacation and retreat for me to get away from my busy practice, a time for self-reflection and to think about my patient’s diseases. I have been taught visual diagnosis; I am learning that just by looking at the face and body of a person, I can get the diagnosis even without asking them a question. These diagnosis courses will help me to do additional diagnosis with my patients when I go home to my practice. Now I know that just by looking at the lower lid of the eye, I can tell how the large intestines and kidneys are doing. I can tell if they are constipated or not. Also I can look at their lower lip and can diagnose constipation.  I have taken shiatsu, yoga, meditation, visualization, diagnosis, macrobiotic cooking classes, learned Traditional Chinese Medicine – the principles of Yin and Yang, remedies and compresses. I have had excellent cooking teachers that are accessible and open to answering my questions. They are very knowledgeable. But most importantly to me, they are examples of health in mind, body, and spirit.

The campus is beautiful, surrounded by 600 acres of nature. You can feel the energy coming from nature and you are surrounded by people that have a passion to learn more about nutrition and lifestyle changes in a peaceful environment.

To other doctors out there, when I feel exhausted, I know I need to go to the Kushi Institute to rejuvenate and get my own energy back.  I was suffering from vertigo back in Puerto Rico before I came here.  Not only am I recovering from my own physical symptoms, I am simultaneously learning about alternative treatments for my patients, it’s a win-win situation. Kushi Institute has a Way To Health program and other programs that can help your patients regain their health. Of course, you don’t have to be a physician to come here. In fact, I am the only doctor from Puerto Rico to come here, but now I know I can send my family and patients here too! I will be not only treating patients but also potentially rescuing them from illness and death.

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“Spring Cleansing” Liver Tea

 Liver Drink MugIngredients and Prep:

1 part raw buckwheat grain

1 part fresh daikon radish (diced into fine pieces)

1 part fresh daikon radish greens tops (cut thinly)

2 parts bean sprouts, mung bean or alfalfa (cut finely into small pieces)

2 parts scallion (cut finely into small pieces)

1 part dried shiitake mushrom (soaked 10 minutes in a little water, chop finely, add soaking water to mixture)

5 parts water

A ‘part’ can be any amount as long as it is kept in appropriate proportion.  Ex: if 1 part is 1/8 cup then 2 part would be 1/4 cup.

For correct amount of water, if your total parts of ingredients equals 2 cups then 5 times that amount would be 10 cups of water.

 Liver Drink Ingredients

 

Directions:

Pre-cook the buckwheat grain for 15 minutes in 5 times the total amount of water.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium.

Add the vegetables to the grain and simmer for 15 minutes longer.

Drink Tea while still hot.

 Recommended Usage:

Drink 1 cup every day for 7 days in a row.

This will help to detoxify those heavy winter foods that we accumulated for the cold weather.  It will also help release stagnate energy making us feel lighter.  A lighter liver is a happy liver.

 

(Photo credit: Sachi Kato)

 

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Tofu Cheese Cake (Gluten-free)

Tofu Cheese Cake With Carob Ganache  

Tofu Cheese Cake

 Crust: (From Scratch)

Ingredients:
4 Cups Rolled Oats
½ Cup Nuts Or Seeds Of Choice (Example: Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Sunflower Seeds)
¼ Tablespoon Cinnamon Powder
½ Cup Sunflower Oil
½ Cup Maple Syrup

Directions:
Preheat Oven To 350 Degrees. Combine Dry Ingredients In Mixing Bowl. Transfer To Well Oiled Baking Sheet. Bake For ½ Hour Stirring At 15 Minute Interval. Remove From Oven And Allow To Cool For 15 Minutes Or So. Add Dry Ingredients To Food Processor And Drizzle Wet Ingredients In As You Coarsely Pulse. Loosely Press The Crust Into The Base Of A 9 Inch Spring form Cake Pan.

 Tofu Cheesecake Filling

Ingredients:
2 Pounds Firm Or Extra Firm Silk Tofu
1 Cup Brown Rice Syrup
2 Cups Maple Syrup
3 Tablespoons Tahini
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
½ Tablespoon Almond Extract
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Arrowroot
2 Tablespoons Agar Agar (Flakes)
1/2  Cup Milk Of Choice (Example: Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk)

Directions:
Continue To Preheat Oven To 350 Degrees.  Add Tofu, Tahini, Arrowroot, Agar Agar, and Sea Salt To Food Processor. Pulse a Few Times. Add Remaining Wet Ingredients And Continue to Blend Until Smooth And Creamy. Adjust Sweetness and Thickness – The Mixture Should Be On The Verge Of Too Thick To Pour. Spoon – Pour Mixture Over The Crust Being Careful Not To Disturb The Crust. Bake For 45 – 50 Minutes

Allow to Cool And Set Before Topping With Carob Ganache or Your Choice Of Topping.

Carob Ganache

Ingredients:
1 Bag Grain Sweetened Dairy-free Carob
¼ Cup Grain Coffee
½ Cup Carob Powder
1 Cup
Milk Of Choice (Example: Soy Milk, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp Milk, Coconut Milk, Oat Milk)|
½ Cup Brown Rice Syrup Or Maple Syrup Or Half Of Each
1 Teaspoon Orange Extract (Optional)

Directions:
Heat Milk In Large Sauce Pan Until Ready To Boil. Turn Down To Low Simmer. Wisk The Grain Coffee And Carob Powder In Until Fully Dissolved.  Add Additional Carob Powder To Achieve a Thick But Stir Able Consistency.  Add The Sweetener Mixing Until Blended. Turn Off Heat Completely.  Add The Carob Chips And Wisk Until Smooth.  Add Orange Extract If Desired.  Allow To Cool Until Luke Warm.  Spoon a ¼ To ½ Inch Layer Of Ganache Over Cooled Cheesecake.  Leave Cake In Pan And Refrigerate.  Allow Entire Cake To Set Completely – About 2 Hours Minimum.

 When Cake Is Fully Cooled, Place On Serving Platter, Remove Outer Ring Of Cake Pan, Serve, And Enjoy!

 Recipe and Photo By, Kushi Level Graduate, Gayle Stolove
www.whollymacrobiotics.com

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Front Office Volunteer

Applicants who can volunteer for a year will be preferred (three CRV sessions), after which, the volunteer will receive Levels 1 through 3 as a benefit.

Job Description:

Front Office Receptionist

·        Filing

·        Greeting and assisting patrons

·        Creating folders/files/name tags

·        Filing

·        Billing

·        Typing

·        Entering data into database

Hours:

·        40 hours per week, generally 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (with one hour lunch break),

·        Weekend hours are required.

Benefits:

·        Eligibility to attend Macrobiotic Leadership Program Levels 1, 2 & 3 upon completion of 3 CRV sessions.

·        May attend most Kushi Institute classes when not on duty

·        Room and all meals included

Requirements:

·        Reliable

·        Punctual

·        Ability to work well with others and follow management direction

·        Pleasant personality

·        Good organizational skills

·        Basic computer skills – knowledge of Microsoft Word and Excel helpful

·        Detail oriented and high level of accuracy

·        Multi-tasking abilities

·        Sense of humor a plus

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Pear Tart with PumpkinSeed Crust Dessert

Pear Tart with PumpkinSeed Crust Desserts
Equipment: You will want to use a tart (also known as a flan) pan. Typically, circular, and only 1-2" high, these pans with their unconnected bottoms and sides allow for easier cutting into individual pieces and give the outside edge a finished, fluted appearance. Unlike regular pie plates, these sides of these pans are set at a right angle, rather than flare outward.
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 lb (8 oz) organic and unsulfured dried apricots -- we used the Turkish type, but the particular type is not critical to the dish; in fact if you can't find dried apricots you could substitute unsweetened apricot jam
  2. organic, unsweetened apple juice -- quality makes a difference. You will need 1 quart (4 cups) per 10"-12"pie
  3. fresh pears -- 5 will do nicely per pie, we used red Anjou for color and firmness but others will work
  4. pumpkin seeds -- 3/4 cup when soaked and roasted will grind to a little over 1 cup
  5. agar-agar -- we used flakes, 2 tsp per 1 cup liquid (you will need 6 tsp for this tart, which is approximately 3 oz)
  6. salt, pinch - no more
  7. amasake sauce or topping such as a "cream" made from tofu, almonds or cashews (optional)
The day before you make the dish
  1. 1. Soak the pumpkin seeds for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight) and then dry roast them. You could actually do this up to a month ahead of time. Some cooks will pan-roast the seeds, which takes limited time with attention (stirring or shaking the seeds) to prevent the seeds from burning at the bottom of pot; others spread the soaked seeds out one layer thick on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and oven roast at low heat. The lower the heat (170 F), the longer it takes (up to 5 hours), so this involves time but not much attention; some cooks like the taste and texture better at lower heat but it is fine to raise the heat and check the roasting frequently. In either case, roast until the seeds become slightly golden. Note: You can change the seeds, and use nuts, such as a combination of ground pecans and walnuts (soak and roast beforehand) for a stronger gustatory response.
The day you make the dish -- several hours before actual preparation
  1. 1. Soak apricots in hot apple juice to cover. It will take a few of hours for the apricots to plump up and get soft.
Actual preparation
  1. 1. Strain the apricots and reserve the apple-apricot liquid they soaked in.
  2. 2. Quickly heat the apricots in a saucepan on medium until mushy, stirring to not burn the apricots. This should take no more that 3-4 minutes.
  3. 3. Puree the softened apricots (without any liquid) using a food processor or blender to the consistency of jam. This should yield approximately 1/3 cup. It is unimportant if it is an exact 1/3 cup; it serves as the binder in the seed crust, and typically you will have more than you need.
  4. 4. Grind the roasted pumpkin seeds in a food processor to a fine texture, place in a mixing bowl, and stir
  5. in the apricot puree. Note: You want to avoid a sticky mass, but one that remains pliable. It is important to stir the puree into the ground seeds or nuts by hand in order to keep check of the right consistency. Not too crumby, and definitely not wet.
  6. 5. Press the mixture by hand into the bottom and sides of a flan tin. You can use a toothpick to gauge the thickness so that it stays even. It can be very, very thin or it can be moderately thick if your preference is a thickener crust. Note: it is more typical that the mixture is too wet than dry, which is why it is important to mix the puree into the ground seeds or nuts by hand rather than in a food processor.
  7. 6. Slice fresh red Anjou pears in half (keeping the skin on), pit and core them. Next, slice each half lengthways into quarters, and trim to make them equally sized and shaped.
  8. 7. Bring 2 cups of apple juice to a boil and quickly blanch (30 seconds to a minute, no more) the pear slices. Reserve the juice which will now be a deep maroon hue.
  9. 8. Arrange the pear slices close together on top of the pumpkin seed crust (see picture below) in a circular manner, with the skin side showing. You can easily lay this out by initially placing quarts in the four direction on the crust, and then filling the remaining spaces.
  10. 9. Mix agar-agar in 1/2 of cold water, stirring well. Combine the pear/apple juice, and the apricot/apple juice the apricots were soaked in, and the remaining unused cold apple juice. This should make approximately 3 1/2 cups. Add the dissolved agar-agar liquid to the apple juice mixture. You should now have approximately 4 cups.
  11. 10. Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring, then lower heat and simmer for only a few minutes to allow the agar-agar to thicken. Add a pinch of salt as you turn off the heat.
  12. 11. Pour the agar-agar/apple juice mixture into the flan tin, gently so not to disturb the resting pear slices. Let sit at least two hours before slicing, although the pie keeps very nicely for several days. Note: using a tart pan allows you to remove the outside ring from the bottom after the mixture has been set and before slicing. If you have leftover liquid, pour that into small dessert dishes for an apple kanten just a hint of pear and apricot.
  13. 12. You can plate a slice with amasake, tofu, or cashew cream underneath, or serve as is.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Light Lemon Pudding Desserts

Blueberry Tart with Cashew Cream
Serves 6
Bettina Zumdick, Kushi Institute teacher and counselor, has been involved in Macrobiotics for over twenty-five years. A native of the Baltic Sea area in Germany, she studied food science at the University of Muenster. Bettina has taught Macrobiotics and other mind-body-spirit related topics such as meditation, Tao Yin Yoga and chanting throughout Europe and the United States. Enjoy this refreshing dessert courtesy of Bettina. Learn more about Bettina at http://www.bettinazumdick.com/.
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Crust
  1. 1 ¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  2. 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  3. ¼ cup sunflower seed oil
  4. ½ cup maple syrup
  5. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  6. ½ teaspoon almond extract
  7. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Filling
  1. 2 cups organic apple juice
  2. pinch of salt
  3. 1 tablespoon agar flakes
  4. 1 tablespoon kuzu, diluted in 2 tablespoons of water
  5. ¼ cup rice syrup or maple syrup
  6. ½ pint fresh blueberries (or other seasonal berries like strawberries, raspberries or pitted cherries)
  7. fresh mint leaves for garnish
For the Crust
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
  2. Lightly oil a tart pan or line with parchment paper.
  3. In separate bowls, mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients. Next, gently whisk the wet ingredients into the dry mixture until the dough forms a ball. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Transfer the dough into the tart pan, cutting off excess dough around the edges. Bake for 5 to 12 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
For the Filling
  1. Place apple juice, salt, agar flakes and rice syrup in a saucepan. Turn on heat and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally and boil until agar flakes are dissolved. Add diluted kuzu, stirring constantly to prevent lumping. Simmer until thickened. Stir in blueberries. Remove from heat and pour over pre-baked crust. Refrigerate to set filling. Garnish with mint leaves.
Find more dessert recipes in Bettina's book
  1. 10 Delicious Desserts for All Occasions
Adapted from 10 Delicious Desserts for All Occasions
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Squash Pudding Desserts

Squash Pudding Desserts
Equipment Saucepan Food mill Heavy-duty stainless steel knife for cutting the squash
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Ingredients
  1. Click on the highlighted links to get information on the item or order from KushiStore.com
  2. 1medium-sized butternut
  3. squash (large enough to make 4 cups, pealed)
  4. 3tablespoons kanten
  5. flakes (agar-agar)
  6. 1tablespoon barley
  7. malt
  8. 1tablespoon tahini
  9. 1tablespoon arrowroot flour
  10. pinch sea
  11. salt
Notes
  1. Wash, peel and de-stem the squash, and cut it in half, top to bottom. Scrape out the seeds and cut the squash into one-inch cubes.
  2. Place the cubed squash in a saucepan with about three inches of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over a medium flame for 30 minutes, or until the squash is very soft.
  3. Puree squash in a hand food mill or food processor.
  4. Place four cups of the squash puree in a saucepan with the agar-agar flakes, barley malt, tahini and sea salt. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes over a low flame, stirring occasionally.
  5. Mix the arrowroot powder in a little water and stir this into the pudding. Simmer 5 more minutes.
  6. Scoop into dessert bowls and let cool.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Glazed Pears with Raspberry Coulis Dessert

Glazed Pears with Raspberry Coulis Desserts
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Ingredients
  1. 8 seckel pears OR 4 small Bosc pears
  2. juice of 1/2 lemon
  3. 1/2 cup apple juice
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 1 tsp kuzu, mixed with 2 tsp water
Raspberry coulis
  1. one 6-oz package fresh raspberries
  2. 2 TBS brown rice syrup
  3. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. 1. To make the glazed pears: Prepare the pears by peeling the skin from the bottom, leaving the top part unpeeled and the stem intact. Scoop out the seeds and the membrane from the bottom using a peeler with a sharp tip. Dip the pears into lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
  2. 2. Put apple juice and a pinch of salt into a pot that is just large enough to hold the pears. Place the pears upright so they fit snugly in the pot.
  3. 3. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (less for seckel pears) or until the pears are tender when pierced. Let the pears cool in the juice.
  4. 4. Remove the poached pears carefully from the pot. Thicken the remaining apple juice with kuzu mixed with water. Coat the pears with the glaze. Chill until ready to serve.
  5. 5. To make the raspberry coulis: Place everything in a pot and cook on a medium flame until the raspberries start to release their liquid.
  6. 6. Purée the mixture in a blender until smooth. Remove the raspberry seeds using a strainer.
  7. 7. Plate the poached pears with raspberry coulis and decorate with mint leaves and lemon zest.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Cucumber and Wakame Salad (Sea Vegetables)

Cucumber and Wakame Salad (Sea Vegetables)
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Ingredients
  1. • 2 cups cucumber sliced thin
  2. • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  3. • 3-inch piece wakame, reconstituted and thickly sliced.
  4. • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  5. • shoyu
Instructions
  1. • Place cucumber slices and salt in a pickle press, mix thoroughly and press for two hours. Rinse and add wakame. Add rice vinegar and several drops shoyu. Mix well and serve. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Stir-fried Vegetables

Vegetables
Yields 4
STIR-FRIED VEGETABLES Chris Jenkins Kushi Institute chef
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Ingredients
  1. 1 carrot, ribbon cut
  2. 1 lotus root, cut into thin half-moons
  3. 2 medium yellow onions, sliced into half-moons
  4. 2 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
  5. 4 leaves nappa or Chinese cabbage, in ¾ inch-wide slices
  6. 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and quartered
  7. 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  8. 2 tablespoons shoyu
  9. 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  10. 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
  11. 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger juice
  12. 2 scallions, sliced thin for garnish
  13. ½ cup apple juice
  14. ½ cup water
  15. 1 pinch sea salt
Notes
  1. Warm a sauté pan over a medium-high flame. Add the oil and wait a few seconds for the oil to heat up. Then, add the onions, lotus root and a pinch of sea salt. Stir-fry for about two minutes, until the onions begin to be translucent. Add all the other vegetables and continue sautéing for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender but still a bit crunchy. Then, add the shoyu, vinegar, ginger juice and ½ cup of apple juice and cook 30 seconds more. Mix the arrowroot into ½ cup of water, and stir this into the vegetables while they are cooking. When the arrowroot gelatinizes, remove the vegetables from the heat. Garnish with scallions and serve.
  2. These “Chinese-style” vegetables make a nice side dish, served with rice.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Azuki, Squash and Kombu

Azuki, Squash and Kombu From the Kushi Institute kitchen
Serves 4
This dish is warming and strengthening – great for dinner on cold nights. In traditional wisdom azuki beans (also known as aduki or adzuki) are said to be strengthening in particular for the kidneys. They are also very easy to digest compared to most other beans.
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Ingredients
  1. Ingredients are slightly different for the two methods: see below.
  2. Here are recipes for two different preparation methods; the first is boiling, which takes about two hours or more in cooking time, the second is pressure cooking, which cooks for about one hour.
  3. The difference in the two cooking methods is more than just time. Different cooking methods produce different results in the flavor and “energetic” qualities of the dish, and influence how you feel and how the dish is digested.
  4. • The boiling method produces a “lighter” taste, and you may feel lighter after you eat it.
  5. • Pressure cooking produces a more rich, deep flavor, and you may notice feeling “heavier” after eating it.
  6. Try both methods, on different days, and see the difference in taste and how you feel for yourself.
Method # 1 - Boiling
Time
  1. Soaking time: 8 hours or over night
  2. Preparation time: 15 minutes
  3. Cooking time: 2 + hours
  4. Clean-up time: 10 minutes
Boiling Method Ingredients
  1. • 1 cup azuki beans, washed, and soaked in 2 cups water
  2. • 1 cup hard winter squash (such as butternut, buttercup or kabocha), cut in large cubes
  3. • 1-inch square piece of kombu
  4. • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  5. • water
  6. • parsley, chopped, for garnish
Equipment
  1. • Heavy, covered sauce pan
  2. • Vegetable knife
Boiling Method Directions
  1. This recipe is adapted from the Kushi Institute’s Level 1 course binder.
  2. Makes 4 servings
  3. • Place the kombu on the bottom of a heavy pot.
  4. • Add the soaked beans with soaking water and, if necessary add enough water to just cover the beans.
  5. • Bring to a boil over a medium flame. When it comes to boil, cover the pot, reduce the flame to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  6. • Add a little water occasionally, as needed, to keep the beans just covered. Do not add too much water, as the less water there is the more rich the flavor of the beans will be.
  7. • After 1 hour, place the squash on top of the azukis, re-cover the pot and continue simmering 1 hour more. The beans and squash should both be very tender at this point.
  8. • Add the salt by sprinkling over the top of the beans and squash. Stir salt in a little, very gently so as not to break up the squash piece, and cook 15 minutes more, uncovered to reduce the liquid. If there is still a lot of water after 15 minutes you can continue simmering uncovered as long as you like, just keep the flame very low and check regularly to make sure it does not scorch.
  9. • Serve hot garnished with parsley.
  10. Leftovers will keep refrigerated up to 3 days.
  11. -----------------------------------------------------------
Method # 2 - Pressure Cooking
  1. Makes 4 servings
Time
  1. Soaking time: 8 hours or over night
  2. Preparation time: 15 minutes
  3. Cooking time: 1 hour
  4. Clean-up time: 10 minutes
Equipment
  1. • Pressure Cooker
  2. • Vegetable knife
Pressure Cooking Ingredients
  1. 1 cup azuki beans, washed, and soaked in 2 1/2 cups water
  2. 1 cup hard winter squash (such as butternut, buttercup or kabocha), cut in large cubes
  3. 1-inch square piece of kombu
  4. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  5. water
  6. parsley, chopped, for garnish
Pressure Cooking Directions
  1. • Place the kombu on the bottom of the pressure cooker.
  2. • Add the soaked beans and, if necessary add enough water to cover the beans by 1/2 inch. Place the squash on top of the beans.
  3. • Bring to pressure over a high flame, then reduce the flame to low and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. • Let pressure come down, remove the lid, and add the salt by sprinkling over the top of the beans and squash. Stir salt in a little, very gently so as not to break up the squash piece, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, uncovered to reduce the liquid. If there is still a lot of water after 15 minutes you can continue simmering uncovered as long as you like, just keep the flame very low and check regularly to make sure it does not scorch.
  5. • Serve hot garnished with parsley.
  6. Leftovers will keep refrigerated up to 3 days.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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Tofu Cilantro and Veggie Dish

Tofu Cilantro and Veggie Dish
from Mirea Ellis In this quick to prepare dish you get a great combination of protein, greens, and roots. Just add a whole grain and a little pickle for a complete meal. It also includes cilantro, a food you don’t often see in macrobiotic recipes. In macrobiotics we categorize foods in different ways, one of which is recommendations for frequency of use. Some are recommended for daily use (like kale or carrots) while cilantro is considered an “occasional” food, to be eaten less often, perhaps one a week or less. But this does not mean to avoid it, and cilantro has an outstanding benefit: it draws heavy metals, including mercury, from body tissues, after which they are excreted in the urine. This is a great reason to incorporate it into your diet! Makes 5 servings Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 7 minutes Clean-up 5 minutes Total time: 30 minutes Equipment: • Large skillet with cover, or large saucepan with cover • Vegetable knife
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Ingredients
  1. • 1 package extra firm tofu
  2. • 1 bunch cilantro
  3. • 3 heads baby bok choy or 1/2 medium head nappa cabbage
  4. • 1 large carrot
  5. • 1 bunch scallions
  6. • 2 Tablespoons ume vinegar
Instructions
  1. • Wash cilantro well and cut into 1 inch size pieces.
  2. • Separate leaves of baby bok choy or Chinese cabbage, and wash well. If using baby bock choy cut stalks into one inch size pieces and set aside. Cut leaves into one inch size pieces and put with cut cilantro. If using Chinese cabbage cut into one inch size pieces and put with cut cilantro.
  3. • Cut scallion lower white, and more solid middle part, into 1/2 size pieces and put aside with baby bock choy stems. Cut upper hollow leaves of scallions into 2 inch pieces and put aside with cilantro and bok choy leaves.
  4. • Cut carrot into very fine matchsticks as follows: Cut 2 inch sections. Cut each section in half lengthwise. Put cut flat side of one section down on the cutting board. Cut lengthwise in very thin strips. Cut the thin strips lengthwise again into thin matchstick pieces.
  5. • Place pan on medium-high to high flame and crumble tofu into the pan by squeezing the block in your hand.
  6. • Sprinkle ume vinegar over tofu and slowly stir for 4 minutes. Water will come out of tofu and evaporate.
  7. • Place the cut baby bok choy stalks and lower parts of scallions on top of tofu, cover, and simmer covered for 1 minute.
  8. • Place the rest of the vegetables in the pot on top of those already there, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  9. • Remove from heat, move ingredients from pot to a platter and serve immediately.
Kushi Institute http://www.kushiinstitute.org/
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The Healing Properties of Lotus Seeds

Lotus_Seeds Lotus Seeds
Ancient Wisdom
The beautiful blooms of the lotus flower produces an edible seed, which, in traditional Chinese medicine is said to be beneficial for the heart, tone the spleen and kidneys, prevent insomnia, and calm the nerves. Lotus seeds have astringent properties, which makes them helpful in relieving the symptoms of diarrhea and improving appetite. In Buddhist traditions, the “Sacred Lotus” is a symbol of vitality and purity.

Research Indicates Lotus Seeds Have Remarkable Anti-Aging Compounds

In a UCLA study conducted by plant physiologist Jane Shen-Miller, an ancient Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) seed germinated after lying dormant for 1,200 years; the oldest seed ever found. The seed was discovered in the 1920s in a deposit of Lotus fruits in a dry lake bed at Pulantien, China. It is “the oldest demonstrably viable and directly dated seed ever reported,” according to the report in the American Journal of Botany. The seedling has been growing since March 1994, and continues to demonstrate “robust” growth.

L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase (MT), an important enzyme that participates in the repair of age-damaged proteins, is present in all lotus seeds, and was found to be present in this ancient seed. The enzyme, the shape and physiological characteristics of lotus fruits, and the oxygen-free environment of the sedimentary strata in which the lotus fruits had been preserved, all contributed to the exceptional longevity of the seeds, the authors concluded.

Because of the potent anti-aging enzyme in lotus seeds, researchers have been finding ways to use lotus seeds in modern cosmetic anti-aging products.

We suggest you enjoy their benefits by using these tasty seeds in dishes like the macro “deviled egg” recipe above, or when you make brown rice, try substituting about a quarter of the amount of rice with lotus seeds and cook as you would for brown rice. Remember to always take out the bitter green sprout before cooking.

[Shen-Miller, J., Mary Beth Mudgett, J. William Schopf, Steven Clarke, and Rainer Berger. 1995. Exceptional Seed Longevity and Robust Growth: Ancient Sacred Lotus From China. American Journal of Botany, 82(11):1367-1380.

Chang, Kenneth. November 18, 1995. Ancient lotus seeds may hold anti-aging secrets. Austin American Statesman, A22.]

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The Healing Properties of Winter Squash

 

winter_squash
Winter Squash

Delectable, Nutrient-Rich Winter Squash

Nutritional Benefits

The deliciously sweet taste, comfortingly smooth texture, and lovely deep orange or yellow colors are reasons enough to enjoy winter squash, but this nutrient-dense food also provides a wealth of health benefits.

The lovely, deep orange color shows how rich winter squash is in carotenoid compounds. Carotenoids (also called provitamin A), are the types of Vitamin A compounds found in vegetables. Retinol (also called preformed vitamin A), is the form of vitamin A that is found in animals. When we eat carotenoids our body turns them into retinol.

Vitamin A is crucially important for healthy vision; cell division and differentiation; the immune, intestinal and respiratory systems; and the urinary tract. It has been shown to play a role in blood sugar regulation, and to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Recent research has linked vitamin A to reduced risk of colon and lung cancer, and reduced severity of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin A deficiency is linked to many illnesses.

The liver can store up to a year’s supply of vitamin A; but this store becomes depleted if a person is sick or has inflammation, or if they smoke. Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to emphysema.

One cup of baked winter squash gives you 145% of your RDA for Vitamin A. It is also high in vitamin C, Folate, Potassium, Manganese and dietary fiber.

Ancient Wisdom: A Good Food for the Season

In the 5,000 year old Asian system called The 5 Element Theory, or The 5 Transformations (the term we use at Kushi Institute), natural cyclical changes such as the seasons effect various aspects of human health. Understanding and using this system can bring greater health and vitality.

Here are some of the associations with the season we have just entered, which is called “early autumn” in The 5 Transformations:

•Element: Soil
•Energy Direction: Downward
•Organs: Stomach, spleen and pancreas
•Taste: Naturally Sweet, like winter squash
•Color: Yellow and Orange
•Vegetables: Winter Squash and other sweet orange and yellow vegetables which ripen in the Fall

This is only a small amount of information on a very deep study. As we move into each season the Kushi Institute Newsletter will include more information on the 5 Transformations for that time of year.

The 5 Transformations are one of the key subjects in the Kushi Institute’s Level 2 program.

References

Baybutt RC, Hu L, Molteni A. Vitamin A deficiency injures lung and liver parenchyma and impairs function of rat type II pneumocytes. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5):1159-65. PMID:10801913.

Li T, Molteni A, Latkovich P, Castellani W, Baybutt RC. Vitamin A depletion induced by cigarette smoke is associated with the development of emphysema in rats. J Nutr. 2003 Aug;133(8):2629-34. PMID:12888649.

Suzuki K, Ito Y, Nakamura S et al. Relationship between serum carotenoids and hyperglycemia: a population- based cross-sectional study. J Epidemiol 2002 Sep;12(5):357-66 2002.

Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988. PMID:15220.

Ylonen K, Alfthan G, Groop, L et al. Dietary intakes and plasma concentrations of carotenoids and tocopherols in relation to glucose metabolism in subjects at high risk of type 2 diabetes: the Botnia Dietary Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jun; 77(6):1434-41 2003.

Yuan JM, Stram DO, Arakawa K, Lee HP, Yu MC. Dietary cryptoxanthin and reduced risk of lung cancer: the Singapore Chinese Health Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2003 Sep;12(9):890-8.

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World Poverty and Hunger

In less industrial societies, modern food and agriculture have proved disruptive on an even larger scale than in industrial areas.

Cattle-grazing, use of marginal lands, and the export of cash crops have overturned patterns of farming and cultural life extending back thousands of years. In the wake of monocropping-growing one major crop or livestock for foreign export such as coffee, bananas, sugar, tomatoes, cattle, or sheep-tens of millions of families, uprooted from their ancestral lands, flocked to urban metropolitan centers such as San Paulo, Cairo, or Calcutta in quest of employment and opportunity. The vast urban slums created by this exodus from the land offer only poverty, hunger, and emergency relief consisting of infant formula, refined foods, and artificial birth control devices and artificial immunizations that further contribute to disease and destitution.

Growing grain directly for human consumption, meanwhile, would result in greater utilization of land and a more abundant food supply. At the present time it takes from five to ten times as much land to raise beef, pork, lamb, and dairy cattle as it does grains and vegetables. An international economy based on whole foods and organic agriculture would reverse the trend toward concentration of farmland in fewer hands. Hundreds of millions of families living in squalor would return to the lands from which they were driven off and find food, shelter, and meaningful employment. World hunger and poverty, largely the result of modern agricultural dislocations and changing patterns of food consumption, would end and tensions among states, aggravated by competing cash crops for foreign export, would diminish as local communities and regions became more self-sustaining. World population would also stabilize at much lower natural levels as high birth rates-largely a survival mechanism, common to other threatened species as well as humans-returned to normal.

Meanwhile, a few emergency relief agencies, including the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Red Cross have begun to distribute brown rice and other whole grains rather than refined grains in selected refugee camps around the world. These and other positive interim measures should be encouraged until more basic solutions can be achieved.

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On Natural Healing

Once I was visited by a young woman who was experiencing irregularities with her menstruation, along with a persistent, growing pain in her lower back, and facial blemishes. A medical examination revealed that she had an ovarian cyst, about the size of an orange, in one of her ovaries. Her doctor had advised exploratory surgery, with the likelihood that the tumor, and possibly the ovary itself, would be removed.

I felt that the problem was caused by improper balance in her daily diet, especially the consumption of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy foods. During her visit, I recommended that she begin the macrobiotic diet, together with several basic home remedies. She followed my instructions. To her surprise, the cyst was no longer detectable after six weeks of practicing a macrobiotic regime. Her physician, a well-known gynecologist, remarked that in all her years of practice, she had never seen a case like that.

During my years studying and practicing macrobiotics, I have witnessed hundreds of cases, involving a wide range of illnesess, with a similar outcome. My own experience with macrobiotic healing began in the late 1960s when I was a student at Temple University in Philadelphia. It was at that time that I started seeking a deeper understanding of life through the study of Oriental philosophy.

My search began with Vedanta, the traditional wisdom of India, proceeded through Taoism and Chinese philosophy, and then led to Buddhism and Shintoism. I discovered the macrobiotic teachings of George Ohsawa at that time, and realized that macrobiotics offered the means to transform humanity’s timeless spiritual wisdom into a living reality. Through macrobiotics, I came to understand that the spiritual knowledge I had been searching for was within myself and that my day to day eating played a pivotal role in the development of spiritual consciousness.

As I adopted the macrobiotic lifestyle, allergies and other minor health problems began to disappear, I lost excessive weight, and my outlook grew more active and positive.

In 1972, I moved from Philadelphia to Boston in order to study with Michio Kushi. In 1973, I began a five-year period of work at the East West Foundation, a non-profit educational and cultural organization started by the Kushis. During that period, I studied intensively with Mr. Kushi, and began to give basic lectures on various aspects of the macrobiotic way of life. I edited numerous publications dealing with macrobiotics and natural healing. I also gave personal advice on the macrobiotic way of life to hundreds of people.

Through these experiences, I came to realize that health, happiness, and freedom are actually the natural human condition. My observations and experiences with the effects of food on our physical and mental health have convinced me that the most fundamental way to achieve health and happiness is to begin selecting, preparing, and eating our daily food in accordance with the law of nature. This universal, common sense method is available to everyone. All that is required is a desire to enjoy a life free from sickness and unhappiness and the wish to claim the human birthright of a happy, free, and healthy life.

The age of dietary anarchy now prevails throughout modern society. Traditional patterns of eating–based around whole cereal grains and cooked vegetables as the staple foods–which were followed for thousands of years have been abandoned. The modern diet consists of large quantities of animal food, heavily refined and processed flour and grain, refined sugar, dairy products, fruits and spices imported from great distances, chemicalized, industrialized, and artificial foods, and powerful drugs and medications. Not only is the modern way of eating widespread in the industrial nations in both East and West, but it is being exported at an increasingly rapid rate throughout the world. As a result, in spite of great prosperity brought on by technological advances, we are in the midst of a biological Noah’s Flood which is reflected in the increasing worldwide incidence of degenerative disease and social breakdown.

Before the Second World War, Dr. Alexis Carrel, a Nobel Prize-winning physiologist at the Rockefeller Institute, foresaw our current situation and in his book, Man the Unknown, proposed a complete re-evaluation of our modern understanding of life, nature, and ourselves. In the preface to his book he stated:

•Before beginning this work the author realized its difficulty, its almost impossibility. He undertook it merely because somebody had to undertake it, because men cannot follow modern civilization along its present course, because they are degenerating. They have been fascinated by the beauty of the science of inert matter. They have not understood that their body and consciousness are subjected to natural laws, more obscure than, but as inexorable as, the laws of the sidereal world. Neither have they understood that they cannot transgress these laws without being punished. They must, therefore, learn the necessary relations of the cosmic universe, of their fellow men, and of their inner selves, also those of their tissues and their mind. Indeed, man stands above all things. Should he degenerate, the beauty of civilization, and even the grandeur of the physical universe, would vanish. For these reasons this book was written.

The natural laws of which Dr. Carrel wrote are expressed in macrobiotics as the principle of dualistic monism: yin changes into yang, and yang changes into yin, everywhere and forever. The most grandiose civilizations have all experienced eventual decline and decay. Nothing is exempt from this fundamental law. At the same time, however, within the decline of modern civilization, the seeds of the biological, psychological, and spiritual restoration of humanity are beginning to grow, just as the depth of winter produces spring, and the peak of night leads to dawn.

During the 20th century, the most fundamental way to achieve the restoration of humanity has been taught throughout the world as the understanding and practice of macrobiotics. When Michio Kushi graduated from Tokyo University after the Second World War, prior to coming to the United States for graduate studies at Columbia, his interest in world peace through world government led him to investigate the work of George Ohsawa. Mr. Ohsawa proposed that only with the biological reconstruction of humanity on an individual basis through the means of daily life and diet, could world peace be established. Observation of the human condition for over half a century had led Mr. Ohsawa to such a simple but profound insight. His conclusions are contain in three works available in English: Zen Macrobiotics, The Book of Judgment, and The Macrobiotic Guidebook to Living. (George Ohsawa’s basic writings have recently been compiled in the book, Essential Ohsawa, published by Avery Publishing Group, 1994.)

Inspired by the macrobiotic view of life, Michio Kushi has been teaching, writing, and lecturing throughout the world in order to further the understanding and practical application of the macrobiotic way of life. Many of his conclusions are presented in The Book of Macrobiotics: The Universal Way of Health, Happiness, and Peace, published by Japan Publications, Inc. He is the author of more than a dozen books on macrobiotic philosophy, health care, and way of life.

The aim of macrobiotic healing extends beyond the relief of individual symptoms to the eventual realization of a healthy and peaceful world. The goal of planetary health and peace, toward which so many of history’s greatest personalities have dedicated their lives, can at last be realized as increasing numbers of people begin to apply the order of nature to their daily lives. A healthy nation is composed of healthy communities, which are, in turn, the product of strong and healthy families. The basis of family health is the understanding and ability of each member to take responsibility for and successfully manage his or her own health.

Health is a natural result of maintaining dynamic balance between the two primary forces in the universe. Thus, with a simple scale used for measuring weight, balance is achieved by placing equal amounts of material on either side. If one side contains less weight, it will begin to rise, as the heavier side sinks. The side that falls does so as a result of the influence of downward, or centripetal force, while the other side rises because of the influence of centrifugal, or expanding force.

These two forces, known in the Orient as yin and yang, are universal tendencies that govern all things. For example, on the earth we are constantly receiving an incoming, downward force from the sun, stars, planets, and constellations that pushes everything onto the surface of the planet and causes the earth to turn and revolve around the sun. At the same time, the earth, because of its rotation, generates an opposite, expanding or outgoing force. The interplay between these two forces –centripetality, or yang, and centrifugality, or yin– creates all things on our planet and throughout the universe.

Each force creates respective physical tendencies. Centripetal or yang force creates contraction, density, heaviness, rapid motion, and high temperature. Centrifugal, or yin force creates expansion, diffusion, lightness, slower motion, and low temperature. At their extreme, each force changes into its opposite, as high temperature causes expansion and low temperature results in contraction. Yin and yang are not static conditions but rather tendencies that cycle continuously or change into each other as is obvious in the sequence of day changing into night and then night giving way to the day. The progression from winter to summer and then back to winter is another example of the interplay of opposites that governs life.

Health is the natural result of maintaining a dynamic balance of yin and yang in our daily eating and way of life. An understanding of the laws that govern these two antagonistic, yet complementary tendencies can unlock the secrets of life and health. It can lead to an understanding of our origin and destiny as human beings. My hope is that, through the practice of a macrobiotic way of life, all people can come to will discover the wonderful order of nature and realize health, happiness, and infinite freedom.

Source: This essay is from the Introduction to The Macrobiotic Way of Natural Healing, East West Foundation, Boston, Mass., 1978 ©, all rights reserved.

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Crohn’s Disease and Takayasu Arteritis

“Among the many diseases considered incurable by modern science are Crohn’s disease and Takayasu arteritis. In this moving case history, Virginia Harper, a wife and mother from Tennessee describes how she overcame these two, often fatal, afflictions with macrobiotics.” -Ed.

“You can turn this around. You can change this,” are the words I’ll never forget. After eight years of living with Takayasu arteritis and Crohn’s disease and seeing only a dim future ahead, these words filled me with hope.

At age 14 I started having strong symptoms of discomfort and pain on the right side of my abdomen. At 15 they removed my appendix but discovered it was normal. From 15 to 23, I was in and out of hospitals at least twice a year with the symptoms getting more severe. I had not only the increasing abdominal problems but I started to develop fainting spells, dizziness, weakness in my right should and arm down to my hand. At age 19 I discovered a lump on my neck. I was away at college in Tennessee and the school doctor decided it was a benign cyst and could be easily removed during the Thanksgiving holidays.

While undergoing an arteriogram at home in Connecticut, I suffered a stroke. When I awoke, I was temporarily paralyzed on my right side and had lost my ability to speak. The test showed a blockage on my rights carotid artery. In April of that next year, I was sent to Mass General Hospital in Boston to undergo bypass surgery and a biopsy and it was determined that I had a very rare blood condition. Takayasu arteritis is an autoimmune deficiency where the blood passing through the arteries causes them to act as if they are damaged so they start repairing themselves and this creates blockages. Takayasu has no known cause and no known cure. The main arteries were so dramatically affected that my blood flow was distressed. I was told to stop all my sports activities and “to take it easy.” But the real devastating news was that I should not plan on having children.

I was put on an anti-inflammatory drug called prednisone, a steroid, and an aspirin a day to help with my blood flow. The next few years I learned to live within the confines of Takayasu and I suffered from the side effects from the drug more than the disease itself. I would awaken ravished with headaches, swollen aching joints, ringing in my ears, upset stomach, low energy and feeling depressed. And, when I was on high doses, I would be so hyper I would work to exhaustion and still only need three or four hours of sleep before I was ready to go again.

On top of all this, my abdominal symptoms began to get worse as the years went by. The pain became paralyzing, along with constant headaches, bloody diarrhea, constipation and weight loss. At times I would lose so much blood that I would go to the emergency room completely debilitated. The X-rays showed nothing. Eight years of different doctors, specialists, tests, and drugs, yet the cause and cure were still a mystery.

Finally, when I was 22, I had a severe attack which landed me back in the emergency room. But this time, the technicians were finally able to detect something on the X-rays. The doctors diagnosed Crohn’s disease. I was so relieved to have a name for what I had gone through all those years. Crohn’s disease has no known cause and no known cure. It causes a slow deterioration of the intestinal wall, the lining become inflamed and irritated, and loses its elasticity resulting in impaired digestion and absorption. Crohn’s can manifest anywhere in the digestive tract.

Anti-inflammatory drugs and/or surgery were the only recourse. Surgery can remove the affected area; however, Crohn’s usually spreads again in three years or less and you will face more surgery. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I lived to be 30, I would not have any intestines left.

The “good news” was that I was already taking the anti-inflammatory drug used to treat it. When I inquired how I could develop something so severe when I was already on the drug that supposedly helped it, I got no response. And so, I learned to live within the confines of Crohn’s and Prednisone.

To complicate matters, that same year I became pregnant while using the IUD. Instead of this being a happy time for my husband and me, it was quite traumatic. The doctors thought I would lose the baby when they removed the IUD. However, the pregnancy continued and went smoothly while the doctors watched me very closely and I stayed in bed most of the time. Being as determined as I am, our beautiful daughter was born.

Nine months later, the Takayasu and the Crohn’s both flared up again and so did my trips back to the hospital and doctors for more tests and different drugs, except this time nothing seemed to work for very long. My parents and I, being open to alternative methods, started searching for real cures. I tried megavitamin therapy, reflexology, herbs, and hospital-based nutritional approaches. It was during this search that my father heard about macrobiotics. He cried as he told me what would work this time and shared what little he knew. He flew me to Connecticut to see a macrobiotic teacher. I was ready to deal with this doctor, too. I took all my X-rays, filed, and paperwork to show him, but the experience was totally different.

He wanted to know specific details of my symptoms and my lifestyle. There was no prodding, poking, sticking, undressing, or cold intrusive instruments to deal with. He used Oriental diagnosis to evaluate my condition by observing my eyes, tongue, hands, and feet. Finally, he told me what I had longer to hear, “You can turn this around.”

The macrobiotic teacher proceeded to explain that there were certain foods that weakened my body and it was struggling to get rid of excess. All my body needed were the correct tools to naturally heal itself. The main foods that aggravated my condition were dairy food and sugars. For maximum health, he explained the importance of keeping the body alkaline by eating neutral or balanced foods. These include whole grains, beans, land and sea vegetables, and some fruit, seeds, and nuts.

I grew up with my grandmother and she strongly believed that God’s abundance provides everything one needs to naturally heal. All I heard finally was making sense. I did not recognize half of the foods he mentioned because after all, I was a fast-food, junk-food, pre-prepared, vegetable-come-in-a-can baby-boomer.

I had answers and most of all, for the first time, I had hope. My teacher told me that one day I would appreciate and be thankful for my illness. I thought, “This guy has been eating too much seaweed ­ he just doesn’t realize all I’ve been through!”

Now, 15 years later, I continue to live a symptom-free, drug-free, pain-free, doctor-free life. Full of energy, I anticipate a health-filled future with my two children and family. I truly understand those prophetic words. I do appreciate my illness and all I went through. My experience led me to macrobiotics and that led me to the path of healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And that quality of healing you can never get from a pill.

This article originally appeared in the One Peaceful World Journal, Spring, 1995 © One Peaceful World, all rights reserved. To become a membership to One Peaceful World and receive a quarterly newsletter, please call 413-623-2322.

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Food & Healing

Daily food has the power to heal or make us sick; to keep us healthy or accelerate our decline. The importance of food in health and healing cannot be overemphasized. However, unlike modern nutrition, in which foods are analyzed according to their biochemical effects, the macrobiotic view is based on an understanding of food as energy. Rather than being analytical and partial, the macrobiotic approach is dynamic and whole.

In macrobiotics, we approach food on two levels. In the first, more fundamental level, we apply the principle of yin and yang to balance our daily diet as a whole. Yin and yang help us understand food in terms of energy. Balancing the expanding and contracting energies in our diet is the basis of health and healing. In the second, or symptomatic level, we use food to offset or balance a particular condition or symptom.

A key to health and healing lies in our ability to understand food in terms of yin and yang and energy, and to apply that understanding to the structure and function of the human body. For that purpose, we need to view the body in terms of yin and yang. The inner regions of the body, including the bones, blood, and internal organs, are more yang or contracted, while the peripheral regions, including the skin and hair, are more yin or expanded. The front of the body is generally softer and more expanded (yin), while the back is hard and compact (yang). The upper body is generally more yin, while the lower body has stronger yang energy.

On the whole, the right side of the body is strongly charged with yin, upward energy, while the left side is strongly charged by downward, yang energy. The movement of upward and downward energy in the body is reflected in the structure of the large intestine, and in the function of the brain. The large intestine moves upward on the right side of the body, and downward on the left. The right hemisphere of the brain generates more yin, aesthetic or artistic images, while the left is the source of more yang, analytical and rational abilities. Using these basic classifications, we can begin to make specific correlations between the energy of food and the energy of the body.

Day to day, the atmosphere cycles back and forth between upward and downward, or yin and yang energy. Morning is the time when upward energy prevails. Evening and night are the times when downward energy is strongest. In order to maintain optimal health and well-being, we need to orient our lives in harmony with the movement of energy. In other words, we need to wake up in the morning and be active during the day, and need to get adequate sleep at night. If we go against the movement of atmospheric energy, for example, by sleeping during the day and being active at night, we risk losing our health.

On the most fundamental level, health and healing operate on the same principle. The organs on the right side of the body, including the liver and gallbladder, are strongly charged by yin, upward energy. Those on the left, including the pancreas and spleen, receive a stronger charge of yang, downward energy. Do foods with more expansive energies benefit the pancreas and spleen, or those with more contractive energies? Similarly, what types of foods benefit the liver and gallbladder? As we can see from the daily cycle, we need to go with the movement of energy. Thus, foods that match the energy of a particular organ are the most appropriate.

Symptomatic healing works in the opposite way. Symptoms can be caused by extremes of either yin or yang. In order to neutralize or offset a particular symptom, we use foods that have the a quality of energy that is opposite to that of the symptom. If the symptom is caused by too much yang, we supply the body with yin. When a symptom is caused by excess yin, we need to supply yang.

Constipation offers an example of this principle. Constipation can result from either an excess of yin or yang in the diet. Yang constipation is caused by the repeated intake of meat, cheese, eggs, chicken, and other forms of animal food, and an insufficient intake of grains, vegetables, and other plant foods containing fiber. It occurs when the intestines become overly tight and contracted. To relieve that symptom, we use foods with an opposite, or more yin energy, such as kanten, lightly steamed greens, grated raw daikon, or vegetables that have been lightly sauteed in oil.

Yin constipation occurs when the intestines become loose, weak, and stagnant because of too much sugar, chocolate, alcohol, spices, ice cream, or soft drinks. To restore the intestines to a more normal, contracted state, a slightly more yang preparation, such as ume-sho-kuzu, would be appropriate.

The Five Energies in Health and Healing

As we saw above, the liver and gallbladder are nourished by yin, expanding energy; the pancreas and spleen, by yang, contracting energy. Therefore, according to the principles stated above, if we wish to strengthen the liver and gallbladder, we choose foods that have a slightly more yin, or expansive quality of energy. If we wish to strengthen the pancreas and spleen, foods with slightly more yang energy would be appropriate.

Although whole grains are generally the most balanced among foods, each variety has a slightly different quality of energy. Corn, for example, grows in the summer, and is soft, sweet, and juicy. It has a more yin quality of energy. Buckwheat, on the other hand, grows in cold, northern regions and is very hard and dry. It rapidly absorbs water, and has strong yang energy. Rice has a different quality of energy than barley; millet is different than wheat. Short grain rice is very different than long grain rice. Among the whole grains, therefore, which one is best for the liver and gallbladder, and which one most benefits the pancreas and spleen?

Liver and Gallbladder

Traditional philosopher-healers referred to the upward energy that nourishes the liver and gallbladder as tree energy. The name tree energy implies growth in an upward direction, as well as movement that branches outward. Among the grains, barley has a light, expansive quality and is classified under the tree energy category. Adding it to brown rice produces a lighter, fluffier, and less glutinous dish. The energy of barley is compatible to that of the liver and gallbladder. Hato mugi, or pearl barley, a species of wild barley originally grown in China, is especially charged with upward energy. Both regular and pearl barley can be eaten several times per week, in soup or with brown rice. Barley tea supplies the body with light, upward energy and can be used as a regular beverage.

Pancreas, Spleen, and Stomach

The spleen and pancreas are charged by an opposite quality of energy that traditional philosopher-healers referred to as soil energy. The name soil conveys the image of more compact, downward energy. Millet, a compact grain with a hard outer shell, is a product of soil energy and can be eaten on a regular basis to strengthen the pancreas and spleen. It is helpful in aiding recovery from blood sugar disorders, including diabetes and hypoglycemia. Millet can be cooked with brown rice or used to make delicious millet soup. The stomach is located toward the left side of the body, and is energetically compatible with the pancreas and spleen. Millet is also useful in strengthening the stomach.

Let us now see how the principles of energy balance apply to the selection of whole grains for the other primary organs.

Heart and Small Intestine

Compared to the liver and spleen, the heart has a more dynamic, active quality of energy. The heart is located higher in the body (more yin), and is positioned at the heart chakra, a very highly charged region in the center of the chest. Traditional healers referred to such active movement as fire energy. The small intestine is compatible with the heart, and is charged with active energy. At the center of the small intestine is the highly charged region known as the hara chakra, the primary source of life energy for the entire lower body. Among the grains, corn, a more yin product of summer, is charged with fire energy. It is energetically compatible with the heart and small intestine. It can be eaten fresh in season or used in such traditional dishes as polenta. Whole corn meal or grits can be used as breakfast cereals.

Lungs and Large Intestine

Compared to the heart, the large intestine has more condensed, yang energy. It is located in the lower body, where downward energy is stronger, and although it is large, it is compressed into a small space. The lungs are energetically compatible with the large intestine, and contain many air sacs and blood vessels compressed into a tight space. Traditional healers named this condensed stage metal energy. They considered it to be more yang or condensed than the downward, soil energy that charges the pancreas and spleen. Brown rice, especially pressure-cooked short grain rice, has strong condensed energy that corresponds to the metal stage. It can be used as a main daily grain to strengthen and vitalize these organs.

Kidneys and Bladder

The kidneys lie in the middle of the body; with one on the right and the other on the left side of the body. Traditional healers felt that the energy that nourishes the kidneys is like water, floating between yin and yang, up and down, although on the whole, downward energy is slightly more predominant. Appropriately enough, they referred to this stage as water energy. Beans, which are more yang or contracted than most vegetables, and more yin or expanded than most grains, are a manifestation of floating, or water energy. They strengthen and nourish the kidneys, and their related organ, the bladder. Smaller beans such as azuki and black soybeans have more concentrated energy and are especially beneficial. Beans and bean products can be eaten as a regular part of the diet.

These five stages of energy are actually part of a a continuous cycle. Energy constantly cycles back and forth from yin to yang, moving through the more yin stages tree and fire, and then through the more yang stages soil, metal, and water. The cycle repeats every day and from season to season. Our bodies are comprised of a complex mix of energies that reflect each of these stages, and to maintain optimal health, we need adequate variety in our daily diet.

The five energies can guide our selection of vegetables and other supplementary foods, as well as our choice of cooking methods. In general, leafy greens are charged with strong upward or actively expanding energy (tree and fire), while round vegetables, such as squash, onions, and cabbage are strongly charged with soil energy. Roots such as carrots, burdock, and daikon have even stronger yang energy (metal), while sea vegetables represent floating or water energy.

In cooking, we change the quality of our foods, by making their energies more yin or more yang. Methods such as quick steaming, blanching (quick boiling), and sauteing accelerate upward (tree) and active (fire) energy, while slow boiling, such as that used in making nishime, condenses the energy in food and corresponds to the soil stage. Pressure cooking is a more yang method of cooking that corresponds to metal energy, while soup corresponds to water energy. Once again, we need a wide variety of vegetables and cooking methods in order to provide the body with a wide range of energies.

Whole grains and other foods in the macrobiotic diet work on both the symptomatic and fundamental levels. On the fundamental level, a food such as hato mugi, or pearl barley, supplies the liver and gallbladder with the upward energy necessary for smooth functioning. At the same time, because of its expansive nature, pearl barley acts symptomatically in dissolving more yang, hardened deposits of animal fat and protein, including cysts and tumors caused by the repeated consumption of animal food. Pearl barley tea, for example, is used in Oriental medicine as a beverage to dissolve moles, warts, and other skin growths resulting from excess animal protein.

Food is our best medicine. Balancing the energy of food provides the foundation for achieving good health. Without the foundation of daily diet, our approach is symptomatic and limited. Understanding food as energy lies at the heart of macrobiotic healing.

Source: This essay appeared in Macrobiotics Today, Oroville, Ca, November/December, 1993, © Edward Esko, all rights reserved.

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Fat

In modern societies, fat is consumed in much larger amounts than in countries where people are eating whole grains as their principal food.

For example, in the United States, about 42 percent of the ordinary diet is composed of fat, while in rural Mexico among the Tarahumara, a native people renowned for their health and longevity, the amount is only 12 percent. About 15 percent of the standard macrobiotic diet consists of fat.

Lipids are the family name for fats, oils, and fatlike substances including fatty acids, cholesterol, and lipoproteins. Fats are solid at room temperature, while oils are fluid. Solid lipids tend to contain more saturated fatty acids. Fatty acids are long chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms including an oxygen molecule at one end.

Saturated fatty acids are bonded or saturated to hydrogen atoms.

Unsaturated fatty acids lack at least one pair of hydrogen atoms.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids are those in which more than one pair is missing.

Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats, just as simple sugars are the fundamental units of carbohydrates. In order to help digest fats, which are insoluble in water and form large globules, the liver secretes bile, a yellowish liquid stored in the gallbladder. In the intestine, bile serves to emulsify fats and enables them to be broken down into fatty acids and glycerol by digestive enzymes.

Lipids are essential to digestion but can be harmful to the body, especially saturated acids like stearic acid, found in animal tissues, which coats the red blood cells, blocks the capillaries, and deprives the heart of oxygen. One of the main constituents of lipids is cholesterol, a naturally occurring substance in the body which contributes to the maintenance of cell walls, serves as a precursor of bile acids and vitamin D and also a precursor of some hormones. Cholesterol is not found in plants foods but is contained in all animal products, especially meat, egg yolks, and dairy products. Since cholesterol is insoluble in the blood, it attaches itself to a protein that is soluble in order to be transported through the body. This combination is called a lipoprotein. However, excess cholesterol in the bloodstream tends to be deposited in artery walls and as plaque eventually causes constriction of the arteries, reduces the flow of blood, and can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease. Normally, fat is absorbed by the lymph and enters the bloodstream near the heart. However, if excess lipids accumulate in the body, eventually some will become deposited in the liver. Such stored fat, primarily from meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, is usually the chief source of liver malfunctions. Excess fat, especially saturated fat, is also stored in and around vital organs, such as the kidneys, the spleen, the pancreas, and the reproductive organs and is a leading cause of cancer in these sites.

Because of the increased public awareness of the connection among cholesterol, saturated fat, and heart disease and cancer, many people have switched to unsaturated fats and oils, including vegetable cooking oils, mayonnaise, margarine, salad dressings, and artificial creamers and spreads. Today, these make up the large single source of fat in the American diet. However, unsaturated fats, especially those of a refined quality, serve to redistribute cholesterol from the blood to the tissues and combine with oxygen to form free radicals. These are unstable and highly reactive substances that can interact with proteins and cause the loss of elasticity in tissue and general weakening of cells.

Hydrogenated fats, moreover, such as margarine, are specially treated to remain solid at room temperature, a process that converts their unsaturated fatty acids into saturated fatty acids to a significant degree. Hydrogenated fats are also known as trans fatty acids.

Whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts contain polyunsaturated fats and oils, but these are naturally balanced by the right proportion of vitamin E and selenium, which are usually lost in the refining process. Similarly, unrefined polyunsaturated cooking oils (in which the vitamin E remains) such as dark sesame oil are a balanced product and, if used moderately, will contribute to proper metabolism, including more flexible motion and thinking.

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Environment and Global Warming

Modern chemical farming has resulted in tragic consequences to the land and natural environment.

From an average depth of 36 inches in pioneer times, America’s topsoil has declined to about 6 inches in depth today. Meanwhile, as a result of hybridization, crop strains have grown weaker. Today there are hundreds of species that are resistant to pesticides, herbicides, and other sprays. Moreover, 70 percent of all folk varieties of wheat and garden vegetables once grown in North America and Europe disappeared. The remaining seeds face rapid extinction from new corporate patent laws favoring hybrid and genetically altered seeds. As a result of modern agricultural practices, the United Nations has estimated that one-third of the world’s remaining arable land will be lost to desertification in the next quarter century. Two-thirds of the pesticides highlighted in Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic, Silent Spring, are still being manufactured and used around the world.

Modern patterns of food consumption have also had a tremendously negative impact on wilderness lands, deserts, and other ecosystems. For example, in Latin America, large areas of the tropical rain forests-which supply much of the world’s oxygen-have been cleared for beef production, much of which is exported to the hamburger and steak market in the United States, Europe, and other modern societies. One-third of the world’s different species of plants and animals are located in these regions and face extinction as a result of modern development. In addition to reducing biodiversity, clearing of the rain forests for pasture contributes to global warming. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas. Livestock production also produces methane, another greenhouse gas which contributes up to 10 percent of global warming. If this trend continues, temperature rises over the next several decades will cause tremendous climatic and meteorological changes, including possible melting of polar ice caps, rise of sea levels, and inundation of coastal regions in which hundreds of millions of people live.

By changing to a more natural and organic food and agricultural system, the world’s farmland could be regenerated, the environment could be preserved, and global warming forestalled. Monoculture would gradually be replaced with mixed crops. Heavy mechanical cultivation would give way to small-scale appropriate technological methods, and chemical fertilizers and insecticides would be retired in favor of organic compounds and wastes. These changes would start building up the tilth of the soil, contribute to the return of plants and wildlife, and purify the air and waterways. In time, this approach would help restore thousands of hardy varieties of seed that have adapted over centuries to local climates and soils but which have been abandoned by the modern food production system and its emphasis on uniform size, shape, color, and taste.

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Energy

The modern food and agricultural system requires enormous amounts of energy, mostly in the form of fossil fuels, to run.

About 17 percent of America’s energy resources go into producing and operating oversize farm equipment, center-pivot irrigation, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, food processing, food distribution, consumer shopping, food preparation and cooking, and other aspects of food production. The two largest energy users are the meat and meat products industry and the sugar processing industry, followed closely by soft drinks and beverages. This type of system is very wasteful of energy. For example, in the Midwest, farmers require from 5 to 12 calories of petroleum for every 1 calorie of food produced. In contrast, traditional societies using labor-intensive cultivation techniques and small, appropriate technological methods can produce 3 to 10 calories of food for every 1 calorie of energy expended. In addition, about 24 percent of all the food produced in the United States is later wasted due to poor and inefficient harvesting techniques, transportation, storage, processing, marketing, and kitchen and plate waste.

Under a more natural and organic system of food production and delivery, reduced processing and packaging of foods, independence from chemical, oil-based fertilizers and pesticides, and lessened need for heavy farm equipment would result in substantial energy savings. The consumption of local, regional, and seasonally grown food-in line with macrobiotic dietary principles-would further cut back on food imported long distances and from different climates, thus reducing transportation networks and their resulting pollution and other social costs. The need for less metals, chemicals, petroleum, and other raw materials would further ease international competition and crises.

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Economics

A macrobiotic natural foods diet is very economical and in the long run results in substantial savings in many areas of life.

According to weekly market basket surveys, the typical macrobiotic household, for example, spends about 35 to 50 percent less on its weekly food budget on grains, fresh vegetables, and naturally processed items than an ordinary family spends eating meat, dairy foods, highly processed foods, canned foods, frozen foods, and a variety of foodstuffs imported from distant climates. In a pilot program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced a meal plan for low-income families in the Washington, D.C. area calling for more whole grains and their products, vegetables and fruit, and dry beans and nuts and calling for less meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, sugar, and soft drinks. Not only did the meals save considerably on food expenses, but also the new meals were readily accepted, found to be not hard to prepare, and “families in the study felt there was, in some cases, too much food.”

In addition, the macrobiotic family generally takes major responsibility for its own health care, requiring little or no insurance payments, medical costs, and pharmaceutical expenses. At the social level, a dietary change in this direction would result in vast savings. The direct medical costs, nursing expenses, and lost output due to cardiovascular disease alone exceeds $100 billion annually. As public health improved, the economy would improve. Government expenses for health and medical care, welfare and disability payments, and other social services-now currently greater than defense expenditures-would substantially drop. The national debt would lower, interest rates would fall, employment would rise, productivity and efficiency would increase, international trade would flourish, and generally people would take more pride and interest in their work. Lowered food costs as a whole for each family would further contribute to an increase in real income, more leisure time, and a general improvement in the quality of life.

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Macrobiotics And The New Ecology

Thousands of years ago, Hippocrates taught that food was the best medicine. He used the term macrobiotics to describe a way of eating and living in harmony with nature’s laws. A naturally balanced diet is central to the practice of modern macrobiotics, just as it was in the system of healing developed by Hippocrates. Food is the vital link between our bodies and the environment, and the quality of food determines the quality of our life. A balanced diet is the key to personal health and well-being. It is also a key to solving the environmental crisis.

Life was able to develop and flourish on earth because of the delicate balance of yin and yang, or the energies of expansion and contraction, on our planet. The earth’s large, but structurally compact form (yang) is counterbalanced by the more diffuse, liquid and gaseous envelope that surrounds it (yin). Plants, which are yin, maintain the dynamic balance of the atmosphere. They absorb and utilize more yang carbon dioxide and expel yin oxygen. The oxygen they provide is essential to human and animal life. Animals, which are yang, interact with the atmosphere in the opposite way. They absorb yin oxygen and discharge yang carbon dioxide. Together, plants and animals create a beautiful harmony that sustains life on earth.

Modern civilization is disrupting the natural balance of yin and yang that has existed on the planet for millions of years. On the whole, civilization has become increasingly yang: the speed of change is accelerating daily and we are using more and more intense forms of energy. Rather than slowing down, we can expect these trends to accelerate in the future.

Because of these activities, the atmosphere is changing. Since 1958, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 25 percent, mostly as the result of burning oil and coal. The United States and the former Soviet Union account for about 45 percent of worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, we are systematically destroying tropical rain forests that absorb carbon dioxide.

Global Warming

Increases in carbon dioxide and other gases produced by industry, agriculture, and the modern food system are causing the atmosphere to become yang-dense, thick, and heavy. Ideally, the atmosphere should be light and clear (yin), in order to balance the compact structure of the earth and support life. According to environmental scientists, these changes could lead to problems on a global scale. Proponents of global warming believe that some of the reflected heat produced by sunlight no longer radiates back into space. If we view this theory according to macrobiotic principles, we see that the atmosphere, which has become more yang, causes heat radiation (also yang) to be deflected back to earth, creating what is known as the greenhouse effect.

A growing number of people believe that the greenhouse effect is causing average temperatures on earth to rise, a phenomenon known as global warming. As a result, the polar ice caps could melt, resulting in worldwide flooding, and climatic patterns that have existed for centuries could change drastically. Modern technology has disrupted the natural cycle of carbon in the atmosphere, with potentially far-reaching consequences. Disruption of the carbon cycle by modern technology parallels the inefficient use of organic carbon compounds-or carbohydrates-in the food chain. Before the industrial revolution, the majority of people ate carbohydrates in their most efficient form. Traditional diets were based on whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, and other complex carbohydrate foods.

The modern food system no longer relies on these energy-efficient foods. It is based instead on the highly inefficient conversion of complex carbohydrates, often in the form of grains and beans, into animal protein and fat. Feeding these valuable foodstuffs to livestock and then eating them in the form of animal food wastes a tremendous amount of raw materials and energy. One expert estimated that if the world were to adopt these methods of food production, all of the known reserves of petroleum would be exhausted in thirteen years.

Modern food production contributes a great deal of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Cattle ranching, for example, is the single largest source of methane, a leading greenhouse gas. Whole grains, beans, and vegetables are far more energy-efficient than animal products. Corn or wheat return 22 times more protein per calorie of fossil fuel expended than does beef produced on the modern feedlot. Soybeans are 40 times more energy efficient than modern beef.

In Diet for a New America, John Robbins describes the energy savings that would result from a shift toward whole grains, beans, and vegetables. He cites a report by economists Fields and Hur:

•A nationwide switch to a diet emphasizing whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables-plus limits on export of nonessential fatty foods-would save enough money to cut our imported oil requirements by over 60 percent. And, the supply of renewable energy, such as wood and hydroelectric, would increase 120 to 150 percent.

In order to slow the expected rate of global warming predicted to occur because of the greenhouse effect, scientists estimate that fossil fuel emissions would have to be cut by about 60 percent. Unfortunately, however, as the modern diet and way of life spread around the globe, economists predict that these emissions will actually double over the next forty years.

Destruction of forests, including tropical rain forests, can be traced to the modern diet. Forests are being cut to make room for grazing livestock or for growing livestock feed. According to one estimate, if deforestation continues at the present rate, there will be no forests left in the United States by 2040. Moreover, countries in Central and South America are systematically destroying tropical rain forests that contain up to 80 percent of the world’s land vegetation and provide a substantial amount of the planet’s oxygen.

The refining, processing, refrigeration, and other techniques used in the modern food system waste a tremendous amount of energy and contribute to global pollution. Sugar refining, for example, is a highly mechanized process that utilizes fossil fuels, as does the production of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in modern agriculture. Nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas, is largely a product of chemical fertilizers.

In the human body, the intake of animal foods causes saturated fat and cholesterol to build up in the blood and eventually clog the arteries and blood vessels. If the accumulation of excess continues unchecked, it can lead to collapse of the body due to heart attack or stroke, or to accumulation of fats and toxic substances in the organs leading to cancer. A similar situation is developing in our environment, due to the inefficient use of carbohydrates in the form of animal protein and fat. Pollution caused by industry and the modern food system is contributing to the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, and toxic chemicals in the environment. The buildup of these substances threatens the earth’s ecosystem with collapse.

Depletion of the Ozone Shield

At the outer reaches of the atmosphere is found a very thin envelope of gas, ozone, that acts as a natural screen for the sun’s rays. Solar radiation polarizes into more yin ultraviolet and more yang infrared rays. Ozone is a very yin gas made up of three atoms of oxygen. Because like repels like, it blocks or repels ultraviolet radiation while letting infrared rays pass through. Now, however, because of the modern diet and lifestyle, we are punching holes in the delicate layer of ozone high in the stratosphere. According to Newsweek:

•The problem is a close as the air conditioner in your window or the fast-food container at your feet. Both can release chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the atmosphere. Once free, these chemicals float toward the heavens. About 15 miles up they encounter the ozone layer, a paper-thin (three millimeter deep) sheet that envelops the planet and shields it from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Under the right conditions, the CFCs destroy ozone.

Ultraviolet light can weaken or damage the cells of the immune system. Cells that initiate the immune response are more yang and are especially vulnerable. At the same time, UV radiation causes the body to accelerate production of more yin suppressor cells that shut down the body’s immune response. Depletion of the ozone layer could lead to an increase in immune deficiency diseases, including leukemia and skin cancer, especially when extreme yin foods and beverages such as sugar, tropical fruits, and oils and fats are weakening the immune response from the inside.

When our diet is based on a high intake of animal foods that contain plenty of fat, and when these foods are cooked with modern energy intensive methods, such as grilling, broiling, or deep frying (as they are in fast food restaurants), our body temperature rises and we become less able to tolerate warm weather. This increases our need for air conditioning, and our desire for iced foods and beverages that require constant refrigeration. CFCs are used as coolants in refrigerators.

Diet and the New Ecology

Eating whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables and other whole natural foods is the first step toward restoring the environment. By eating energy-efficient foods in harmony with climate and season, especially those grown organically, we are supporting a system of farming and food production that will preserve the soil, water, and air for a countless number of future generations.

Changing to a diet of whole grains and vegetables produces immediate and practical benefits both for the environment, and for our individual health. Planetary ecology begins in the kitchen. Below are some basic principles to consider as you move toward a healthful, ecological lifestyle.

1. Eat Lower on the Food Chain

•As we move up the food chain from plant to animal foods, the amount of energy required to produce, transport, and store foods increases dramatically. Grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables, and other plant foods are lower on the food chain and require much less energy to produce. Researchers at Ohio State University compared the amounts of energy required to produce plant and animal foods and discovered that the least energy-efficient plant food was still nearly ten times as efficient as the most energy-efficient animal food. Eating a plant-based diet reduces the use of fossil fuels and eases the pollution burden entering the environment, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, all of which are greenhouse gases.

2. Reduce or Avoid Extreme Foods

•Foods, like everything else in our environment, can be classified into yin and yang. Eggs, meat, chicken, hard cheese, and other animal products, and foods high in sodium, are extremely yang or contractive; while refined sugar, tropical fruits, spices, coffee, chocolate, ice cream, artificial sweetners, soft drinks, nightshade vegetables, and foods high in postassium are extremely yin or expansive.

•Centrally balanced foods include whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, sea vegetables, non-stimulant beverages, non-spicy seasonings and condiments, and other whole natural foods. These foods have a more even balance of yin and yang, or expansive and contractive, energies.

•Centrally balanced foods are highly energy-efficient. They were humanity’s staples before the industrial age and when grown organically, are the product of non-polluting, self-sustaining agriculture. On the other hand, extremes of yin or yang are often the product of modern industry. It takes 78 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef. Only 2 calories of fossil fuel are needed to obtain 1 calorie of protein from soybeans.

•However, simply reducing or avoiding the intake of animal foods is not enough to reverse the disruption of the environment. Extreme yin foods such as refined sugar, tropical fruits, processed soft drinks, and others require a great deal of energy to produce, store, and transport. It is also helpful to reduce or avoid using them.

3. Eat Foods From Your Climatic Zone

•Today, people in the temperate zones eat a “polar-tropical” diet. They have replaced the whole grains, beans, fresh local vegetables, and other foods appropriate to their region with meat, eggs, cheese, poultry, and other foods more suited to cold, polar climates, and with sugar, chocolate, spices, coffee, tropical fruits and vegetables, and other foods more suited to equatorial zones.

•A tremendous amount of energy is required to maintain this unnatural dietary pattern. It is far more economical and energy-efficient to base your diet around foods that are naturally abundant in your immediate environment or in a climate that is similar to the one in which you are living.

4. Vary Your Diet with the Seasons

By eating foods that are naturally available in season, we take advantage of the cycles of nature. During the winter, dishes that are strongly seasoned and well cooked help us generate and retain heat. In summer, lightly cooked dishes, including salads, keep us cool. These natural adjustments help us stay in touch with nature and make it easier to adapt to climatic changes without excessive heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer. Eating fresh seasonal foods helps minimize the need for refrigeration and other artificial methods of food preservation or storage.

5. Select Organically Grown Foods

A great deal of fossil fuels are used in the production, transport, and storage of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and other artificial substances used in modern chemical agriculture. Moreover, these substances enter the environment and pollute the air, water, and soil. Nitrous oxide, produced by nitrogen-based fertilizers, is a major greenhouse gas. When you select organically grown foods, you do not contribute to pollution of the environment, the unnecessary use of fossil fuels, or to the buildup of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere.

6. Start a Backyard Garden

Growing organic vegetables in your own garden reduces your reliance on foods that require fossil fuel to transport. Moreover, many garden vegetables can be left in the soil until they are ready to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated. If you don’t have space to begin your own garden, look for an organic farm or cooperative in your area. Rather than being thrown away, uneaten food can be recycled as compost in your garden.

7. Base Your Diet on Naturally Storable Foods

Whole grains, beans, sea vegetables, and other complex carbohydrate foods don’t require refrigeration or artificial methods of storage or preservation to keep them fresh. They can be kept as is in your pantry or cupboards. On the other hand, meat, eggs, cheese, chicken, and other animal foods rapidly decompose into toxic bacteria and compounds and therefore require artificial preservation. Tropical fruits, vegetables, and other extremely yin foods or drinks also decompose rapidly and thus require refrigeration, canning, or other artificial methods to preserve or keep them fresh.

8. Eat Whole Foods

Eating foods in their whole form saves energy and makes use of the nutrients that are naturally available. The process whereby brown rice is milled into white rice, or whole wheat flour into white flour, represents an unnecessary waste of energy. The outer coat of cereal grains contains beneficial fiber and other valuable nutrients. When whole grains are refined, these valuable nutrients are lost. The green tops of vegetables such as daikon, carrots, and turnips and the roots of scallions are also a good source of nutrients and can be cooked and eaten rather than discarded.

9. Restore Home Cooking

A great deal of disposable waste, including paper products, Styrofoam containers, and plastic utensils is generated by restaurants and public eating places. Cooking and eating at home helps reduce the use of the fossil fuels that go into producing these products as well as the buildup of inorganic waste in the environment, including the CFCs contained in plastic foam containers. Moreover, for optimal health, and to mimimize electro-pollution, it is better to cook on a gas flame, rather than on the artificial energy of electric stoves or microwave ovens.

10. Make Your Own Snacks and Specialty Foods

Whenever possible, bake your own whole grain breads, and make foods such as tofu, tempeh, amasake, noodles, pasta, seitan, pickles, and others at home. A great deal of fossil fuels are used in the processing, packaging, and transportation of processed foods. Home processing saves energy. Homemade foods are also fresher and more delicious than those bought at the store.

11. Chew Well

Thorough chewing allows for the efficient digestion and absorption of foods. When you chew well, you obtain more nutrients from your foods and can get by with a smaller volume of food. Your diet becomes more energy-efficient. Both for health and vitality, and to minimize waste, try not to eat for three hours before sleeping, except in unusual circumstances. Also, you might find that your energy levels are higher if you eat a light breakfast or skip breakfast on occasion.

12. Practice an Ecological Lifestyle

As much as possible, use natural, chemical-free fabrics and body care products, as well as biodegradable soaps and cleaning materials in your home. Minimize the use of electric devices, in order to conserve energy, for example, by turning off the lights when you are not using a room or watching less television. Buy your foods in bulk, rather than in individually packaged containers. Recycle paper, glass, and plastic. Recycle leftover food by including it in new dishes rather than throwing it away. Keep physically active, and rely less on automobiles, elevators, central heating, and air conditioning. Finally, learn to appreciate our planetary environment. Develop gratitude and appreciation for the earth, water, ocean, and air. See your foods as the condensed essence of nature, and offer thanks before and after each meal.

Our internal and external environments are intimately related. Personal health is equivalent to planetary health. The principles of natural living that underlie the macrobiotic way of life apply as much to healing our planet as they do in restoring our personal health.

Source: The Pulse of Life, © 1994 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.

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Diet & Disease

“No illness which can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means.” – Maimonides
There is now an increasing volume of evidence linking the way we eat with our physical and mental health, leading to a widespread and growing interest, among both medical professionals and the public at large, in applying diet as a solution to the modern health crisis.

There is no question that our health needs have changed over the last eighty years. At the turn of the century, the most important diseases in the United States were infectious diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Since then, the incidence of infectious disease has declined. However, during the same time, the rate of chronic illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, has risen substantially.

During the 20th century, a profound change took place in the way people eat, leading many to believe that modern dietary habits are the leading cause of the increase in chronic illness. That was the conclusion of the landmark report issued in 1977 by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, entitled Dietary Goals for the United States, and of reports issued by public health agencies around the world.

To date, more than a dozen international health organizations have issued reports that implicate the modern diet in the rise of chronic disease. Most of these reports make dietary recommendations aimed at prevention. There are signs that preventive dietary guidelines issued over the last decade are producing positive results. For example, the rate of heart disease in the United States and several other countries has declined somewhat over the past ten years. There is evidence supporting the view that this may be due to health conscious dietary changes.

Although many of us have had direct experience with degenerative illness – either personally or through family members or friends – we tend to think that on the whole, those of us in the affluent nations have the best medical care and the most abundant diet, and are thus healthier than ever before. Consider, however, that of the ten leading causes of death in the United States, six-heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and arteriosclerosis-are degenerative diseases. These disorders are directly linked to diet. In 1977, about 75 percent of all deaths in the U.S. were from one of these causes, a clear indication that our population is not as healthy as we would like to believe, despite the increasing deployment of medical technology and the convenience of the modern food system.

It is commonly believed that this degenerative epidemic is due to our lengthened lifespan-that the conquest of infectious diseases and consequent lowering of infant and child mortality, in other words, have actually allowed more people to grow older, and that more old people naturally means more degenerative disease. In fact, an increasing proportion of younger persons are suffering from chronic disease. Cancer, for example, is the number one cause of death, excepting accidents, of children under fifteen. According to the Summer 1978 issue of Working Papers, “The percentage of people under seventeen years old limited in activity due to chronic ailments nearly doubled from 1968 to 1974.” Degenerative disease is not an old people’s disease, nor is it a necessary result of gains in child survival rates. It affects all people, at all ages, in virtually all populations.

The Changing Modern Diet

Studies of overall patterns of food consumption during the 20th century reveal a number of interesting trends: (1) there has been a substantial increase in the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, due largely to rising meat and poultry consumption; (2) there has been a substantial increase in consumption of refined sugar, resulting largely from the addition of sugar to processed foods and increasing soft drink consumption; (3) there has been a tremendous increase in the consumption of chemicals, additives, and preservatives, and a variety of artificial or highly fabricated foods; and (4) there has been a substantial decrease in the consumption of complex carbohydrate foods such as cereal grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables.

In the early part of the 20th century, Americans derived about 40 percent of their caloric energy from complex carbohydrates-cereal grains, beans, and vegetables. This percentage has declined to less than 20 percent. Whole unrefined grains and grain products are practically nonexistent in the modern diet. At the same time, the consumption of fats and simple sugars has risen so that these items now comprise over 60 percent of the diet.

From 1889 to 1961, the ratio of complex to simple carbohydrate dropped more than three times. In 1976, the average person in the United States ate about 120 pounds of refined sugar, compared to less than 40 pounds per person in 1875; an increase of over 300 percent. A large portion of the sugar consumed in the U.S. is eaten in processed foods and beverages, including soft drinks, canned foods, bread, candy, cake, ice cream, breakfast cereals, and others. Soft drink consumption doubled in the United States between 1960 and 1975; increasing from an average per-person intake of 13.6 gallons to 27.6 gallons. In 1975, the average person drank about 295 12-ounce cans of soda, containing 21.5 pounds of sugar.

In 1976, the average person ate nearly 165 pounds of red meat (pork, beef, mutton, veal). The rising popularity of beef is largely responsible for the overall increase in meat consumption. For example, in 1910, the average person ate about 55 pounds of beef. In 1970, this figure had risen to over 113 pounds.

These changes in diet parallel the rise of chronic illness in the 20th century. The connection between diet and disease becomes even more apparent when we review evidence linking diet and cancer.

Cancer and Diet

Much of the scientific evidence linking cancer and diet has come from two sources: (1) epidemiological studies, such as those of overall cancer incidence and changing dietary patterns in the United States, Japan, and other countries; and (2) animal studies such as those which suggest that a restriction of caloric or protein intake has an inhibiting effect on the development of tumors.

Examples of the epidemiological links between diet and cancer are presented below.

The decline in cancer incidence in Holland following World War II food shortages. Between 1942 and 1946, the incidence of cancer in Holland dropped 35 to 60 percent, depending on the region of the country. A Dutch epidemiologist, Dr. F. De Waard, has correlated this decline with the changes in diet that occurred as a result of the German occupation of the country. During the occupation, the Germans took most of the cheese, butter, milk, eggs, and meat in the country, leaving the Dutch to live on home- grown vegetables, bread, whole grain porridge, and other basic staples. With the return to normal conditions after the war, the cancer rate jumped back to its pre-war level.
Changes in cancer incidence among Japanese migrants to the United States. The rates of colon and breast cancer in Japan have, until now, remained rather low, while the incidence of stomach cancer has been high. The opposite is true in the United States. Within three generations, however, Japanese immigrants in the U.S. shift from the cancer incidence patterns common in Japan to those common in the United States. This shift correlates with a change from the standard Japanese way of eating to the modern American one, with a corresponding increase in the intake of meat, chicken, cheese, and dairy food.

The worldwide correlation between meat and fat intake and a high incidence of breast and colon cancer. In countries where the intake of meat and animal fat is high, such as Scotland, Canada, and the United States, the mortality rates from colon and breast cancer are high. Countries such as Japan and Chile, where meat and fat consumption are low, have correspondingly low incidences of these diseases.

The difference between the high incidence of these illnesses in the United States and their low incidence in Japan is consistent with the differences in fat intake between these two countries, and correlates with the increase in the incidence of colon cancer in Japanese migrants to the United States following their adoption of Western dietary habits.

Evidence from specific population groups in the United States reinforces the connection between fat consumption and cancer. Groups such as the Seventh Day Adventists, who generally follow a semi-vegetarian regime with a limited fat and meat intake, have a much lower rate of some forms of cancer, especially breast and colon. These diseases have been found to correlate with a low intake of cereal grains which contain dietary fiber. For example, certain African populations who, like the Japanese, have a low-fat, high- fiber regimen, have been found to have correspondingly low incidences of colon cancer. The same appears true for the Seventh Day Adventists.

The correlation between the incidence of breast and colon cancer in the United States and increasing consumption of meat and saturated fat, and the declining consumption of grains. The rising incidence of these illnesses correlates with significant changes in the American diet since 1900, especially the rising consumption of meat and saturated fat, and the declining consumption of grains and their products.

The increasing incidence of breast and colon cancer in Japan following Westernization of the Japanese diet. The rising consumption of milk and milk products, meat, eggs, oil, and fat that has occurred in Japan since World War II correlates with an increase in the incidences of breast and colon cancer over the past several decades. According to the National Cancer Institute, this increase is “consistent with the Westernization of the Japanese diet during recent decades, particularly with an increased intake of fat.

While epidemiological evidence has been accumulating, animal studies have reinforced the link between cancer and diet. Examples quoted below are from the 1977 Status Report of the Diet, Nutrition, and Cancer Program of the National Cancer Institute.

Studies showing that a restriction of calories inhibits the development of tumors. A number of animal studies have shown that of all dietary modifications tried so far, the restriction of food intake has had the most regular influence on the development of tumors. A restriction in overall caloric intake has been regularly found to inhibit the formation of tumors and increase life expectancy of experimental animals. Similar trials have shown that among rats fed identical diets, the incidence of tumors is consistently higher in heavier animals.

Studies showing a higher incidence of tumors in animals fed high-protein diets. According to the NCI report, a lower protein intake inhibits the development of spontaneous or chemically induced tumors. Comparisons of a 5 percent and a 20 percent casein diet on aflatoxin induced tumors showed rats on the higher protein diet had a 50 percent greater incidence of cancer. All of the high protein rats developed tumors or precancerous lesions, while those on the lower protein diet had no tumors or precancerous lesions.

Studies showing a relationship between a high-fat diet and a higher incidence of breast and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that an increase in the amount of fat in animal diets produces an increase in the incidence of certain cancers, and that the cancers tend to develop earlier in the life of the animal. According to the NCI report, “Tannenbaum has shown that an increase from 25 percent to 28 percent fat in the diet of mice results in a double incidence of spontaneous mammary cancers.

Studies suggesting that a natural foods diet contains “protective factors” against cancer. In one group of studies mentioned in the NCI report, irradiated mice consuming a natural foods diet had a markedly lower incidence of tumors than similar mice receiving a highly refined diet. According to the report, these studies suggest “the presence of a protective factor in natural food diets.

Cancer Recoveries

Together with scientific evidence, a small but significant number of case histories and personal accounts have been gathered and publicized, pointing to the use of the macrobiotic diet in the prevention and control of cancer and other chronic illnesses. Although much of the evidence is anecdotal, and has come from outside the realm of official research, many of these accounts begin to seem plausible when considered together with mounting scientific evidence linking diet and cancer.

Since 1975, the East West Foundation has compiled and published case histories which show that a balanced macrobiotic diet can aid in the recovery from cancer. These published case histories (such as those in the book Cancer-Free, Japan Publications, 1992) represent only a small number of the thousands of similar experiences that have yet to be documented and published.

Toward a Preventive Nutrition

As we saw in our study of changing dietary patterns in the United States, the modern diet has become much more extreme. Overall consumption of humanity’s traditional, centrally balanced staples-whole grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables-has declined, while more extreme foods, such as meat and sugar, chicken and tropical fruit, eggs and chocolate, have become the mainstay of the diet. The modern shift in dietary patterns has had a disastrous effect on human health, and is the underlying cause of the rise of degenerative illness in the 20th century. Regardless of whether we approach the modern decline in health from the more traditional, macrobiotic perspective, or through modern epidemiological studies, our conclusion is similar. In order to secure health, both individually and as a society, we must return to a more naturally balanced way of eating in harmony with our environment and with our dietary traditions.

Source: The Pulse of Life, © 1994 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.

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Tribute to John Denver

When John Denver died in a plane crash this autumn, I felt as if I lost a brother. We had both grown up in the Southwest and attended Texas Tech (though I did not meet him until many years later). We both became macrobiotic about the same time. I attended several of John’s concerts in Boston with Alex and other macrobiotic friends, and once in Texas I cooked for John while he was on tour and speaking on world hunger.

John’s music, of course, has become an anthem for our generation. Blending folk, country, and pop, his gentle rhythms and heart-felt words hearken back to a time when people cooked their own food, cared for their surroundings, and took the time to cultivate friendships and build community.

John’s idealistic bent (he was a #3 Tree in the Nine Star Ki system of Oriental cosmology) brought him to macrobiotics. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he gave several benefit concerts for the Kushi Institute, helping to raise money for the new campus in Becket. (We still have some of the photographs that John took, mounted on the walls in the chapel at the K.I.) In Boston, he visited the East West Foundation, East West Journal, and other macrobiotic organizations of the time, giving impromptu sing-alongs and holding court on a variety of social issues.

Behind the granny glasses and “aw shucks” demeanor existed a will of steel and tremendous dedication to bettering the planet. Long before the Cold War ended, John fostered peace and cultural exchanges with the Soviet Union, and his work in the environmental field and the campaign to end world hunger, decades before they became fashionable, qualify him as a prophet.

John was humorous, generous, and unfailingly polite. I remember a concert at Great Woods in which he introduced Michio Kushi who was in the audience and asked everyone to give him a round of applause for his contributions to human health and happiness. The Kushis served on the board of Wind star, John’s environmental foundation in Aspen, Colorado.
In Tokyo, John was a favorite of Lima Ohsawa, and into her late nineties she regularly attended his concerts and make arrangements to see him privately.

“Some days are diamonds and some days are stones.” John’s words hold special meaning for each of us. He has now gone on to the world of spirit, but his dream will continue in the music, his good works, and the vision that he inspired in those he left behind.

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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are generally known as sugars, but in speaking of sugar we should specify the variety.

Single sugars or monosaccharides are found in fruits and honey and include glucose and fructose. Double sugars or disaccharides are found in cane sugar and milk and include sucrose and lactose. Complex sugars or polysaccharides are found in grains, beans, and vegetables and include cellulose. In the normal digestive process, complex sugars are decomposed gradually and at a nearly even rate by various enzymes in the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and intestines. Complex sugars enter the bloodstream slowly after being broken down into smaller saccharide units. During the process, the pH of the blood remains slightly alkaline.

In contrast, single and double sugars (together known as simple sugars) are metabolized quickly, causing the blood to become overacidic. To compensate for this extreme yin condition, the pancreas secretes a yang hormone, insulin, which allows excess sugar in the blood to be removed and enter the cells of the body. This produces a burst of energy as the glucose (the end product of all sugar metabolism) is oxidized and carbon dioxide and water are given off as wastes. Diabetes, for example, is a disease characterized by the failure of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to neutralize excess blood sugar following years of extreme dietary consumption.

Much of the sugar that enters the bloodstream is originally stored in the liver in the form of glycogen until needed, when it is again changed into glucose. When the amount of glycogen exceeds the liver’s storage capacity of about 50 grams, it is released into the bloodstream in the form of fatty acid. This fatty acid is stored first in the more inactive places of the body, such as the buttocks, thighs, and midsection. Then, if cane sugar, fruit sugar, dairy sugar, and other simple sugars continue to be eaten, fatty acid becomes attracted to more yang organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, which gradually become encased in a layer of fat and mucus.

This accumulation can also penetrate the inner tissues, weakening the normal functioning of the organs and causing their eventual blockage as in the case of atherosclerosis. The buildup of fat can also lead to various forms of cancer, including tumors of the breast, colon, and reproductive organs. Still another form of degeneration may occur when the body’s internal supply of minerals is mobilized to offset the debilitating effects of simple sugar consumption. For example, calcium from the teeth may be depleted to balance the excessive intake of candy, soft drinks, and sugary desserts.

In order to prevent these degenerative effects, it is important to avoid or minimize the consumption of refined carbohydrates, as well as naturally occurring lactose and fructose in dairy foods and fruits, and to eat carbohydrates primarily in the form of polysaccharides found in grains, beans and bean products, vegetables, and seaweed.

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Calories

Present recommendations of caloric intake made by scientific and medical institutions tend to overestimate the volume of calories required by the average person.

The modern method of calculating the calories required for various activities is based upon expenditure of energy as measured by discharge following activities rather than the actual amount of calories really required to carry on those activities. Guidelines based on such analytical examinations result in progressively higher recommendations of caloric intake needed in prosperous countries, where people are eating more rich and refined food, and progressively lower recommendations in countries where the people are eating more simply.

According to the macrobiotic view, one’s natural appetite for whole, natural, properly cooked foods and one’s regular bowel movements are more practical barometers for determining the necessary volume of food as well as required calories. Caloric requirements vary generally between 1,400 and 1,800 daily depending upon age, sex, and personal condition and need, if the standard macrobiotic diet is generally practiced in a temperate region, with two or three meals consumed per day. In contrast, the average American consumes about 2,400 to 3,300 calories daily.

Furthermore, it is necessary to consider that some foods convert into calories with higher speed than other foods. For example, sugar processed from sugarcane produces calories rapidly, but the caloric discharge soon ceases, while glucose metabolized from whole cereal grains burns slowly and produces caloric energy lasting longer. In this respect, a low-calorie diet centered around grains and vegetables is far superior to a high-calorie diet centered around meat and sugar. Recent scientific studies have borne out the theory that a low-calorie diet, or caloric restriction, can add years, possibly decades, to life. In laboratory studies, animals put on low-calorie diets lived significantly longer than usual.

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Diet and Behavior

In its structure and function, the brain and nervous system is a masterpiece of complementary balance. The cells in the nervous system, known as neurons, come in a variety of forms, but share the same basic structure. The sections of the neuron include branched dendrites, which receive incoming impulses; the yang or compact cell body, where impulses gather and are processed, and the yin, extended axon where impulses are dispatched to neighboring cells.

On the whole, each cell in the nervous system functions as a spiral made up of incoming and outgoing impulses and energy.

When nerve impulses arrive at the end point, or terminal of the axon, they travel across the synapse, a narrow space that separates the axons of nerve cells from the dendrites of others. When impulses reach the terminal, they stimulate the release of neurotransmitters, substances that determine the way that the message will affect the neighboring cell. More yang, activating transmitters cause nerve cells to become excited and generate impulses at a higher rate. More yin, inhibiting transmitters slow or block the production of nervous impulses.

Foods such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables rich in complex carbohydrates increase the brain’s supply of serotonin, a more yin neurotransmitter that is believed to induce calm and relaxed mental states. Eggs and other animal food increase the levels of acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter. That may help explain why persons who consume grains and vegetables and little or no animal food often seem calm and even-tempered in comparison to persons who consume plenty of meat and other animal foods.

The low levels of serotonin that result from a diet high in animal foods may contribute to impulsive behavior. In studies of prison inmates conducted in Finland, those with the most impulsive behavior patterns were found to have the lowest levels of metabolized serotonin in the spinal fluid when compared to non-impulsive prisoners and controls. The impulsive inmates were also found to have low blood sugar levels. The researchers found that 81 percent of repeat offenders had abnormally low blood sugar levels. Low levels of serotonin, together with low levels of blood sugar, characterized 84 percent of the repeat offenders studied.

Diet affects the body’s secretion of hormones, and these influence behavior. In a study conducted at Yale, the intake of refined sugar was found to dramatically increase blood levels of adrenaline in children. In children who were tested after being given an amount of sugar equivalent to two cupcakes, levels of adrenaline increased ten times. Adrenaline, secreted by the adrenal glands during times of stress, initiates the “fight or flight” response. It produces such effects as rapid heartbeat, quick shallow breathing, and nervousness.

High adrenaline levels lead to anxiety and difficulty in thinking clearly. Parents often notice that children behave in an aggressive, hyperactive, and erratic manner after eating plenty of sugary foods, and this study offers a possible biochemical explanation for this reaction. Researchers are becoming aware that diet has a profound effect on the the brain and nervous system, and thus on our mental and emotional condition.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 5 percent of the American population suffers from major depressive illness. Milder forms of depression are much more common. Suicide is often the outcome of severe depression, and about 75,000 people commit suicide every year in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among men between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, and the rate is increasing among young people.

Bouts of depression often occur in cycles. A bout of depression may last for one or two days or for several months or longer. Researchers have begun to observe a correlation between episodes of depression and natural rhythms such as the 24-hour daily cycle and the cycle of the seasons. Depression tends to be more severe in the afternoon and evening, and during the autumn and winter, times when the energy of the earth’s atmosphere becomes more yang or condensed.

In many cases, depression is the by-product of a condition known as hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia is produced by an extreme or unbalanced diet, especially the regular intake of cheese, chicken, eggs, and other forms of animal food. These more yang or contractive items cause the pancreas to become hard and tight, and inhibit its secretion of glucagon, or anti-insulin, the more yin pancreatic hormone that raises the level of glucose in the blood. When the pancreas becomes hard and tight, it cannot secrete glucagon properly, although insulin, the more yang hormone that lowers blood sugar, keeps being secreted. The result is hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia creates the desire to consume sugar, soft drinks, chocolate, alcohol, or drugs, all of which raise the level of sugar in the blood.

The brain is utterly dependent on glucose for its functioning, and when a deficit arises, the higher brain centers, including those governing imagination and creativity, shut down in order to conserve more fundamental brain activity essential for survival. The result is a sinking feeling or a feeling of being boxed in by circumstances. A person becomes unable to imagine a solution to whatever problems he may be experiencing, and, because of a lack of blood sugar, may not have enough energy to change his circumstances. The result is depression and a sense of hopelessness.
The principle of yin and yang can help clarify the biochemistry of depression and other mood disorders. When the blood sugar becomes elevated (yin), the pancreas secretes insulin (yang), in order to make balance. In the brain, production of more yang neurotransmitters–those involved in arousal and motor activity–is stepped up. Conversely, when blood sugar becomes low (yang), the pancreas reduces the output of insulin, while accelerating production of glucagon (yin). In the brain, production of activating neurotransmitters is reduced, in some cases, to the point of undersupply. The resulting shortage can lead to depression.

A naturally balanced, macrobiotic diet can help correct these imbalances in the internal chemistry of the body. A diet based on complex carbohydrates, such as those in whole grains, beans, and fresh local vegetables helps stabilize the metabolism of glucose, and can help relieve conditions such as depression, fear, and anxiety. Mind and body are one. The application of diet to the relief of mood disorders represents a new frontier in the field of psychology.

Blood sugar imbalances also play an important role in schizophrenia, a more severe form of mental illness. Chronic low blood sugar leads to cravings for refined sugar, alcohol, chocolate, drugs, and other extreme forms of yin. The repeated consumption of extreme yin items can cause the cells of the brain and nervous system to become chronically overexpanded, producing an eventual deterioration of mental functioning. The result can be schizophrenia.

Our mental processes depend on the brain’s ability to concentrate and simplify information. The concentration of information is more yang. In The Healing Brain, Robert Ornstein and David Sobel describe this process as follows:
Since the world is constantly changing, the brain is flooded with information. How would it know which of all these changes are important and which are irrelevant? A strategy emerged in which the brain and nervous system evolved to radically reduce and limit the information transmitted to the brain.

The nervous system organizes information so that a few actions, the appropriate actions, can take place. Much of the intricate network of receptors, ganglia, and analysis cells in the cortex serve to simplify. Senses select only a few meaningful elements from all the stimuli that reach us, organize them into the most likely occurrence, and remember only a small organized sample of what has occurred.

When brain cells become chronically yin or expanded, they easily become overly sensitive to yang stimuli, including activating neurotransmitters such as dopamine. According to a popular hypothesis, oversensitivity to dopamine produces chronic overstimulation in the brain. The patient becomes hypersensitive to stimulation from the immediate environment and loses touch with vibrations coming from greater distances. This leads to cognitive overload and a decline in more refined thinking abilities. A person in this condition has difficulty organizing the world by going beyond the immediate information he receives.

Coordinating the varied functions of the brain requires strong yang, or centripetal power. Ornstein and Sobel

describe these varied functions as follows:

The brain is divided into very many independent and well-defined areas, each of which possesses a rich concentration certain abilities. In this view, which is becoming more and more established, the brain is seen not as a single organ, but as a collage of different and independent systems, each of which contains component abilities.

In schizophrenia, the yang power of coordination and control breaks down. The various centers of the brain may start to act independently. The spiral of coordination begins to spin out of control. Loss of control is due to an overly yin condition in the brain and nerve cells. People with schizophrenia often show signs of excess sugar consumption. Refined sugar disrupts the balance of vitamins and minerals in the body. A common symptom of schizophrenia is numerous white spots on the fingernails, a sign of mineral deficiency resulting from the repeated consumption of simple sugar. Many schizophrenics have a sweet odor on their breath, also the result of consuming sugar. A variety of mineral deficiencies and imbalances are common among schizophrenics, especially deficiencies in zinc, manganese, magnesium, and sodium, and these result primarily from the repeated consumption of sugar.

The regular intake of simple sugars depletes B-complex vitamins that are necessary to smooth mental functioning. More than fifty years ago, it was discovered that vitamin B deficiencies were related to mental illness. About 10 percent of the people who were diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to mental hospitals in the South were found to be suffering from pellegra, a vitamin B deficiency. When they were placed on corrective diets, their previously diagnosed “schizophrenia” cleared up.

A naturally balanced, macrobiotic diet, rich in B vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients, could help many patients with schizophrenia. Restoring the brain and nervous system to a more normal balance of yin and yang is the first step toward the recovery from mental illness.

Source: This essay is from persnal notes and lectures, including research for the book, Crime and Diet: The Macrobiotic Approach, Japan Publications, Tokyo and New York, 1987, © all rights reserved.

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Basics & Benefits of Macrobiotics Part II

The practice of macrobiotics is based on the understanding of food as energy. Electrons and protons are not solid particles, but condensed packets of energy. Everything is actually energy, everything is composed of vibration. There is no unchanging or fixed substance in the universe. Therefore, our understanding of food incorporates, but is not limited to, theories of modern nutrition. In modern nutrition, food is viewed as matter. In reality, there is an invisible quality to food (and to life itself) that cannot be measured scientifically. We must perceive that invisible quality directly through our intuition.

In macrobiotics, we employ a very simple tool for understanding the movement of energy. We understand food in terms of yin (expansion) and yang (contraction). All foods are made up of varying degrees of these two basic forces. We use this understanding to see how food affects us in a very dynamic and practical way. By understanding food as energy, we see that it affects not only our physical condition, but our mind, emotions, and even our spirituality. These invisible aspects of life are a function of the quality of energy we manifest.

If we eat a food such as steak, which is very yang or contracted, we are naturally attracted to foods with the opposite quality of energy. So we eat the steak with potatoes, alcohol, or a sugary dessert such as ice cream. All of these foods are extremely yin. In order to balance extremes, we have to add many things that we don’t need. We wind up taking in excess fat, excess protein, excess carbohydrate, and excess water. Our body is constantly being challenged.

However, what happens when our main food is more balanced? If you look at a nutritional analysis of whole grains–brown rice, barley, millet, whole wheat–you discover that their ratio of minerals to protein and protein to carbohydrate approximates one to seven. Short grain brown rice comes closest to the one to seven ratio, that, nutritionally speaking, represents the balancing point between expansive and contractive energies on the planet. If you eat whole grains every day, your main foods are balanced in themselves. It is much easier to balance yin and yang in your diet as a whole. Eating whole grains as your primary food makes it much easier to maintain optimal nutritional and energetic balance.

Macrobiotics recommends that our foods be as natural as possible. Today, however, people are using poor quality table salt, treated city water, animal protein instead of plant protein, saturated animal fat instead of vegetable oil, chemically processed rather than organic foods, and plenty of simple sugars instead of complex carbohydrates. It is no wonder that modern people’s health is suffering, because the quality of each of these nutritional factors is poor.
The understanding of food as energy can guide us not only in creating an optimal diet, but in the use of simple home remedies for the relief of illness. For example, suppose someone has a kidney stone. What type of energy does that represent, more expansive, yin energy or more condensed, yang energy? A kidney stone is condensed, something like hard, frozen energy. In order to offset that, we need to apply something with the opposite, activating energy. Should we apply heat or cold? We should apply heat. Heat will activate this frozen energy and make it melt and break down. A hot ginger compress can be applied for that purpose.

Fever represents the opposite type of energy. Fever is an example of hot, overactive energy. What would balance that? Something with cool, inert energy. Ice is too cold for this purpose. Ice is so cold that it makes the body contract, so that the excess that is trying to come out through the fever will, instead, be held inside. Something a little milder is needed. Also, our body is part of the animal world, so something from the plant kingdom helps to make balance. A simple macrobiotic remedy for fever is to apply a cabbage leaf or another leafy green directly to the forehead. Another remedy is to take raw tofu, which is cool and inert, mash it, and apply it to the forehead. This application, known as a tofu plaster, draws heat out of the body. It can lower a fever in a matter of minutes. The principle of energy balance can help you manage a variety of minor conditions at home without aspirin or other medications.

Dietary Diversity

Macrobiotics also teaches that we respect biodiversity, or the tremendous proliferation of life on earth. Many people are concerned with preserving the wealth of species on our planet because biodiversity is now being threatened by civilization. Many species, including those in tropical rain forests, are disappearing. Others are in danger.

Scientists have discovered that amphibians such as frogs and salamanders are diminishing, perhaps because of ozone depletion or acid rain. The tiger, the symbol of power and beauty, is vanishing from the wild. However, in nature, biodiversity is the rule, not the exception. To reflect this in our eating, we need to practice what I call dietary diversity. There is a wide proliferation of life on earth, a wide range of species, and to translate that into our day to day eating, we need plenty of variety in our selection of foods, and also in our cooking methods. Macrobiotic eating is not narrow or strict. Through macrobiotics, we discover a wide range of healthful new foods.

We also need to respect the endless diversity of individual needs. Although we share certain fundamental things in common, each of us is different. If we are active, we should eat a certain way for physical activity. If we are sitting behind a desk, our diet should be somewhat different. Men and women also need to eat differently. Between men and women, who can eat more animal food? Men. Who can eat more raw salad and sweets? Women. Children and adults also need to eat differently. Babies are already yang–small and contracted–so their diets need to be more yin–soft and sweet-tasting, with little or no salt. If you have eaten plenty of animal food in the past, in order to restore balance, you need to base your diet on plant foods. Or if you have a health problem caused by your past way of eating, you can emphasize certain foods in order to offset that.

Benefits of Macrobiotics

Now, what are the benefits of macrobiotic living? Eating this way can help us maintain optimal health and achieve longevity. People such as the Hunza in Kashmir, known for their good health and longevity, eat grains and vegetables as their main food. They were eating more or less a macrobiotic diet adapted to their mountainous terrain and climate. The first benefit of macrobiotic eating is physical health and longevity.

A second benefit is peace of mind. That peace of mind comes from the awareness that we are living and eating in harmony with the universe. We are living in harmony with the movement of energy. That is the source of inner peace. Our mind and emotions are very much conditioned by what we eat. If you feed your child plenty of sugar, what kind of mind or emotions result? Children become hyperactive or cry a lot, and become overly emotional. If we eat plenty of meat, what kind of mind and emotions are produced? We become aggressive or in the extreme, even violent. What happens when we eat plenty of nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes or potatoes? We become depressed. Incidentally, these vegetables have recently been found to contain nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and that may explain why many people find it difficult to stop eating these vegetables.

As your mind and emotions become more stable and peaceful, you naturally develop a sense of family and community. Modern values–such as competition, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, etc.–have all arisen from a carnivorous diet. Grain-eating people develop a completely opposite view. Instead of seeing scarcity on the earth, we realize that we live in a universe of abundance. Rather than fighting over resources, the issue becomes how to share the tremendous natural wealth on our planet. Meat-eating tends to produce isolation, something like the lone hunter or lone wolf, rather than a sense of community. Hunters such as lions and hyenas are constantly fighting with each other. Grain-eaters develop a completely opposite way of thinking based on cooperation.

Meat-eating also leads to a more nomadic lifestyle, following the herd, and we tend to become unsettled, rather than stable or settled down. Grain-eating agricultural life is more stable, more settled. Which way of life encourages more stable family life? When the men are off hunting all season, or if the entire village has to constantly be on the move, it is difficult to maintain stability. Macrobiotic living strengthens our community and family life. People naturally desire to help and support each other. Through macrobiotics, you become friends with everyone. As we continue to eat this way, our concept of family expands to include all of humanity. We reconnect with our human family on planet earth.

Macrobiotic living can also help us gain spiritual understanding. Do you think it is easy to meditate if we eat hamburgers, or if our mind is very angry or upset, or if we are always stressed out? Or if we are eating sugar or drinking Coke all the time, so that our mind is often hyperactive and scattered, can we really stabilize and center our energy? These conditions make if very difficult to enter into deep, tranquil, and peaceful meditation. In order to allow spiritual energy to smoothly channel through us, and to use that energy, macrobiotic eating –grains and vegetables– is ideal.

We should not forget that all great spiritual traditions included some form of dietary discipline. In the Orient, the cooking in Buddhist and Taoist monasteries was called shojin ryiori, or “cooking for spiritual development.” These traditions were based on the understanding that food accelerates our spiritual consciousness. By selecting the proper food, we develop our spiritual quality. In these traditions, do you think animal food was a part of their diets? No. They were completely vegetarian. However, in traditional times, vegetarian eating, especially in cooler climates, meant eating cooked brown rice, daikon and other vegetables, tofu and bean products, etc., rather than a lot of raw fruit or salad.

Finally, as we achieve good health, peace of mind, a sense of family and community, and spiritual understanding, we gain the ability to play and have a big dream or adventure in this life. Macrobiotics is based on change or transmutation. In other words, we try to gain the ability to change things into their opposite according to our free will. So if we are experiencing difficulty, using macrobiotic understanding, we try to change that into pleasure or enjoyment. Or if we are experiencing sickness, we self-transform that into health. Or if the world is in danger of war, as our adventure, as our play, as our challenge, we transform that into peace. You can even gain the ability to transmute or transform any type of food into your health and vitality. In other words, you embrace your antagonist and turn it into your friend. As George Ohsawa said, ultimately there are no restrictions. The realization of total freedom, or the freedom to play endlessly in this infinite universe, is the ultimate benefit of macrobiotic living.

Source: Basics and Benefits of Macrobiotics, Copyright 1995 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.

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Basics & Benefits of Macrobiotics Part I

One of the most basic principles of macrobiotics is to eat an ecological, environmentally – based diet. That means to rely primarily on foods native to the climate and environment in which we live. Until the modern age, people were more or less dependent on the products of their regional agriculture. Foods that grew in their area formed the basis of their daily diet. It was not until modern technology that it became possible for people to base their diets on foods from regions with far different climates.

Today, it is common for people to consume bananas from South America, sugar from the Caribbean, pineapples from the South Pacific, or kiwi from New Zealand. However, our health depends on our ability to adapt to the changes in our environment. When we eat foods from a climate that is very different from ours, we lose that adaptability. As society moved away from its traditional, ecologically-based diet, there has been a corresponding rise in chronic illness. Therefore, for optimal health, we need to return to a way of eating based on foods produced in our local environment, or at least on foods grown in a climate that is similar to ours.

Foods with more yang, or contracted energy remain viable longer and can come from a greater distance than foods with more yin, or expansive energy. Sea salt and sea vegetables are examples. They are rich in contracted minerals and can come from the oceans around the world, provided these waters are within your hemisphere. Grains, especially with the outer husk attached, remain intact for a long time, even thousands of years, and can come from anywhere in your continent. Beans also travel well and can come from a similarly wide area. However, vegetables and fruits are more yin or expansive; they decompose more rapidly than grains and beans, and unless they are naturally dried or pickled, are best taken from your immediate area.

Changing with Our Environment

It is also important to adapt our cooking and eating to seasonal changes. The modern way of eating does not do this, as people eat pretty much the same diet throughout the year. High temperatures and bright sunshine produce a stronger charge of upward energy in the environment. Water evaporates more rapidly and plants become lush and expanded. Spring and summer are times of upward, expansive energy. Then toward the end of summer, energy starts to change, moving downward and inward. In colder and darker conditions, such as those of autumn and winter, downward or contracting energy is stronger.

How can we adapt to these changes? During spring and summer, we can make our diet lighter and fresher, meaning that we use less fire in cooking. We do not need as much fire in our cooking because fire is already there in the form of strong sunshine. When it is hot, we do not need warmth from our food. As we move into autumn and winter, with cooler temperatures and stronger downward energy, we make our food hearty and warming by using more fire in cooking.

As the seasons change, we also need to utilize the natural products of our environment. Our gardens are filled with vegetables and other foods during the spring and summer, so we can naturally eat plenty of fresh garden produce during these times. For example, summer is the time when corn is readily available, so it is fine to eat plenty of fresh corn in that season.

From season to season, atmospheric energy alternates as part of the daily cycle. Upward energy is stronger in the morning, while downward energy is stronger in the afternoon and evening. In order to eat in harmony with this cycle, breakfast should be light, not heavy. A breakfast of eggs and bacon is dense and heavy, and goes against the movement of energy. Breakfast grains can be cooked with more water, so that they become lighter and more easily digested. Dinner can include a greater number of side dishes, and we normally eat more in the evening, since at that time, atmospheric energy is more condensed and inward-moving. Lunch can also be quick and light, since at noon, atmospheric energy is very active and expansive. Quick light cooking, such as that in which we reheat leftovers, can be done at that time.

Respecting Human Needs

Another important principle is to eat according to our distinctive needs as a species. Our teeth reveal the ideal proportion of foods in the human diet. We have thirty-two adult teeth. There are twenty molars and premolars. The word molar is a Latin word for millstone, or the stones used to crush wheat and other grains into flour. These teeth are not suited for animal food, but for crushing or grinding grains, beans, seeds, and other tough plant fibers. There are also eight front incisors (from the Latin, to cut) and these are well-suited for cutting vegetables. We also have four canine teeth. The canines can be used for animal food, not necessarily meat, but foods such as white-meat fish. The ideal proportion of foods as reflected in the teeth is five parts grain and other tough fibrous foods, two parts vegetables, and one part animal food. The ideal ratio between plant and animal food is seven to one.

The modern diet does not reflect this pattern. Rather than whole grains, meat or other types of animal food are the primary foods. Vegetables are often used as garnish to the main course of animal food. Cereal grains are eaten almost as an afterthought, and are eaten in the form of white bread, white rolls, and other highly refined products. Refined bread or rolls are used simply as a vehicle to carry a hot dog, hamburger, or some other type of animal food. Grains are an incidental part of the modern diet.

Today, people are eating the opposite of what they should be eating. That is why so many health problems exist in the modern world. One of the clearest messages I received from the books of George Ohsawa was that plant-based diets are superior to animal-based diets. When Ohsawa presented that idea many years ago, Western doctors and nutritionists laughed. They believed that animal protein was superior to plant protein, and that cultures in which animal protein formed the basis of the diet were more advanced than cultures that relied on grains and other plant foods.

However, that view is changing. The vanguard of modern nutrition now agrees that plant-based diets are better for our health. If we compare the health patterns of people who are eating plant-based diets with those who are eating animal food, the grain- and vegetable-eaters have far lower rates of chronic disease. There is an exception to this of course. If you would like to eat animal food, it would be better for you to move to the Far North, above the Arctic Circle. Then you can eat plenty of animal food. But if you live in Houston, where it is a hundred degrees in the summer, then it is out of order to eat barbecued steak. It does not fulfill our biological needs nor does it make our condition harmonious with our environment.

Macrobiotics also recommends respecting dietary tradition. In the Bible we read, “give us this day our daily bread.” Bread is symbolic of grain itself. Wheat, barley, and other grains were considered the staff of life. In the Far East, rice was considered the staple food, the staff of life. Native Americans respected corn as their staff of life. Wherever you look, no matter what your tradition is, if you go back far enough, you find that your ancestors were eating grains as their principal foods. They used local vegetables and beans as secondary foods. They were eating much less animal food than at present.

Nightshade vegetables, especially tomatoes and potatoes, were originally not a part of the diet in Europe. These vegetables were brought to Europe from Peru. The original Italian diet did not include tomato sauce. It was very close to a macrobiotic diet. Originally they did not use much meat, they used more seafood, because Italy is a peninsula. They did not use butter, but used olive oil in cooking. Instead of umeboshi plums, they used pickled olives. The basis of the diet was whole grain pasta and rice. As people abandoned these traditional eating patterns in favor of the modern diet, their rates of degenerative disease, especially heart disease and cancer, increased dramatically.

Source: Basics and Benefits of Macrobiotics, Copyright © 1995 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved.

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The Kitchen Apothecary

Common Digestive Disorders

The modern low-fiber diet has wreaked havoc on the digestive systems of millions of people. It is rare to find someone with healthy digestion and smooth elimination. Digestive disorders are so common that most people regard them as a normal part of life.

Tight, narrow lips are a sign that the digestive system has become tight and constricted. This more yang condition is caused by too much animal food and not enough fiber. A lack of whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables is a common cause. If the upper lip is thin and tight, the stomach and solar plexus are tight and blocked. Among modern foods, chicken and cheese frequently cause tightness in this part of the body. This tightness interferes with smooth digestion and may be a sign of hypoglycemia, or chronic low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia arises when the pancreas becomes tight, hard, and blocked, as a result of the repeated consumption of foods such as eggs, chicken, and cheese. In this condition, the pancreas is unable to secrete sufficient glucagon, the hormone that causes the blood sugar to rise.

Tightness in the lower lip is a sign of tightness in the intestines. The cause is similar to the above: repeated consumption of meat, chicken, cheese, and other forms of animal food, and not enough grains, vegetables, and other plant fibers. Tightness and constriction in the large intestine is a common cause of chronic intestinal stagnation and constipation.

Puffy of swollen lips have an opposite, or more yin cause. A swollen upper lip is a sign of possible stomach disorders, including heartburn, overacidity, and ulcers resulting from the repeated consumption of sugar, caffeine, spices, alcohol, soft drinks, refined flour, potatoes and other nightshades, and other yin extremes. When the stomach becomes lose and swollen, the muscular valve, known as the cardiac sphincter, at the opening of the stomach relaxes or operates inefficiently. The sphincter is normally closed when food is in the stomach. The contents of the stomach, including stomach acid, are regurgitated into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and neck after a meal. This symptom, commonly known as heartburn, affects millions of people daily. Heartburn drugs, most notably antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta, or acid blockers such as Zantac and Tagamet, are currently a $5 billion industry in the United States.

A swollen lower lip is a sign of chronic over expansion in the intestines resulting from too many yin extremes in the diet. In this condition, the intestines lose the contracting power of peristalsis. Stagnation occurs and the result is chronic constipation. As we can see, constipation can result from an overly expanded or an overly contracted condition.

When the diet is deficient in whole grains, vegetables, and other foods rich in fiber, a person tends to produce small hard stools. These stools accumulate in the large intestine, and can not be passed without straining. Constant straining at stool raises the blood pressure in the veins, causing them to become permanently dilated, leading to hemorrhoids and varicose veins. Eventually, the outward pressure caused by the accumulation of small hard stools can cause small pockets, called diverticuli, to form in the wall of the colon. About 40 percent of those over age 65 have this condition. When these pockets bleed and become infected, the condition is known as diverticulitis.

Irritable bowel syndrome, sometimes called spastic colon, is also the result of modern eating habits. The intake of sugar, chocolate, honey, milk, ice cream, strong spices, tropical fruits, and refined foods, in combination with yang extremes such as meat, chicken, and cheese, can cause symptoms such as alternating constipation and diarrhea, abdominal pain, mucus discharge, and the passage of small-caliber stools. These symptoms are known collectively as irritable bowel syndrome. This condition is exacerbated by the chronic use of antibiotics, aspirin, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. These medications kill normal intestinal bacteria and disrupt the healthful ecology of the colon. Up to two thirds of persons using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs suffer from inflammation of the small intestine.

The use of medications, in combination with the modern diet, can also lead to overgrowth of intestinal yeast (candida) and an increase in intestinal permeability, a condition known as “leaky gut syndrome.” Foods such as sugar, soft drinks, tropical fruits, spices, and chocolate accelerate these disorders.

Easing Digestive Distress

The macrobiotic understanding of energy-balance can help us determine the type of home remedies to use when treating common digestive disorders. Diarrhea, for example, represents an overly-yin or expanded condition. Its symptoms can be categorized as follows:

  • Looseness
  • A watery condition
  • Overactive energy
  • An overacid condition

An internal remedy with the following energy characteristics would help offset these symptoms:

  • Gathering energy
  • Solidifying effects
  • Stabilizing, soothing, or calming effects
  • Alkalizing effects

Based on these criteria, our remedy of choice would be Ume-Sho-Kuzu. Kuzu is a root that grows deep in the earth. It is strongly charged with yang or contracting energy. It is used often as a thickener in macrobiotic cooking, and has contracting or solidifying energy. It helps consolidate the bowel movement and has a quieting effect on an overactive stomach and intestines. Umeboshi neutralizes excess acid. An overly acid condition promotes diarrhea. Moreover, umeboshi has strong antimicrobal power. It can neutralize micro-organisms, including those that cause dysentery.
There is a constant balance in the stomach between the hydrochloric acid secreted by one set of gastric cells and the mucus secreted by another set of cells. Hydrochloric acid is strongly yin; gastric mucus is comparatively yang. When secreted in proper amounts, the mucus in the stomach has a protective effect, preventing gastric acid and enzymes from irritating, ulcerating, or even eating-away the lining of the stomach. Kuzu has a thick, viscous consistency, not unlike that of gastric mucus. It coats the stomach and protects it from excess hydrochloric acid. Umeboshi plum, which is strongly alkaline, neutralizes the harmful effects of excess stomach acid.

As we can see, Ume-Sho-Kuzu is broad-spectrum remedy that benefits the digestive system as a whole. Together with a balanced macrobiotic diet, it can be used to relieve such conditions as stomach ulcers and heartburn. The fiber in kuzu, in combination with the anti-inflammatory effects of umeboshi, are helpful in easing the symptoms of acute diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome. Moreover, because it is more contractive, Ume-Sho-Kuzu can reduce intestinal permeability, thus relieving “leaky gut syndrome.

To prepare this broad-spectrum natural remedy:

  • Dilute one heaping teaspoon of kuzu (kudzu) in two to three teaspoons of cold water.
  • Add one cup of cold water to the diluted kuzu.
  • Place over a medium flame. Stir constantly to prevent lumping, until the liquid becomes translucent. Reduce the flame as low as possible.
  • Add the pulp of one-half to one umeboshi plum that has been chopped or ground to a paste.
  • Add several drops of shoyu and stir gently. Simmer for two to three minutes and drink hot.

Ume-Sho-Kuzu can sometimes be made with grated ginger. However, ginger is an energy-activator, and for acute conditions involving inflammation, or in cases of active diarrhea, it is best omitted. Ume-Sho-Kuzu can be taken once a day for several days until the condition improves. In addition, it is important to make dietary changes so as to allow the digestive organs to heal and prevent a recurrence of the condition. It is also important to chew well, eating regular meals, and not eat before bedtime. These practices ease chronic distress in the digestive system resulting from modern eating habits.

Copyright © 1996 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved

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Alternative Medicine Surges

The use of alternative medicine is rising dramatically as the new century approaches. The number of Americans who use alternative therapies at least once a year increased to 42% in the 1990s, according to a new study by Harvard Medical School researchers published in a special issue this autumn on alternative medicine in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The number of total visits to alternative medicine practitioners rose 47% in the same period to 629 million, thereby exceeding the total visits to all U.S. medical doctors. Expenditures for alternative services increased 45% and were estimated at $21.2 billion a year.

The new study came as Congress established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (formerly the Office of Alternative Medicine ) and more than doubled its annual budget to $50 million.

Compared to the United States, recent surveys have found that 15% of Canadians have seen alternative practitioners in the past year; 10% of people in Denmark; 33% in Finland, and 49% in Australia.

The 16 therapies included in the Harvard study included a lifestyle diet such as macrobiotics or vegetarianism; prayer or spiritual healing; energy healing techniques such as laying on of hands; and relaxation techniques such as meditation or the relaxation response. Visits to massage practitioners and chiropractors constitute nearly half of all visits to alternative therapists.

Use of herbal remedies increased 380% since 1990 and high-dose vitamins 130%. “Use of alternative therapies in 1997 was not confined to any narrow segment of society,” the researchers reported. However, it was more common among women (49%) than men (38%) and less common among African Americans (33%) than other racial groups. People aged 35 to 49 reported higher rates of use (50%) than either older or younger people. Use was higher among those who have some college education (50%) than with no college education (36%) and more common with those with annual incomes above $50,000 (48%).

Noting that alternative therapies are only infrequently included in insurance benefits and that a majority of users do not disclose their use of alternative therapies to their physicians, the researchers concluded that “the current status quo, which can be described as ‘don’t ask and don’t tell,’ needs to be abandoned. Professional strategies for responsible dialog in this area need to be further developed and refined.”

The JAMA issue also published the results of several randomized clinical trails that evaluated the use of alternative medicine therapies for treatment of common clinical conditions. Researchers found that:

  • Moxibustion (stimulating an acupressure point by heat generated from burning mugwort) is helpful for correcting a breech presentation in late pregnancy.
  • A Chinese herbal medicine compound improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Yoga-based intervention helps relieve some symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

JAMA also reported that claims against chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists generally occurred less frequently and involved less severe injury than malpractice claims against medical doctors.

In an accompanying editorial, the editors of the journal called for further research, including priority funding for alternative medicine, and increased dialogue between the conventional and complementary communities. “Ultimately, answering fundamental questions about efficacy, safety, appropriate clinical applications, and meaningful outcomes for all medical therapies, including those considered alternative medicine, requires critical and objective assessment using accepted principles of scientific investigation and rigorous standards for evaluation of scientific evidence.”

Reprinted from the Winter 1999 One Peaceful World Journal, © 1999, all rights reserved.

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