High Energy, Low Energy;
Nine Star Ki and the 2016 Presidential Candidates
By Alex Jack
Donald Trump’s jabs at Jeb Bush for being “low energy” and Ben Carson for being “super low energy” in contrast to his own “high energy” during the 2016 presidential campaign mirror their Nine Star Ki or Oriental astrology signs.
Born in 1946, Trump is a 9 Fire, the most dynamic, volcanic, and charismatic of the nine personality types. Like Bill Clinton, another 9 Fire, he is spontaneous, uninhibited, and dramatic—all qualities associated with intense, fire-like energy. The nine energies, including 1 Water, 3 and 4 Tree, 9 Fire, 2, 5, and 8 Soil, and 6 and 7 Metal, represent character types corresponding with stages of change and transformation in the natural world. 9 Fire accords with the intensity of noon or midday in the daily round and with the blazing heat of summer in the annual cycle—two periods of peak activity. 2 Soil corresponds with early afternoon and Indian summer, the siesta times of the day and year. 4 Tree manifests late morning and late spring—bright but slow, gentle time frames.
Born in 1953, Jeb is a 2 Soil, the more thoughtful, quiet, and methodical of the three Soil types. Marco Rubio, another 2 Soil (but of 1971 vintage) is also reserved and caring. He too has also been blasted by Trump for being lackluster. Chris Christie, also a 2 Soil (class of 1962), is the exception that proves the rule. He is loud, bombastic, and bullying. Ben Carson, born in 1951, is a 4 Tree and has a soft, mild-mannered demeanor. He is also a vegetarian, which contributes to his calm persona. The output of all these candidates pales in comparison to Trump’s fiery wattage.
Ted Cruz, born in 1970, is a 3 Tree, corresponding with early morning and early spring. He is very idealistic, but like many of this sign he is zealous, self-righteous, and pushy to the point of being obnoxious.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, born in 1947, is an 8 Soil, a character type mirroring darkest night and coldest winter. Hers is the most interior, secretive, and penetrating of the nine personality types. She sees into the core, or mystery, of things and often comes up with brilliant solutions akin to the enlightening rays of the dawn or spring equinox.
Curiously, Hillary’s 8 Soil is a more yang, or masculine, energy, while the 2, 4, and 9 energies of most of her male Republican opponents are more yin or primarily feminine. Compared to the leading Republicans, Hillary is more organized, disciplined, and decisive. Her chief Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, born in 1941, is a 5 Soil, who occupies the center of the Ki or energy flow. 5 Soils are natural born leaders that have the ability to connect with all the other energies. This talent has already enabled him to mount a much stronger campaign than expected. As the central energy, 5 Soils are balanced, combining a mixture of male and female strengths and weaknesses.
The nine energies rotate every year, so that one is in the forefront. 2015 found 3 Tree (early morning and early spring) on center stage, and as a whole last year was one of fresh, bright energy. (President Obama is an archetypical 3 Tree personality, embodying change and innovation.) But 3 Tree is governed by the liver, and 2015 also witnessed more anger, frustration, impatience, and violence than usual on the local, national, and global stages. Think the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks and the influx of Syrian, Afghani, and other refugees into Europe.
As a 9 Fire, Trump was in the 2 Soil house for 2015, a position of steady progress, while Bush, Rubio, and Christie were in 4 Tree, the place of rapid growth and development. Carson was in 6 Metal, the house of authority and prosperity, and for a virtual unknown did remarkably well in relating to GOP primary voters. Cruz was in 5 Soil in the center of the Ki flow, experiencing an up and down year as he gradually assumed stage center.
In the 1 Water spot for the past year, corresponding with night and winter, Hillary could do almost nothing right. Overall, she should have taken a sabbatical in 2015, resting, recuperating, and planning for more active times ahead. The Water position is a period of difficulties and hardships, and Hillary had more than her share last year, especially with the scandal over her emails—a river of hidden data. Bernie was in 7 Metal, corresponding with autumn, and he reaped a rich harvest.
On February 4, 2016, the new Nine Star Ki New Year begins. The Iowa Caucus falls on February 1, so the dynamic of 3 Tree could still play a major influence. Hillary’s sharp decline and Bernie’s rapid advance in January 2016—a double 3 Tree month and year—point to a major upset in Iowa in favor of the Vermont challenger. After February 4, Hillary moves into 2 Soil, the place of slow, steady progress, and should fare better. Bernie moves into 8 Soil for the coming year, the wildcard in the deck. Either he could seize a sudden opportunity and win the nomination, or be derailed by an unexpected illness, accident, scandal, or other crisis.
On the GOP front, Trump moves into 3 Tree in 2016, new beginnings, and is ideally situated to win the nomination. Jeb, Marco, and Chris spiral into the center of the Ki flow in 5 Soil, a very challenging position. They will be sorely tested and either hold the middle ground and consolidate their positions or lose their balance and collapse. Ben moves up to 7 Metal, another practical house, where he will be more social, accessible, and communicative. Ted moves into 6 Metal, a position of strength, power, and one ideally situated to override Trump in 3 Tree.
The New Hampshire primary falls on February 9. Curiously, it is also a double date with 2 Soil moving into the center of the Ki flow for the month and year. Hillary should fare better than before. However, given that New Hampshire borders Bernie’s neighboring Vermont and he has been leading consistently, a decisive primary victory could catapult him into the forntrunners position.
Nine Star Ki reflects tendencies, not certainties. In principle, all of the main candidates still have a chance to shine and realize their dream by harmonizing with the energy flow. By observing their characters, their interrelationships, and the change of the seasons, we can anticipate the course the presidential campaign will take and the eventual nominees.
How To: The NSK year begins on February 4 and ends the following February 3. To find your Nine Star Ki, add up the four digits of your birth year, reduce to a single digit, and subtract from 11. For example, if you were born August 21, 1985, add 1+9+8+5 = 23. 2+3 = 5. 11-5 = 6. You are a 6 Metal. If you were born on January 21, 1985, you are part of the 1984 group and a 7 Metal.
Alex Jack is executive director of Kushi Institute. He teaches planetary medicine and offers personal dietary, health, and way of life guidance, including Nine Star Ki counseling.
Book Review by Phiya Kushi
Now available and published by the Kushi Institute is this commemorative book, Remembering Michio with 70 family, friends, and students offering their fondest memories of Michio Kushi resulting in an unparalleled look and insight into the man who changed dietary history, our understanding of food and health, and our relationship with our environment and the cosmos.
Towards the end of his life, I strongly suggested to my father that he write his own autobiography to avoid any future confusion about the details of his life and legacy but he refused to do so. His own modesty would not allow himself to indulge in such a blatant form of self-promotion. Instead he suggested to me to write my own version of his life from my own point of view and to let others also write theirs. With this book, his prophetic wisdom proved correct and I cannot imagine any better way to understand his influence and legacy than through the diverse and combined voices of those he so profoundly touched in so many ways. Any biography by a single author could never include the broad range of narratives offered in this collection.
For those who knew Michio well, this is a warm and emotional book that reads like one is sitting around a cozy fire with old friends reminiscing together about the unique and influential person that he was. For those who never met Michio this book offers eyewitness accounts of an amazing and dedicated man whose knowledge, insight, and abilities seem beyond the scope of any one person.
The book is available now for purchase through the Kushi Store and Amazon. Proceeds will benefit the Kushi Institute tasked with the mission to preserve the legacy and forward the dream and vision of my parents toward creating One Peaceful World through macrobiotics.
According to estimates, diabetes is positioned to become the leading public health epidemic of the 21st century. Worldwide, the incidence of diabetes has increased dramatically. Diabetes is expected to affect 350 million people by 2030, doubling from the 2000 level of 170 million. The greatest increase is expected to occur in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and the Persian Gulf.
In the United States, the number of people with diabetes jumped from 5.6 million in 1980 to 20.9 million in 2010. Close to 27% of persons over age 65 now have diabetes. One in three Americans are predicted to develop diabetes by mid-century. The cost of treating diabetes in the U.S. will soon approach $200 billion per year. Diabetes threatens to overwhelm health care systems in this country and around the world. Diabetes is a major factor in the ongoing financial crisis caused by skyrocketing health care costs.
Modern medicine remains powerless in the face of this planet-wide surge. In a special 200th anniversary article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM 2012; 367-1332/October 4, 2012) entitled “The Past 200 Years in Diabetes,” Dr. Kenneth Polonsky states: “…The pathway to cure has remained elusive. In fact, if one views diabetes from a public health and overall societal standpoint, little progress has been made toward conquering the disease during the past 200 years, and we are arguably worse off now than we were in 1812.”
Could it be that after billions in research and decades of effort, we are worse off now than we were two centuries years ago? Perhaps it is time to take stock and reassess. Perhaps a fresh approach is called for. Let us now examine diabetes from the macrobiotic perspective, beginning with the role of the pancreas.
The Role of the Pancreas
The pancreas is a flat shaped organ located on the left side of the body below the stomach. In its structure, function, and energy it is complementary to the liver, the large organ located opposite it on the right side. The pancreas, being lower in position and more flat than the liver, is classified as yang. The liver, being larger and more expanded, is comparatively yin. (Yang is the term used to describe smaller or more compact forms; yin is the term used to describe larger, more expanded forms.)
The pancreas is animated primarily by celestial force flowing down toward earth. This more yang force is stronger on the left side of the body. The descending colon is evidence of its influence. The liver, on the other hand, receives stronger upward energy. This more yin force originates with the rotation of the earth and is stronger on the right side of the body. Hence the ascending colon is located on the right. The primary forces of yin and yang create the organs and animate their respective functions.
This classification is essential and relevant to our understanding of the cause of diabetes as well as to the prevention and recovery from this disease.
Looking at the way in which these organs interact to regulate the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood will help illustrate this further. The metabolic sugar cycle is divided into stages:
1. Eating food
2. Digesting, or breaking carbohydrate down into glucose (simple sugar)
3. Glucose entering the blood
4. Pancreas releasing insulin
5. Glucose exiting blood and entering body cells.
The processes of eating, digestion, and the absorption of glucose by the bloodstream represent the yin or expansive phase of the cycle. Chewing and digestion are processes of breakdown and decomposition, in this case, breaking down more complex carbohydrates into simple sugar known as glucose. The release of insulin by the pancreas and the entrance of glucose into the cells are the yang or contractive phases in the cycle. The net result of the yin phase is a rise in blood glucose (sugar), while the result of the yang phase is a decrease in blood glucose. High blood sugar is yin, while low blood sugar is yang.
The pancreas performs a dual function. The acini cells secrete digestive enzymes, similar to saliva. On the whole, pancreatic digestive juice is alkaline and yang. It especially aids in the digestion of fats, which are yin. Scattered throughout the pancreas are about a million cell clusters known as the “islets of Langerhans.” The islets are a compact collection of endocrine cells that secrete the hormones that regulate the conversion of sugar into energy and hence the level of sugar in the blood.
The two primary endocrine cells are known as alpha cells and beta cells. The smaller and denser beta cells secrete the yang hormone insulin, which lowers blood sugar. Alpha cells, which are larger and more expanded, secrete the yin hormone glucagon, which has the effect of raising the level of sugar in the blood. As we saw above, on the whole the pancreas is a yang organ. The pancreas contains far more beta cells than alpha cells. The ratio of beta cells to alpha cells is approximately 85% to 15%, or about seven parts beta to one part alpha.
Insulin and Glucagon
Insulin and glucagon offer a perfect example of complementary balance. When blood sugar becomes elevated, the beta cells secrete insulin. Insulin causes glucose to enter the body’s cells, thus lowering the blood sugar level. It also signals the liver to bind glucose molecules for storage in the form of glycogen. The net result is a decrease in blood glucose.
Conversely, when the glucose level becomes low, the alpha cells secrete glucagon. This yin hormone signals the liver to break stored glycogen (yang) down into free glucose (yin), thus raising blood sugar levels.
Insulin (yang) bonds with receptors on the cell membrane (yin).
The mechanism by which insulin facilitates the entry of glucose into the body’s cells can also be understood in terms of yin and yang. Cells consist of an outer cell membrane (yin) and an inner cell nucleus (yang.) Free glucose circulating in the blood is yin, while insulin, as we saw, is yang. Glucose is naturally repelled by the yin cell membrane; it needs a yang agent to facilitate transfer through the membrane and into the interior of the cell. This is accomplished by insulin. Insulin readily bonds with receptors on the cell membrane and passes through the membrane into the interior. The presence of insulin below the surface membrane changes the quality of the membrane. It now becomes yang and attracts and admits glucose.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin or when the body’s cells resist or reject the insulin that is produced. The result is high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, which produces a number of symptoms and side effects, both immediate and long term. In his article Dr. Polonsky describes the disease as follows:
“Over the past two centuries, we have learned that diabetes is a complex, heterogeneous disorder. Type 1 diabetes occurs predominantly in young people and is due to selective autoimmune destruction of the pancreatic beta cell, leading to insulin deficiency. Type 2 diabetes is much more common, and the vast majority of people with this disorder are overweight. The increase in body weight in the general population, a result of high-fat, high-calorie diets and a sedentary lifestyle, is the most important factor associated with the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Older adults are most likely to have type 2 diabetes, although the age at onset has been falling in recent years. Type 2 diabetes is now common among teenagers and young adults.
“We now know that insulin resistance is essential in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes, and that the disease results from both insulin resistance and impaired beta cell function.”
Both insulin resistance and impaired beta cell function are yin conditions, as are obesity and overweight. A primary cause of these conditions is the intake of strongly yin simple sugars, such as refined sugar, as well as refined carbohydrates like white rice and white flour. The continual intake of these extremes exhausts and depletes the beta cells. The result is either not enough insulin or insulin that is too weak to facilitate the transfer of glucose across the cell membrane. If insulin lacks strong yang power, it will not be able to bond with the cell membrane and enter the interior of the cell. Without insulin as a facilitator, glucose does not enter the cell but remains circulating in the blood, hence the high level of blood glucose characteristic of diabetes. This mechanism explains the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The mechanism of type 1 diabetes is a little different, albeit also extremely yin. T. Colin Campbell, PhD in The China Study, best describes the process:
“This devastating, incurable disease strikes children, creating a painful and difficult experience for young families. What most people don’t know, though, is that there is strong evidence that this disease is linked to diet and, more specifically to dairy products. The ability of cow’s milk protein to initiate type 1 diabetes is well documented.”
As Dr. Campbell explains, in some infants, cow milk proteins are not fully digested and small amino acid chains or protein fragments are absorbed by the small intestine. In the bloodstream the immune system identifies these fragments as antigens, or foreign proteins, and codes antibodies to destroy them. Some of these protein fragments are identical in form to insulin-producing beta cells. Antibodies produced by the immune system thus destroy both the cow proteins and the beta cells, taking away the child’s ability to produce insulin. The result is type 1 diabetes, an incurable lifetime condition.
Once again, we can understand this process in terms of yin and yang. Milk, a product of the yang animal body, is a powerfully yin secretion designed for growth. This is especially true for the milk of large mammals such as a cows. The intake of this strongly yin substance (often together with refined sugar) is largely responsible for the onset of type 1 diabetes.
Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs
Carbohydrates come in two types: “simple” or “complex.” Simple carbohydrates contain just one sugar molecule (monosaccharide) or two sugar molecules (disaccharide.) Simple sugars demonstrate strong expansive force. These yin molecules enter the bloodstream very quickly. They cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. In contrast, complex carbohydrates consist of a chain of sugar molecules linked together. Their strong bonding force is yang. The body has to work harder to break down the links in the chain; hence they enter the bloodstream more slowly than simple sugars. The level of sugar in the blood remains more constant and steady. This distinction is crucial in understanding the effect of diet on diabetes.
Examples of simple carbohydrates include table sugar, honey, fruit, fruit juice, jam, and chocolate. They are often labeled “bad” because they are high in calories compared to their nutritional content and because of their effect on blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates are lower in net calories and are sometimes touted as “healthy carbs.” They include foods like whole grains, beans, whole grain bread and pasta, vegetables, especially sweet-tasting ones, and sea vegetables.
Brown vs. White Rice
Brown rice contains beneficial fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals like beta-carotene. Milling and polishing brown rice removes most of its vitamins and minerals. It also strips away most of the fiber in brown rice. The fiber in brown rice and other whole grains slows the absorption of glucose and helps prevent diabetes. That is because the carbohydrate in whole grain fibers is yang and cohesive. The body has to work harder to break the links that bind the carbohydrate chains together.
Although the starch in white rice, white flour, and a baked potato is in the form of complex carbohydrate, the body converts this starch into blood sugar almost as quickly as it processes pure glucose. These foods cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and are classified as having a high glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies foods on how quickly and how high they raise the level of sugar in the blood in comparison to pure glucose.
As we have seen, a food like brown rice is digested more slowly. It doesn’t cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and is classified as having a low glycemic index. When brown rice is milled and refined by removing its bran and germ, its glycemic index rises. The same is true of whole wheat and other grains. Finely ground grain (yin or expansive) is more rapidly digested than coarsely ground grain (more contractive or yang), and has a higher glycemic index. The type of starch is also a factor in determining a food’s glycemic index. More yin starches, like those in potatoes, are rapidly digested and absorbed. Potatoes have a high glycemic index. More yang starches, like those in brown rice, are processed more slowly and have a low glycemic index.
Because of these factors, brown rice is being touted as a possible solution to the diabetes epidemic, especially in China and other rapidly developing countries. A January 2012 article from the Harvard School of Public Health entitled, “Can Brown Rice Slow the Spread of Type 2 Diabetes?” states:
“The worldwide spike in type 2 diabetes in recent decades has paralleled a shift in diets away from staple foods rich in whole grains to highly refined carbohydrates, such as white rice and refined flours. Now a group of researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) aims to stem the tide by changing the color of the world’s rice bowl from white to more-nutritious brown.”
The announcement of a collaborative initiative to prevent the global diabetes epidemic by improving the quality of carbohydrate consumed follows an earlier study published on June 14, 2010 on the website of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. In the study, HSPH researchers found that eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, while a diet that includes two or more servings of brown rice was associated with a lower risk. The investigators estimated that the risk of type 2 diabetes could be lowered by 16% by replacing 50 grams of white rice (1/3rd of a typical daily serving) with the same amount of brown rice. Interestingly, replacing the same amount of white rice with whole wheat or barley was associated with a 36% lower risk.
“From a public health point of view, whole grains, rather than refined carbohydrates, such as white rice should be recommended as the primary source of carbohydrates for the U.S. population,” said senior researcher Frank Hu. “These findings could have even greater implications for Asian and other populations in which rice is a staple food.”
The Potential of Macrobiotics
Macrobiotic educators have for decades advocated an approach similar to the approach advocated by the Harvard School of Public Health. The macrobiotic diet may offer the most effective approach to the prevention of diabetes. Macrobiotics advocates avoiding milk and dairy products associated with type 1 diabetes. Human breast-milk is preferred for infants. Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup are not recommended. Macrobiotics recommends avoiding or reducing foods such as potatoes, white flour, white rice, and others with a high glycemic index. Instead, foods rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber like whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables, and sea vegetables are the foundation of the macrobiotic diet. These foods are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, the macrobiotic diet may prove an effective tool in the management of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, successful management and recovery have been noted in persons adopting a macrobiotic way of eating. Persons with type 2 diabetes have experienced a marked reduction in the need for medication; some after only one or two weeks after beginning the diet. Some patients have eliminated the need for medication entirely while noting marked improvements in overall health. At the very least, macrobiotics is acknowledged as an effective tool in weight loss and weight management. Patients with type 1 diabetes have noted reductions in the need for insulin and a lessening of complications after adopting a plant-based macrobiotic way of eating. Macrobiotics can help these patients better manage their condition.
With the mounting evidence linking diet with the cause, prevention, management, and potential recovery from diabetes, the time has come for clinical trials of the macrobiotic approach. Macrobiotics could very well offer a solution to this 21st century epidemic.
The article is from Rice Field Essays by Edward Esko, Amberwaves Press, 2014.
Macrobiotic Leadership Program: Level I-IV Student Testimonial
María José Colás Martínez, April to July 2015
I first heard about Macrobiotics through my aunt. My aunt started to go to a Macrobiotic doctor in Spain. He studied macrobiotics with George Ohsawa (founder of Macrobiotics) and western medicine. He helped my aunt to stay in shape and have a successful pregnancy. She maintained her weight and had a lovely child.
In University, I studied chemical engineering. I started working in this field but always remembered the natural path that my aunt introduced me to. I worked for a cosmetics company, petrochemical company and also trading import and export from China and Spain. My job gave me the opportunity to live in China for two years. While in China, I became sick and couldn’t breathe very well. I went to see a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor. This experience gave me great insight to more of what natural healing can do. After one week I was feeling perfectly fine.
Later on back in Spain, I was walking to my office one day and I felt that this was not the right job for me and realized I needed to change my life. I wasn’t happy and knew I should be. I always wanted to do something related with the natural health field, so I decided to open an organic shop. My shop, Purusha, has been running for almost a year now. While working with my customers I realized I had a lack of knowledge around food and nutrition. I made an appointment with the doctor that had treated my aunt a long time ago. I wanted to learn for myself more about his Macrobiotic education. In the short time of meeting with him, he amazed and inspired me. He made me think that this is what I want to do with my life. Right away I started doing a bit of research and I found out the Kushi Institute (KI) in Becket, MA is where to get first hand information on macrobiotics. I set my goal to go study at the KI. My plan is to help people to live a better and more complete life through diet and lifestyle by following Macrobiotic principles. Amazing! Here I am studying at the KI and will complete the Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Levels I through III, and two weeks of the Level IV program. I hope to become the best counselor, chef and teacher that I can possibly be when I get back to Valencia, Spain.
By Patricio Garcia de Paredes
I met Shizuko Yamamoto in the late 1970s in Spain. She had come to Barcelona to teach macrobiotics and shiatsu. My mother, Luisa Baranda, was one of the persons who organized her trip and she stayed at my house. In those days in Spain we still had not much contact with oriental culture and with people from Asia. So for her to stay in my house was both exiting and intriguing. Although I was just a kid at the time, her presence made a strong impression on me that I can still remember to this day. She was kind and considerate, yet strong and sharp. And in my view she embodied many of the qualities that I had created in my mind about what a person of wisdom and deep understanding of life from the far-east would be like. At the same time Shizuko was a very practical person and her unique down-to-earth style of teaching was very well received. She influenced many people’s lives and now in Spain and throughout Europe shiatsu has become very popular thanks to her pioneering work.
Among the most inspiring aspects about Shizuko was her own life story. She was a living example of how we can transform difficulties into possibilities and change suffering into happiness. Following World War II in Japan food was scarce and malnutrition widespread. To remedy the situation, the Allied occupation forces introduced milk and meat along with modern nutritional ideas about the importance of animal protein and calcium to develop strong, healthy bodies. It was believed at the time that the small size of the Japanese people was due to the nutritional inadequacy of the traditional Japanese diet, particularly lack of meat, milk and dairy products. Parents were encouraged to feed their children as much meat and milk as possible so that they would grow more big and strong. So while growing up Shizuko became an avid meat eater and she was even awarded as The Best Grown Child in her elementary school. However, that way of eating weakened her health and at the age of 21 she was diagnosed with leukemia. She also had vision and eye problems and went through 10 operations to correct her eyesight. She spent 3 years in and out of hospitals. After the hospital trauma, she stayed at home, almost hiding out from social activities for more than eight years. At one point she became determined to change her life and regain her health, so she began to look for alternatives.
While living with her parents in Tokyo, Shizuko was introduced to shiatsu (Japanese style of finger-pressure massage). There was an older woman, a shiatsu practitioner, who came to her home to give her parents shiatsu treatments. Originally she was not attracted to shiatsu and rejected the idea of other oriental healing arts. In those days in Japan people were educated to follow the western ways and shiatsu was looked upon as something backwards and unscientific. As a result many of the traditional cultural and healing arts were banned and just a few licensed practitioners were permitted to treat with shiatsu and only when they practiced within private homes. However, besides her eye problems, she also experienced pain on her neck and stiff shoulders, so she decided to receive shiatsu. And because it felt good and relived her pain, she began to study and practice various oriental ways of developing health and achieving well-being.
The first step began by reading a book on yoga and attending yoga classes which triggered other changes in her way of life. She also learned about macrobiotics and began to make dietary changes by centering her way of eating on brown rice, local vegetables, beans and bean products, sea vegetables and other plant foods and stopped eating meat and sugar. Every day she exercised a lot, went for walks and began to meditate. She would open the windows, let fresh air in and practice breathing exercises. Practically her whole life went through a whole transformation and within one month she already began feeling much better.
As time passed and her health recovered she felt drawn to begin helping other people. This sympathetic feeling towards helping others has been the foundation and driving force of what eventually would become her dream and life work. She first began to teach yoga and other corrective exercises at a training center. As she worked with people she realized that although the problems differed and the symptoms appeared to be different, they all shared the same origin. For example everyone followed unbalanced ways of eating and did not know how to move or breathe correctly. So everyone would get better by improving dietary habits and correcting breathing and movement exercises. This proved to her that if you make dietary changes and lifestyle adjustments you can get good results to strengthen and possibly recover health. For those students that would need extra help, she would she would give them shiatsu. She also started to try new techniques and began to use not just her hands and fingers to apply pressure but also her feet which later developed and evolved into a new style of barefoot shiatsu. In addition she also found out that yoga was very useful combined with shiatsu.
While helping people, she continued to study and integrate other natural and traditional healing and self-development arts including seitai (a system of guided self-corrective exercises), reiki (a form of palm healing), acupuncture, and aikido, many of which had been driven underground. Through her own experience and by integrating many different techniques and approaches, eventually she began to develop her own, original way of helping people. This included a well-balanced macrobiotic way of eating coupled with corrective exercises and shiatsu, which were to become the three main pillars of her unique approach to help individuals regain better health and alleviate their suffering. She then went on to develop a holistic beauty school where people could learn about macrobiotics, cooking, yoga and other corrective exercises, receive shiatsu and develop natural physical and mental beauty from within.
George and Lima Ohsawa
During those years, Shizuko had been studying macrobiotics with George and Lima Ohsawa, the founders and main proponents of modern macrobiotics. In 1965, after returning from a trip around the world, George Ohsawa called Shizuko and suggested to her to go to the United States to help spread macrobiotics in the west. At the beginning she hesitated because she had just started her holistic beauty school. But George continued to encourage her and after some consideration, she decided to take the challenge. She began to work on her visa with the help of Michio Kushi who was her sponsor in the United States and selling all her clothes and everything she owned to raise money. While Shizuko was making preparations of what would be an epic journey, in a curious twist of fate both her mother and her mentor George Ohsawa passed away. At Ohsawa’s funeral his friend Morihei Ueshiba, the creator of aikido as its known today, encouraged her in her journey to the West.
Arriving in America in 1966, Shizuko went to work initially as a private macrobiotic cook and guide to Hollywood movie star Gloria Swanson and her husband-to-be William Duffy. Swanson was the first actress to utilize her fame to campaign against crop spraying back in the 1920s. Both Swanson and Duffy were very influential promoting dietary changes in a more natural, healthy macrobiotic orientation. Duffy wrote Sugar Blues and Lady Sings the Blues, two controversial books that contributed to raise awareness about the harmfulness of sugar. Later she worked in a macrobiotic restaurant. While working at the restaurant some employees would complain about stiff neck and shoulders and she would work on them for a few minutes. Eventually by word of the mouth she began to make a living from giving shiatsu.
Little by little Shizuko was invited to give talks on Eastern traditional healing methods and demonstrate techniques. She also met with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who came to learn for years to learn about macrobiotics and also to receive treatments. Yoko and John introduced Shizuko to many influential people in New York, including John Cage, the dancer Merce Cunningham, actors Irma Paule and Mary Steenburg, Ted Danson and many senators. With a little help from her friends and clients along with some donations, she was able to establish the Macrobiotic Center of New York on a shoestring and was the president from 1970 to 1990. She would work seven days a week teaching, counseling and sometimes treating ten people a day. Since many Americans had large bodies with stiff muscles due to eating more meat and animal food, she began to use more her feet and elbows in addition to her hands. She would also teach at Michio and Aveline Kushi’s house in Boston and later at the Kushi Institute to many students.
(L to R) Shizuko Yamamoto, Aveline Kushi, Michio Kushi, William Duffy and Cecile Levin
Shizuko Yamamoto gave seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Europe, Cuba, and her native Japan. Her influential work has inspired countless individuals around the world. And she has personally counseled, treated and guided thousands of individuals towards better health and happiness, including many celebrities and influential people such as Dr. Benjamin Spock. She is recognized as one of the pioneer shiatsu teachers in the West and leading shiatsu practitioners in the world. She was the creator of Barefoot Shiatsu and Macrobiotic Shiatsu styles. To further world-wide communication in the natural healing field, she initiated the International Macrobiotic Shiatsu Society. She has authored several books including Barefoot Shiatsu, The Shiatsu Handbook, 20-Minute Shiatsu, and Whole Health Shiatsu. Her books have been translated into seven languages. In Shizuko’s words she concludes simply by saying that: “The essence of shiatsu is love, which is infinitely available.”
She was also an accomplished macrobiotic cooking instructor and has lectured and written widely on the importance of a natural, balanced way of eating for personal as well as for family health. Commenting on macrobiotics, she mentioned that “As long as you are determined to change your life, the practice of macrobiotics itself is easy and fun.”
Shizuko Yamamoto taught that to fundamentally change for the better we must learn from nature and develop a way of life in harmony with nature. She often would say that “We are one with nature,” based on the oriental concept of “shin-do-fuji.” Throughout her life she promoted organic foods and sustainable farming. She also realized through her own experience that in order to create a better world we need to begin by changing ourselves from within. By improving our health and looking at life in a positive way. This then would influence our family and reverberate in society. Now shiatsu and macrobiotics continues to grow and is sought after by many people around the world. Shizuko continued to teach, guide people and spread her message until late in her eighties even after losing most of her vision. She will be remembered by many as an outstanding teacher and a compassionate person who tirelessly dedicated her life toward helping other fellow human beings. May her life work be a source of inspiration to us all and her dream continue to influence humanity for many generations to come.
Patricio Garcia de Paredes
Patricio was introduced to macrobiotics at the age of five by his mother, Luisa Baranda, in his native Spain. After completing studies at the Kushi Institute, he began to give cooking classes and teach in Southeast Asia, South America, and Spain. In 1998 he moved to Japan and was executive chef at Kushi Garden and Chaya Macrobiotic Restaurant. Besides developing macrobiotic restaurants, he also maintained educational activities including giving cooking classes, presenting lectures, and publishing macrobiotic cookbooks. Presently he is the Education Director at the Kushi Institute of Japan. He currently resides in Japan with his wife, four daughters and one son.
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2011. I was struggling, feeling very fatigued. I had insomnia for many months and then became depressed. My body was sore 24/7 and I usually woke up tired, experiencing a lot of headaches and anxiety during the night. Many people told me to start working out, but I already had a very active lifestyle. I went through 4 different anti-depressant treatments. I also took Xanax and Lyrica for the pain, but it didn’t help me. Experiencing Fibromyalgia caused me to stay in bed for about 4 to 6 months. This affected all of my relationships. At one point, I felt that cancer would be better than Fibromyalgia.
Two years after being on this medicine, I talked with one of my best friends, Salvatore Luccherino. At the time he had a Macrobiotic B&B in Portugal and currently is selling organic tempeh (http://www.salstempeh.com). Salvatore started talking to me about how the Macrobiotic diet could help with Fibromyalgia. I felt so inspired after talking with him that I booked a ticket to Portugal to learn from him in person. I stayed with Salvatore for 2 weeks while he cooked for me and showed me how to start eating a Macrobiotic diet.
While I was in Portugal, I had a macrobiotic consultation with Francisco Varatojo who owns a Macrobiotic center in Portugal, (http://www.institutomacrobiotico.com). Francisco saw that my consumption of animal products was very high and recommended that I adjust my diet. After only 2 weeks of eating a macrobiotic diet, my body started to react in a positive way. My energy returned. I finally started smiling again and felt like I was my healthy self again. I was happy, living without pain and sleeping perfectly. After 4 months, I stopped taking all of my medicine for Fibromyalgia . It has now been 2 ½ years since practicing Macrobiotics and after seeing all of the positive changes in my body, I decided to open a wellness center. I now help people and plan to continue to spread the incredible benefits of Macrobiotics.
I attended the Healthy Weight Loss Program in March 2014 to get introduced to the Kushi Institute. I have come back to take the Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1. I will be graduating next Friday from the program and will return to finish Level 2, 3 and 4 to further develop my skills. My goal and dream is to open up a healing center in Miami, Florida.
I believe everything happens for a reason, I wasn’t expecting to be ill, but I know from my recovery experience that I can help others with Fibromyalgia and other conditions from all that I’ve learned.
Please feel to contact me directly to learn more about my story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attended the Following Kushi Institute Programs:
Healthy Weight Loss 3/30/2014
Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1 3/29 – 4/25, 2015
Macrobiotic Leadership Program
Spotlight: Gwen Burton, Current Level 3 Student
Gwen Burton is a champion of home-cooking, healthy food, and eco-friendly living. As the creator and publisher of Brown Rice Magazine, she has worked to make macrobiotic and plant-based cuisine appealing, relevant, and fun for the modern urban dweller. Gwen embodies and lives the values that she shares with her readers: synchronicity with the natural world, practicing devotion and concentration at every opportunity, and finding humor and beauty in all aspects of life. She draws on her five years of macrobiotic practice, as well as her education from the Kushi Institute and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in order to help clients feel their best, realize their dreams, and maximize their potential to see them through. Gwen tutors individuals to hone their healthy home cooking, coaches clients to achieve wellness and peace in all aspects of life, performs private chef services, and regularly offers group workshops on fermentation throughout NYC. www.gwenburton.com
Click here to check out Gwen Burton’s Harvest Romance Yoga Pose Tutorial and begin harvesting some love in your life!
Click the link for Michio’s One Peaceful World Prayer: MK prayer
Brown Rice Magazine Interview with K.I. Senior Faculty Edward Esko
By Gwen Burton
Brown Rice: When I think about the way that healthy eating has been adopted in our culture over the past few decades, I am struck by how macrobiotics seems to have been such a major player. I can see how it might be encouraging that healthy food options are proliferating and easily accessible, but also frustrating because people seem to believe they don’t have time to cook for themselves and many of these healthy food options employ the “fast food” model. What has it been like to participate in and witness the change in eating in the US over the decades? What is your opinion on where we are today?
EE: Many of the things macrobiotic teachers advocated in the 1960s and 1970s have now become mainstream. Let’s look at several core principles, starting with the concept of “fresh, local, and organic.” I first heard the idea of eating locally in Michio Kushi’s early lectures. Fresh, local, and seasonal foods were touted as the way to achieve sustainability, both in terms of personal health and our relationship to the environment. We went out of our way to support local organic growers and suppliers. We gave classes and published books such as “The Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook” that explained how to cook with the seasons.
Now, four star restaurants in Manhattan feature fresh, local, and organic produce. Seasonal cooking and shopping at farmer’s markets has become fashionable. Macrobiotics was way ahead of the curve on that.
Let’s take another core principle, the superiority of plant-based diets. When I first read George Ohsawa’s comment that the human body is perfectly equipped to process plant foods directly, without hiring middlemen such as cows or pigs, it made perfect sense. Also that a whole-grain- and vegetable-based diet has many advantages over an animal-based diet. A light bulb also went off when Ohsawa stated that cow’s milk was perfect food, for baby cows! I had been a big milk-drinker up to that time but hearing such common sense was a revelation. As with the other core macrobiotic principles, the notion that plant-based diets are superior has gained traction with leading-edge thinkers in nutrition and public health, including T. Colin Campbell, Neal Barnard, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D., and the Harvard School of Public Health.
Another core principle that has become obvious today is the idea that whole foods are superior to refined and process foods. The term “whole foods” was actually invented by Michio’s inner circle in Cambridge around 1965. Now it has become part of the culture. Several years ago, the Harvard School of Public Health announced it would start promoting brown rice in place of white rice to stem the rise of diabetes in China. Brown rice is a whole food, white rice is a highly processed food.
Brown Rice: To what extent did the idea of “non-credo” shape the early macrobiotic movement, and do you think that this notion has been forgotten or passed over in the current era of health coaching and commercialized regimens? What is the role of non-credo in developing judgment?
EE: “Non-credo,” or “do not believe,” has always been at the center of macrobiotic philosophy. It always will. The only way to real self-knowledge is through your own practice and discovery. Macrobiotics is about freedom, pure and simple, not following someone else’s ideas.
Brown Rice: I’m curious about the tendencies of the long-term macrobiotic practitioner. Is it natural, in your experience, to want to self-experiment after having achieved a certain degree of mastery in the kitchen and with one’s own condition? It occurs to me that this tendency could either be a way of continuing one’s education in a way that could benefit others in the future, or might possibly be a manifestation of arrogance.
EE: The bottom line is that there is nothing other than self-experiment. It’s the nature of reality and not at all arrogance.
Brown Rice: What are your opinions on veganism? Macrobiotic diets include a small amount of white meat fish and some other seafood, but currently, attaining good-quality seafood is almost impossible. Now that I am vegan, I wonder about the ethical implications of causing the suffering and death of other beings, and I wonder why this might be acceptable according to macrobiotic philosophy, which otherwise seems concerned with facilitating peace on the entire planet through diet.
EE: Eating grains and vegetables means they have to die so that you live. The question is which types of foods make that sacrifice willingly and which resist. It seems to me animals are quite resistant to being killed and eaten as food for humans. Grains and vegetables seem quite willing to become human food. Similarly, billions of microscopic bacteria sacrifice themselves every time you enjoy miso soup, natto, or sauerkraut.
The Chinese character for peace, “Wa,” is made up of images for “cereal grain” and “mouth.” They apparently understood that eating grains and vegetables led to a peaceful mentality.
Brown Rice: There is an exciting project to grow rice in the Berkshires. Have these efforts been successful? I recently heard a rumor that at one point in time, macrobiotic founder George Ohsawa only ate rice immediately after it had been harvested. What does fresh rice taste like? Do you notice a big difference in taste and energy?
EE: Fresh harvest rice is for ceremonial purposes only, not for daily consumption. I’m sure Ohsawa enjoyed it on special occasions. We had the pleasure to enjoy freshly harvested rice from South River Miso on special occasions as well, such as Kushi Institute graduation ceremonies, my 60th birthday celebration, and others.
Check www.VermontRice.com for updates on rice growing in New England. Also look at www.SouthRiverMiso.com for rice growing and local production of miso in Western Mass.
Brown Rice: What is your diet like now? What kinds of foods are you attracted to after decades of macrobiotic practice?
EE: Onigiri (nori rice balls), soba (buckwheat noodles) in broth, natto (fermented soybean) rolls and melt-in-your-mouth salmon sashimi at Bizen, the Japanese macrobiotic restaurant in Great Barrington, Mass., vegan hummus sandwiches at Guido’s in Pittsfield, where I live, and water-sauteed green vegetables with brown rice vinegar or lemon.
Brown Rice: The Kushi Institute operates in MA. Are there any opportunities for NYC residents to learn more about the diet and the practice?
EE: My lectures in NYC offer an opportunity to experience Kushi Macrobiotic Education. Also, we would like to offer more extensive programs, such as Kushi Instititute (KI) Level One Certificate Programs in NYC beginning in the fall of 2014. Also, the Berkshires, where the KI is located, are not far from NYC. Just drive north up the lovely Taconic Parkway or the NY Throughway. We have a very special Summer Conference coming up in August that should be of interest to New Yorkers. Michio Kushi and more than twenty leading macrobiotic teachers will be presenting. The Conference will include vegan macrobiotic meals plus cultural events including the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Tanglewood Music Festival, the South River Miso rice field, and others. Go to KushiInstitute.org for ongoing updates.
The above interview was conducted by Gwen Burton and published in Brown Rice Magazine. Contact www.BrownRiceMagazine.com.
We would like to honor Michio Kushi, macrobiotic educator, natural food pioneer and founder of Kushi Institute. Michio passed away peacefully on December 28, surrounded by his loving wife Midori and sons Norio, Haruo, Phiya, and Hisao. He was 88 years old. On behalf of the students, staff, and faculty of the Kushi Institute, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Kushi family.
Michio was actively involved in K.I. planning and development until just prior to his passing. His vision for the institute was to teach, guide, and inspire individuals towards greater personal freedom, health, and happiness. The Kushi Institute plans to assure his teachings and mission will continue.
Click for a more complete list of Michio Kushi’s achievements
As a result of the hard work and dedication of the K.I. staff, the support of our students and participants, and the generosity of our donors, the Institute ended 2014 on a very positive note. We have been successful in reaching the Institute’s goal of establishing the first Annual Fund and have raised sufficient funds contributing to general operating expenses. The work of K.I. counselors and teachers helped contribute to numerous success stories for individuals and families in their quest for better health and well being.
The Institute’s core programs, the Macrobiotic Leadership Training Program and the Way to Health Program were well attended in 2014. The annual Kushi Institute Summer Conference, held for the first time in Becket MA, was a resounding success, and continues to bring in excitement as we plan for the upcoming 2015 event, July 26 thru August 9. The K.I. also launched several exciting new programs designed to help those with specific conditions, including The Macrobiotic Approach to Psoriasis, Controlling Crohn’s and Colitis thru Diet, and The Natural Approach to Breast Cancer. We are now planning to introduce a variety of new workshops and seminars in 2015 to continue in this work.
The K.I. also has ambitious plans for 2015 and beyond. In our last message, we introduced the Macrobiotic Breast Cancer Study. The Kushi Institute is now in discussion with medical researchers at Tufts University and Johns Hopkins University Medical School to begin the first ever randomized clinical trial on the effects of the macrobiotic diet on advanced cancer of the breast. Our hope is that the Macrobiotic Breast Cancer Study will revolutionize the treatment of this disease, so that a natural plant-based diet becomes a standard part of breast cancer treatment and recovery. The Institute has submitted a detailed proposal for a comprehensive macrobiotic care program for study participants. The K.I. hopes to complete the planning phase and move toward implementation this year. Please check kushiinstitute.org for ongoing developments.
To further Michio’s lifetime work of training a new generation of macrobiotic teachers, counselors, and chefs, the K.I. is planning to introduce the Macrobiotic Internship Program in 2015. Qualified participants will have the opportunity to assist K.I. counselors and teachers in personal counseling sessions, lectures, and cooking classes. More details will be announced on this program shortly.
We ask for your support in helping us continue Michio’s vision of health, peace, and sustainability through the macrobiotic way of life. You can support the K.I. by attending a program, recommending the K.I. to friends and family, purchasing high-quality foods and supplies from the Kushi Store, or making a tax-deductible donation the Kushi Institute Annual Fund. We’d like to thank those who have already contributed. It is with much appreciation and gratitude that we will continue the legacy and further the dream of one peaceful world.
On behalf of the staff, faculty, and students of the Kushi Institute, we wish you a healthy and happy New Year.
Let us honor his wonderful life. We invite you to share below.
The Winter holiday season brings potential hangover weather with it. To avoid the pitfalls of lethargy, depression, and nausea after those gatherings with family and loved ones, try a few macrobiotic tips!
1. Get out of the house and get some fresh air!
2. Exercise twenty-one minutes daily to alleviate the depression and raise the oxygen levels depleted by a lack of sleep and too much booze.
3. Bring on the carbohydrates! One half a sourdough whole wheat bagel with tofu cream cheese and chives can lift the blood sugar that has usually tanked from too much ethanol.
4. Have miso soup and a few seaweed nori rolls to help the liver flush out a toxic molecule that gets created when the alcohol is broken down.
5. For dinner, eat a bowl of pasta with lentils, a touch of roasted garlic, chopped parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper. This will give the body the fuel it needs to push out all the toxic byproducts of alcohol metabolism.
6. To quell the nausea, eat 1/4 teaspoon of umeboshi paste.
7. Besides kukicha tea, the beverage of choice for people in usual good health under these circumstances would be green or black tea because they contain good-guy polyphenols, which enhance a quick recovery. By adding (preferably organic) fresh ginger – peeled, sliced, pounded, chopped, and put into the tea to be eaten after its been drunk – you will only increase the benefits.
Article courtesy of Elizabeth G. Karaman
Meet Jiyoon Kim
Graduate of our Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Levels 1,2, and 3
I discovered macrobiotics 2 years ago. Before I found macrobiotics, I quit my very stressful job. I had been struggling with poor blood circulation, hypoglycemia, and had gained over 10 lbs. I began to feel I could no longer control my condition. These changes in my health were causing me concern because my fathers’ mother had passed away from diabetes. Also, my mother’s father and mother passed away very early from liver cancer and kidney disease respectively. Furthermore, my uncle and aunt are struggling with diabetes presently.
With above concerns, I deeply wanted a new healthy lifestyle for my family and myself. I began doing a lot of Internet research specifically related to cooking, food, and their connection with our health. During my search I was intrigued by a new term I came across, “macrobiotics”. I found the teachings to be rational even though I was not a vegan. I felt that macrobiotic philosophy was very well-founded, and the concepts and principles resonated with me greatly. Searching for further information, Kushi Institute was listed as the first resource for macrobiotic. This is where I would be spending three months of my life bringing myself back to harmony, and opening new experiences.
When I registered for Kushi Institute’s Macrobiotic Leadership program, I expected that I would only be learning about macrobiotic cooking. I was very pleasantly surprised. The learning was much more comprehensive. It included philosophy (the principles of yin and yang), history, shiatsu, and visual diagnosis. Since arriving at the Kushi Institute back in September, I feel so much lighter. My first week here, I lost almost 9 lbs! Moreover, I felt changes happening in my body, and experienced a lot of discharging from all of the bad foods I had been eating. I sense my health has improved immensely.
During the last couple of months I have been learning to balance my diet. I used to be addicted to sweet things. I craved a lot of sugar. After I read some books and learned about macrobiotics, I tried to keep away from sugar. I have successfully replaced standard sweeteners with acceptable macrobiotic substitutes, and I do not miss them! Immersing myself at the Kushi Institute, I acquired a deeper understanding of all the diverse macrobiotic concepts, and felt passionately that this could benefit the entire world. I would love to take part in spreading this wisdom all over the world.
In Korea, macrobiotic instructors are few and far between, and their focus is primarily on cooking. When I took macrobiotic cooking classes in Korea, I felt as though it was not enough. I felt I needed to learn the whole concept. I believe that Kushi Institute provided this missing gap. When I took a quick visit to South Korea 2 weeks ago, my mother was so happy! She looked at me and said, “You look much brighter and healthier.” This confirmed what I have been feeling, and further fueled my determination and practice. Her comments made me realize I am on the right path.
Before coming to Kushi Institute, I was planning to further pursue nutrition, food, and health. Now I want to make a bridge connecting these interests and macrobiotics. I am confident that it could benefit young and old alike to be more aware of their diet and lifestyle choices. For my next step, I’ve made the decision to attend graduate school for Public Health and Nutrition. After, making this decision, I experienced a wonderful feeling of satisfaction. I think this moment is the biggest turning point in my life.
From Michio Kushi
Michio Kushi and Midori H. Kushi and Alex Jack with all the staff of the Kushi Institute in Becket extend our deepest sympathy and condolences and share the sadness with all of Adelbert Nelissen’s family and all the staff of the Kushi Institute in the Netherlands. We sincerely hope and pray that Adelbert’s dreams and activities over more than fifty years will be developed further by his family members and by other associates and colleagues.
From Alex Jack
Farewell, Dear Adelbert
You were one of the brightest stars in the macrobiotic firmament or sky. You were a pioneer of the natural foods movement, a leading macrobiotic teacher and counselor, and head of a devoted family. At times your manner and expression were very direct, but a warm heart always beat beneath your provocative exterior. You wanted nothing more than to awaken people to their deeper, higher selves. That was your mission and your joy.
Your brilliance shown in many practical and visionary accomplishments—from founding Manna and the East West Center, to launching the Kushi Institute of Europe and Deshima, to conceiving the Ideal Food Pattern and Macropedia—two projects I had the privilege of working on with you in recent years.
Like Daedalus, the architect, master craftsman, and inventor of the Labyrinth in Greek mythology, your most original contribution lay in art, creative expression, and design. Who can ever forget participating in one of your walking tours among the canals, bridges, and historic buildings and sites of Amsterdam in which you wove a vibrant tapestry of yin/yang polarities, spiral ratios, and the convergence of all five stages of transformation in one sublime vista? And like Icarus, Daedalus’s son and dearest creation, you dared to fly too close to the sun.
In 2001, just thirteen years ago this week, you and I set out on a memorable 10-day journey through southern France and northern Italy, visiting rice fields and warning farmers of the dangers of GMO rice. We rented a small car and took a winding course along the Mediterranean Sea. Periodically, you would stop the vehicle, strip off your clothes, and dive into the glistening deep. I would hold my breath, fearful that you would crash on a big rock, but you always emerged unscathed and refreshed.
Whether leading the campaign against the Modern Food Pattern—the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth of personal and social decline in our time—scaling an Alpine or Himalayan peak, combatting the ignorance and folly of the contemporary medical system, or cycling with your family, you pushed yourself to the limit.
And like Icarus, Daedalus’s son, the warm, caressing rays of the sun ultimately melted your wings, and you fell back to earth. You died as you lived, pursuing your eternal dream.
Dear Adelbert, now your strong, resourceful mind and loving heart are at rest. May your bright, shining spirit travel freely in the world of light. May you be surrounded by love and peace and be uplifted by the prayers and thoughts of all those you left behind. May we be forever one.
Fare thee well, dear Adelbert.
I lost 70 lbs in 70 days on a macrobiotic diet!
Written By Marisa Marinelli
Andre was born and raise in Brazil. At the age of 25, he considered himself a happy young adult who liked to have fun with his friends. After being diagnosed with necrosis of the bone in his femur, he was inspired to try a macrobiotic lifestyle to see if it would help. Not only did he heal his bone, he lost 70 lbs in 70 days! Read his dramatic weight loss interview below:
What was your lifestyle like before you lost the weight?
I used to go out with my friends 3 or 4 times a week to bars where we would drink or eat out at restaurants. We’d stay out really late into evening and it happened a lot. Usually when we go out we would end up eating the food at the bar, a lot of fried things such as pork. A lot of pork is served in Brazil where I lived. Eating and drinking late at night was for sure.
Would you say you were happy with your life during that time?
Yes. Yes I was. Definitely happy.
When did you discover macrobiotics?
The first time I had contact with macrobiotics was in 2004 through a friend. He was giving it a try for a while. In one month (of eating this way) I saw a difference in him. His face looked like he was 2 years younger and he had lost some weight. When I first decided to try macrobiotics it was in 2009. I had a problem with my bone structure. I had necrosis of the bone which means it started to die due to a lack of oxygen. The doctors wanted to cut the femur and put in a metal piece. I did not want to have this procedure done at all. I thought it would be absurd if this was the only option they were offering me. I went to a few doctors to get second opinions but they all said I needed this surgery. The condition was so bad that I walked around with a cane at the age of 25. At this time, I recalled my friend’s experience with macrobiotics and decided to do it for myself. I found a counselor (where I lived) in Brazil and started to work with him.
What changes did you see after adopting macrobiotics into your life?
After that I started to feel very very very well. My happiness increased! I thought I was already happy but I feel so much happier now after macrobiotics.
I lost 70 lbs in 70 days. Since then I have maintained this weight for the last 5 years because I continued to practice macrobiotics. AND my bone healed! [Andre says this as he jumps up and down on one leg]. I did not have any surgery and have not been back to the doctors since. I feel great!
What was the hardest challenge that you had in changing your lifestyle?
Avoiding cravings for old food was my biggest challenge. I was very lucky to have the support of my family and girlfriend at the time. They were very supportive and that helped me a lot to continue what I was doing. I used to eat a lot of pizza and hamburgers before [my diet change] so there were a lot of cravings [for those heavy foods]. The alcohol was never a problem to let go. My friends were okay with me not drinking. I still when out to the bars with them and I would take my kukicha tea with me. When I went out to dinner with my girlfriend I would explain to the restaurant manager that I could not eat this food and they would not have a problem with me bringing my own food. Of course, this was in Brazil.
Do you eat out at restaurants now?
Not yet, not in 5 years. I cook for myself every day. Living here at the K.I. is the first time I’m not cooking for myself, however I know I’m being supported with good healthy food.
What brings you to Kushi Institute in Becket, MA?
I realized that I want to work with macrobiotics. I want it to be the main part of my life. When I discovered this opportunity to study and this was the best place to learn this material, I didn’t even think twice about it. I quit my job and came here to do the [Macrobiotic Leadership Training] Levels. I’m not sure exactly how yet, but I know this is my path.
For more information on Kushi Institute’s macrobiotic approach to weight loss, register today for our Healthy Weight Loss Program.
Upcoming dates posted throughout the year!
Just over a year ago, KI Level 3 Graduate
Andrea Beaudoin opened her food truck Hearty Eats. This spring, she added a permanent restaurant in Shelburne Falls, Mass. Now, she’s heading back to Kushi for the first ever Local Berkshire Food Fair on Sunday, August 10. We caught up with her to talk about then and now as well as her continuing vision for the future.
How did you discover Macrobiotics?
I was working in Boston when I started having health issues. I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of HPV, so I was trying to understand my health better. A friend introduced me to macrobiotics, and I launched into my own process of discovery through books. I changed my diet and ate really narrowly for a little while so my body could start detoxing and healing. I also quit smoking. Eight months later, I conceded to having a cold knife cone biopsy, which looks for deeper cancerous development, but there was no evidence of cancer or even a sign that there had ever been a problem. So, I really believed in what I was doing.
When did you decide to start the Level Program at KI?
Basically, I decided that if I was going to live this way, I needed to understand it on a deeper level. I took the first week of Level 1 to get a taste of it while I was still working in the corporate world back in Boston. In January 2013, I left my job and completed the program through Level 3. I was getting an in-depth understanding plus time for healing and changing the direction my life was heading. I didn’t come from the food industry, but I knew I would use what I learned from Kushi for the rest of my life, whether I made a career out of it or not.
Why a food truck?
Even before I left my job, I was racking my brain: “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” I spent a lot of time reflecting on who I am, what’s important to me, what the world could benefit from and how to succeed in doing what you love while paying bills – because there’s a balance there. I had always wanted accessible healthy food while I was working in the city. So I ended up buying a food truck with no solid plan.
Can you let us in on the name “Hearty Eats”?
Hearty Eats is a joke. The name came while laughing over the health food/fast food/drive thru concept with friends. We imagined the golden arches bending further, turning into a green heart. So “Hearty Eats” comes from that ongoing joke. Also, the food is hearty. A lot of people think health food is salads. I think what’s really key about Macrobiotics is the food is hearty. It’s not leaving you hungry. It’s healing, nourishing food. Heart health is another. I just couldn’t get away from the name because of all of the meaning in it.
What was the initial response to a Macro-friendly food truck?
We put clean, digestible, balanced food out into the world without a label. Macrobiotic, vegan, gluten-free – our food is all these things yet it’s presented in a format regular people relate to. We soak our rice and use kombu. We pick high-quality fresh ingredients. Everything is from scratch. People know it when they taste it and they comment all of the time that it’s the “best” or the “cleanest” or the “healthiest” food without us telling them. So we don’t scream “Gluten-free!” We don’t scream “Vegan!” We don’t scream “Macrobiotic!” Instead, we’re saying, “Why can’t this just be the norm?” At our first event it was just us and three BBQ trucks, and we had a line all day.
Other than the upcoming Local Berkshire Food Fair at Kushi Institute on August 10th, where can people generally find Hearty Eats?
As for the truck, we’ve been doing music festivals, the Brimfield Antique Show, Wanderlust VT, etc. Increasingly, we’re sticking to local events in our area, especially daytime events centering around lunch. We just opened a restaurant in Shelburne Falls, Mass. at 24 Bridge Street.
What’s next for Hearty Eats?
There’s nothing static about our vision. Our plan is to evolve as things make sense. We hadn’t planned on a restaurant just a year after the truck. It came together with the good response to our food and the timing of the Shelburne Falls space. We’d like multiple locations. Long term, we’d like drive thrus. Healthy fast food is not the solution to the world’s problems, but it’s a place to start. If you’re too idealistic, you can’t reach the people. We’d also like to add fish to the menu and get through the winter on exclusively New England produce.
What’s next for you?
Farming is a huge passion of mine. I am extremely energized by time spent in nature and in the garden. My partner, Colin Bargeron, and I live on seven acres, and we’ve been growing rice. We have two little paddies now, planted from the rice we grew last year with the help of Christian Elwell at South River Miso. As time goes on, we’d like to start supplying produce for Hearty Eats. When it comes to all of these personal and professional pursuits, Colin and I have accomplished them together. Before we really got going with the restaurant setup this spring, we took the winter to man a sailboat from Los Angeles to Guatemala.
Looking back, what has guided you through this time of expansion?
My greatest inspiration from macrobiotics is that everything is always seeking balance. The middle is a constantly moving point, so being awake and open and clear enough to realize where that point is and maintain it is an everyday undertaking. It’s my intention with each dish.
Find Hearty Eats at Facebook.com/HeartyEats
My story begins long before thoughts of retirement. When I was nineteen, I had my gall bladder and appendix removed, and that is when all the trouble started. My doctors said I could continue to eat normally and that it would be alright to eat fats and oils as before. They recommended no change in my diet. Without direction, and since I had many weight issues (fluctuating 20-25 lbs.), I tried a lot of diets over the years, including a diet of only meat and cheese.
I grew up in the United States but have now called France home for over 30 years. When I saw a homeopathic doctor there, he said that I should have been more careful and steered away from fats and oils because they were taxing my liver. I then proceeded to get off meat. I was trying to be careful about oils, but I still did not know how to balance my diet.
Around the year 2000 I was experiencing chronic fatigue. I had no energy, I was urinating frequently, and I was depressed because I was not working. I stopped smoking but still could not understand the cause of my problems. I had some blood tests because I thought I was anemic, but the results did not show any abnormalities. Also, I had a history of being depressed. I became desperate.
I saw a poster for a macrobiotic cooking class and decided to go. After the cooking class I immediately had a macrobiotic consultation. The macrobiotic counselor told me that I could feel better in a month, so I followed exactly what she told me to do. In ten days I had so much energy that I practically flew out of bed in the mornings.
My whole person improved. Before starting the macrobiotic diet I was so confused about what I wanted to do with my life. After one month on the macrobiotic diet, my thinking was so clear I decided to open an organic catering company. At this point I had the energy to do it. This I attributed to being on the macrobiotic diet. I was able to make a good living with my catering company.
After a couple of years of being on the macrobiotic diet I started to sway. Then I developed osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and weak kidneys, and I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. I was on my feet all the time with work, sometimes working 14-16 hours. I had a small business and was doing everything myself. This caused an osteoarthritis attack in my feet, and I had trouble walking for 3 months.
I decided to retire earlier instead of waiting until I was 67. I retired and went back on a strict macrobiotic diet. I got my health back plus ten times more energy again.
Since returning to the macrobiotic diet, I have never had a depressive episode. Even when I had major family problems, I was able to deal with them head on. I now walk for hours most days, and I can manage all my conditions without any medications.
The feeling of joy and vitality I now have I attribute to the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle.
Macrobiotics has done so much to change my life that I grew a desire to go to the Kushi Institute and study more so that I could help others. I am retired now and still have plenty of energy so I traveled all the way from France to the Kushi Institute in the Becket, MA. I completed Level 1 at the Kushi Institute in Europe ten years ago, and ever since that time, I have wanted to continue with Levels 2 and 3 as well as the first week of Level 4 to gain an advanced understanding useful for counseling others.
I mentioned I am pursuing this in my retirement and so I would like to speak a little bit about retirement itself. Getting old does not have to mean getting sick. Getting old is not something to fear if you have vitality and your health. People are in fear all day about getting old because they think their future is drugs, doctor’s visits and nursing homes. Through the macrobiotic way, I alone determine my health through proper eating habits and lifestyle choices. Retirement is greater if I have my health and I can determine the quality of my life. I choose, it is my choice!
At the time of publication, Marty is half way through the first week of Level 4 at the Kushi Institute.
Meet Sommer White, MD, Emergency Medicine from California
Since I was a child, I wanted to become a physician so that I could help others. I specifically chose Emergency Medicine because I felt like it was a place where I could immediately help people and feel like I was making an significant difference in their lives. The ability to relieve someone’s acute physical pain and make them feel comfortable is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.
I wanted to learn the macrobiotic diet because I was looking for a cure for my illnesses, a way to feel better without taking medications that would merely mask the symptoms. I had been chronically fatigued for years and had dark circles around my eyes. I suffered from frequent urination and could never sleep through the night because I would get up to urinate 3-4 times. I was also irritable, anxious and would frequently break out in cold sores. Working in the emergency department, I kept odd hours, and would sometimes stay awake for long periods. Even when I wasn’t working the night shift, I would stay up late and sleep late the following morning. I felt like I couldn’t get enough sleep.
Macrobiotics has been a part of my life since I was a child. My mother practiced macrobiotics on and off for years, and used it to overcome breast cancer when she was 48 years old. She had always talked about studying at the Kushi Institute and encouraged me to do so as well.
I have been practicing macrobiotics for about a year and a half. Overall, my fatigue has greatly diminished. I no longer need caffeine to wake up in the morning, and my nighttime urination has improved. My body feels strong and healthy, and my mind is calmer. I am adjusting my lifestyle to be physically and emotionally healthier. I try to go to sleep and get up earlier, which makes my days feel much longer and more fulfilling. I now wake up rested.
Practicing macrobiotics has given me focus, clarity, fulfillment, and direction for my new path as a holistic practitioner. It has given me joy in the kitchen and connection to the food I am preparing. I always wanted to be able to make myself a nice lunch, and now I have the skills to do that! I love being able to go the refrigerator, take out fresh ingredients and make a meal that is delicious, satisfying and healthy. Macrobiotics has taught me to care for myself on all levels–physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My studies at the Kushi Institute have taken my practice to a deeper level, and they are teaching me what it truly means to be a holistic practitioner. I’m starting to understand the human body and mind differently and really believe that we can cure our illnesses with diet and lifestyle. The medical system as we know it today is broken. The complexities that surround the attitudes of doctors and patients combined with our fast-paced lifestyles have caused us to look for quick fixes instead of slowing down and really focusing on the root causes of the problems. We fail to see how our diets, lifestyles and emotions impact our health, and more importantly how changing them can cure our illnesses.
“Macrobiotics has shown me how to take my health into my own hands and to facilitate healing. I can only hope that it does this for many others, for this is the power of the practice, and the answer to our broken system.”
After eating macrobiotic food for a short time, I began to feel my body and mind changing. I knew I wanted to learn more about what was happening. I made a decision to enroll in the Kushi Institute’s Macrobiotic Leadership Program, Level 1. During the first two weeks of Level 1, I started to grasp the basic concepts of yin and yang and understand how food affects our bodies. By the end of Level 1, I felt a stronger understanding of the basic concepts, and started to understand why people refer to it as a spiritual diet. I felt such an appreciation for what I was learning and what I was eating. My studies at the Kushi Institute are invaluable and exciting, and I look forward to beginning Level 2 in the fall. My goal is to finish all four levels.
Masumi began healing from the symptoms of a painful autoimmune illness after attending Kushi Institute’s February 2012 Way to Health program. After eating and living in accordance with macrobiotic principals and philosophy for over two years, her life has changed dramatically. Masumi lives without medications, has minimized the occurrence of painful flare-ups, and is now allergy free—an unexpected bonus of adopting a macrobiotic lifestyle. Over the course of the past year, she has also become certified to teach yoga, launched a website with a friend and business partner www.twofitmoms.com, has an impressive following on her Instagram site of over 99,000, and was featured in the June 2014 Yoga Journal magazine. We are honored to have Masumi join Kushi Institute’s 2014 Summer Conference Festival faculty.
“I was very fortunate to be born and raised in a macrobiotic home for the first 18 years of my life. I had a really healthy childhood. I was rarely sick, and never took any medications.
When I left for college, my eating habits began to change. Although I still ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, I started eating a standard American diet including processed foods and dairy (pizza, bagels, cereal, yogurt, etc.) It was also in my early 20’s that I developed incapacitating seasonal allergies. I did not make the connection at the time, but in retrospect, it is crystal clear that these allergies were associated with the dietary and lifestyle changes that commenced with my leaving the nest.
In the fall of 2011, I began having terrible pain in my hips and feet. Exercising (jogging in particular) was a big part of my life, so I assumed the pain was from running on a daily basis. Even walking became a painful activity! The aching in my heels was intense, and the burning sensation in my hip joints was so severe that I couldn’t fall asleep at night. I stopped running, sold my treadmill, and sought the opinion of a medical professional. After receiving orthotic inserts for my shoes and spending weeks in physical therapy with no improvement, my doctor ordered blood tests. I always thought of myself as a very healthy individual, so I was very surprised to learn that the blood work showed abnormalities.
Some of my results were consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, but because my disease featured very acute flare ups (versus gradual onset) that were not isolated to my joints, I was not diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. My doctor told me that I had my very own variation of an autoimmune disease that affects joints AND ligaments. I was then told that the drugs that are traditionally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and similar illnesses were harsh and could have side effects that were worse than the disease symptoms themselves!
Rather than taking drugs, I told my doctor that I knew of something else that could potentially help. I immediately enrolled in the Kushi Institute’s Way to Health program in February 2012. I decided that it was time to return to my macrobiotic roots. I even scheduled a private consultation with a macrobiotic counselor, Bettina Zumdick. Bettina assured me that if I followed all of her suggestions for diet and lifestyle changes, my pain would disappear. She also explained that in the process, as a side effect, my seasonal allergies would be gone by next Spring. Although I turned to macrobiotics to solely tend to my autoimmune illness, I was relieved and excited to learn that my new healing diet could help me with hay fever symptoms. My seasonal allergies had become so severe that I dreaded being outdoors between April and June. Even with allergy medication, my symptoms could not be controlled. I avoided being outside, I lived with my windows shut, and I showered often to remove pollen from my hair and skin. ”
“Since my return to macrobiotics in February 2012, I have been able to manage my autoimmune illness with food and lifestyle, rather than drugs, and the seasonal allergies that plagued me from 1996-2013 are gone!”
Masumi tries to spread knowledge of general wellness – fitness, yoga, macrobiotic healthy living/eating – by sharing her lifestyle on social media platforms to empower others to take charge of their own health and well-being.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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