MACROBIOTICS, AND MODIFICATIONS FOR NUTRITIONAL BALANCING SCIENCE
by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© May 2013, The Center For Development
This article introduces macrobiotics and some modifications to the macrobiotic diet that I suggest. Macrobiotics is an updated version of an ancient Japanese science of life based on the ancient principles of yin and yang. It focuses heavily on the role of food and diet for balance, health and longevity. The science also uses some herbs and other traditional Japanese food items.
Macrobiotics is taught in the United States by Mr. Michio Kushi and those he has trained. It is a fascinating science and I wish to give Michio Kushi and others much credit for their wonderful work. I studied with Mr. Kushi in the early 1970s in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts, USA. Michio Kushi helped popularize whole grains and organic food in America, and his students started some of the companies that offer this food today.
NUTRITIONAL BALANCING AND MACROBIOTICS
The diet. Nutritional balancing science, as Dr. Paul Eck offered it, did not include any principles from macrobiotics. However, I find the macrobiotics method for classifying foods as more yin or more yang, to be most helpful for healing. Therefore, I have incorporated this knowledge into nutritional balancing science. I find that this greatly enhances the results of the program.
Different from traditional Chinese medicine. While both macrobiotics and TCM or traditional Chinese medicine are Oriental methods of dietary assessment, macrobiotics uses different criteria to assess the yin and yang qualities of foods than does traditional Chinese medicine. Many people accuse me of making errors about the yin and yang qualities of food, but this is because I use the macrobiotic classification method, rather than the traditional Chinese medicine classification of yin and yang foods.
Other uses of yin and yang concepts in nutritional balancing. The principles of yin and yang are applied extensively in nutritional balancing science. This is an advanced method of dialectical analysis that is most helpful, though it is not used much in the West. For example, we prefer more yang supplements such as GB-3 and glandular products over too much yin supplementation such as high-dose vitamin C, MSM, and many herbs.
Nutritional balancing also uses more yang detoxification methods such as saunas and coffee enemas, rather than more yin methods such as baths on a daily basis.
One can also view fast oxidation as more yang, while slow oxidation and a lower Na/K are more yin, and so on. This is all discussed in detail in articles such as Yin/Yang Healing and Yin Disease and Yang Saves The World, Today.
MODIFYING THE MACROBIOTIC DIET
The macrobiotic diet, as taught by Michio Kushi and his students, centers around large amounts of rice and other whole grains, including wheat. It also includes a lot of cooked, dried beans or legumes, some cooked vegetables, sea vegetables, and some fish and meat.
Based on our research, this diet is not best today for most people. Here are the changes I suggest to the macrobiotic diet:
1. Everyone needs many more cooked vegetables. I suggest 6-9 cups of cooked vegetables daily, or about 2-3 cups per meal of the cooked, not raw vegetables. This means that cooked vegetables will be about 70-80% of the daily diet. This is a significant departure from the macrobiotic diet. People seem to need this much for the fiber, phytonutrient, and especially the alkaline reserve mineral content of the cooked vegetables. I realize it makes the diet more yin, but it seems necessary, at least for a while when someone begins a program.
For the details about the diet, please read The Slow Oxidizer Diet on this site.
2. Difficulty digesting grains. Macrobiotics suggests that whole, unrefined cereal grains should be the main focus of the diet. I find this does not work well today for most people. This may be due to intestinal candida albicans or other intestinal infections, or perhaps for other reasons such as gluten sensitivity. Whatever the reason, I find it necessary to restrict grains in most everyone.
3. Avoid all wheat and spelt. Wheat, in particular, we find to be a poor quality food today, even organic whole wheat. It has been severely hybridized or genetically modified. The protein content is lower, the starch content is higher and the zinc content much lower. Other trace element levels are lower as well. As a result, wheat in any form, especially refined wheat but also whole wheat products, are less healthful today and best avoided completely. It is now an inflammatory food for many people that causes a myriad of subtle inflammatory reactions in the and does not nourish the body as well. Spelt is very close to wheat and best avoided, also.
Some people must also avoid all gluten-containing grains for a while such as oats, barley and rye. As the intestines heal with a nutritional balancing program, often gluten is tolerated again.
4. Whole rice is a good food, but blue corn is better. While whole grain rice and even white basmati rice are decent foods, they are low in certain minerals that people need such as special forms of selenium. I therefore prefer blue corn, in particular, as a “staple grain food”. This is a complex subject. For more, please read Blue Corn on this site.
5. Legumes. Macrobiotics recommends a lot of legumes or dried beans in the diet. However, this is a low etheric energy food. Also, the quality of the protein is not good enough in the legumes, even combined with grains. Instead, I recommend more meats such as lamb and chicken, sardines, eggs and fewer beans.
6. Most sea vegetables today are quite high in mercury and perhaps other toxic metals. An important part of the Japanese diet are the very mineral-rich sea vegetables such as wakame, hijiki, nori and others. However, today all products from the sea contain some mercury and other toxic metals. Therefore, I limit the use of sea vegetables, sadly, and prefer kelp or kombu which appears to be higher in alginates and other chemicals that help bind up and remove the toxic metals that are contained in all sea vegetables.
9. Fish and sea food are all contaminated today. Fish is an important food in macrobiotics, and in all Oriental cuisine. It is a very nutritious food. However, today’s fish is more and more contaminated with mercury, in particular, usually from the use of coal-burning power plants without scrubbers to catch the toxic metals the plants emit.
As a result, I sadly have to limit fish because anyone who eats any quantity of fish, even wild caught, begins to show high levels of mercury on hair mineral analyses. The only exception is 3-4 cans of sardines weekly. Sardines are so small they do not have time to accumulate much mercury, although they contain some. Do not eat more than 3-4 cans per week for an adult, however.
Macrobiotics may also allow seafood such as shrimp, oysters, lobster, clams, scallops, crab and eel. These foods are even more contaminated with toxic metals today because they usually come from coastal waters. They may also be slightly toxic for other reasons. As a result, I do not recommend any of them at any time, no matter where they come from.
10. Some raw or organic dairy products are helpful for most people. Macrobiotics does not recommend dairy products at all. It is true that most dairy products today are not of good quality because they are cooked, pasteurized and homogenized, among other types of processing. Also, this is an ancient Japanese food pattern. However, it may not apply as much to people of the Caucasian race, and to everyone today, due mainly to the problem obtaining quality calcium.
I find that a small amount of pure, raw dairy products or organic dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, magnesium, vitamins such as A and D, and many other nutrients. They should not be eaten in excess, but up to a glass of raw milk (4 ounces or so) or some raw cheese or raw yogurt daily can be an excellent addition to most people’s diets. This may apply less to Oriental people, however. For more on this subject, read Dairy Products on this website.
11. Eggs. Macrobiotics does not recommend many eggs, as they are a more yang food. However, for most people, I find they are an excellent food when cooked soft, with the yolk runny, up to about 6 per week. For more, read Eggs on this website.
12. Avoid vegetarian diets. Many macrobiotic practitioners and their followers suggest vegetarian diets. I do not agree. The reasons are that most people are too yin, and because animal products provide vital nutrients that not found in vegetable foods in large enough quantities such as zinc, carnitine, taurine, sulfur amino acids and others.
I find that ALL vegetarian regimens cause serious difficulties that are subtle and hard to detect. They include low zinc levels, high copper levels, protein imbalances and others. Vegetarian diets, especially vegan diets, tend to shorten one’s lifespan and cause severe illnesses, particularly brain problems in children such as ADD. For more, read Vegetarian Diets on this site.
13. The use of fats and oils. Macrobiotics does not recommend a lot of fat in the diet at all, other than some sesame oil or other used in cooking. Nutritional balancing allows more fats and oils, particularly for fast oxidizers, who we find do not do as well on grains, beans and other starches.
14. Eating red meat and avoiding all pig products. Red meat is not recommended much in macrobiotics because it is more yang. However, I find that people are so yin they benefit from a little – twice a week in most cases – especially lamb.
Macrobiotics may allow some pig products, but I find they can be contaminated with parasite cysts, even if well-cooked, so I would avoid all of them. The only exception is porcine pancreas used as a digestive aid appears to be safe.
15. Avoiding fruits, sugars, all alcohol and drugs. These are concepts shared between macrobiotics and nutritional balancing.
16. Traditional herbal remedies and Western supplementary nutrients. Macrobiotics uses some traditional Oriental herbs as medicines, and shuns the modern, synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Dr. Paul Eck and others found, however, that the herbs are not as pure today, no matter how they are grown. Most contain some toxic metals, which is not helpful. Also, they cannot balance the body chemistry as well as the judicious use of a few modern mineral chelates and other supplements. This was difficult for me to accept, but experience has shown it to be true.
Nutritional balancing, at this time, at least, requires certain synthetic food supplements, at times. When given in the correct way, for example, they act as placeholders, a vital concept in nutritional balancing science. To read more, see the article entitled The Placeholder Concept.
In particular, most everyone needs more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, a digestive aid and mineral supplements such as kelp and sea salt. Some of these can be obtained from food, but if they are not, they must be supplemented today or hundreds of disease symptoms can occur. For more on this, read articles such as Sardines on this site. A separate article entitled Why Use Food Supplements discusses all the reasons why I find that modern food supplements are not only helpful but absolutely necessary for most people today.
17. The need for detoxification procedures. Macrobiotics does not recommend the use of coffee enemas and lamp saunas, which I find very needed by many people. The other procedures are also excellent, such as the Roy Masters meditation with my modification, and foot reflexology, which is mentioned sometimes in macrobiotic literature. Keeping the spine limber and adjusted properly is also needed by most Western people today.
Without these methods and procedures, I find many people simply will not get fully well, probably because they are so ill today.
18. The need for more drinking water. I learned in macrobiotics not to drink too much water, since water is very yin. However, this is not good advice today, in my view. It will slow one’s progress drastically, in some cases, and can lead to kidney stones and other problems. It is true that water is very yin, and it is correct not to drink with meals so as not to dilute the stomach acid and digestive juices. However, reasons we find that adults need to drink about 3 quarts of spring water daily include:
Š The level of toxins in the bodies today is enormous, and a nutritional balancing program removes them quickly. Enough water helps them move through the kidneys easily.
Š Grains break down in the body to water, in part. However, I do not recommend the large amount of grains that many macrobiotic practitioners would recommend. Therefore, water intake must be higher.
Š Eating more meat adds some toxins that may require more drinking water.
I do not recall if macrobiotics recommends a particular type of drinking water. However, we find that reverse osmosis water does not hydrate the body well enough in most cases, and that tap water is often contaminated with chemicals that cannot be filtered out too easily with carbon filters.
I find that most adults who follow the mainly cooked vegetable diet need about 3 liters or up to 3 quarts of drinking water daily, while macrobiotics suggests much less. One reason for the larger amount of water in nutritional balancing is that the programs are more oriented to detoxification. I realize that so much water is more yin, but it appears to be needed.
19. Oriental diagnosis not as accurate today because everyone is so ill. Mr. Kushi teaches Oriental face, pulse and tongue diagnosis to assess yin and yang qualities. However, using hair mineral testing to assess yin and yang I find that almost everyone is yin (in slow oxidation, basically). The people today are so deficient and toxic that the older Oriental diagnostic methods may not be as accurate.
For example, most everyone today has been exposed to ionizing radiation, many toxic metals and hundreds of toxic chemicals. They are born this way. Most of these toxins are very yin. I don’t know if the macrobiotic diagnostic methods are working as well today because the food and environment are so degraded.
20. The role of women. Macrobiotics suggests that women are more fit than men to prepare food due to the women’s more sensitive nature and for other reasons. These are fascinating commentaries on the differences between men and women that I appreciate very much.
However, today I find that in America, particularly, the roles and the body chemistry of the men and the women are changing, and some of the differences between men and women are fading in importance. Many younger women, unfortunately, are very out of touch with their feminine nature, and their minds and bodies are weak and toxic. As a result, some of the ancient wisdom about women versus men may no longer apply to everyone today.
It is generally safer for women to stay at home rather than work in the man’s world, and there I agree very much with macrobiotic principles.
21. The problem of food preparation. Preparing food according to macrobiotic principles takes a lot of time. This is not practical for many people, and it may not be necessary. I suggest using an electric food steamer, a rice cooker, a pressure cooker and other simple methods of cooking, instead. I do not believe the long cooking times are needed, especially if one does not eat a lot of beans.
This is a very short discussion of why I do not follow all of the macrobiotic principles, and much more could be said. Nutritional balancing is very much geared to the needs of 21st century people who are so nutritionally depleted it is truly sad and rather astounding, so some modifications have been made. However, I am eternally grateful to Michio Kushi for his contribution to our understanding of food and its effects on the body, and for many other insights about health, disease and other matters.