Our Digestive System is Not On Call 24 Hours a Day

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I was happy to find an article in The New York Times that reinforces the importance of eating healthy meals at regular times. This is an issue I have been writing and teaching about for more than 20 years, so it is nice to see these ideas getting mainstream support. The article links the effects of eating late and consuming sweets, soft drinks, and fatty foods with acid reflux. According to the author of the article, Jamie A. Koufman, MD, acid reflux produces a variety of symptoms in addition to heartburn and indigestion. Postnasal drip, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, chronic throat clearing, coughing and asthma are often reported symptoms with patients dealing with acid reflux. I find it interesting that many of these symptoms are perceived as being unrelated to acid reflux, but according to Oriental medicine, they are related to digestive and kidney function. Dr. Koufman comments that there has been a significant rise in the number of people dealing with acid reflex in the last 30 years as our food choices and meal times deteriorate.

In our new edition of The Complete Macrobiotic Diet, we have provided clear guidance around the content and times for healthy meals. Our digestive system is only able to digest and process our food at certain times of the day, and these have become recognized as meal times around the world.

These are start times and the meal actually begins when you sit down at the dining table. We recommend that breakfast start anywhere between the hours of 5 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and even possibly 9 a.m. Lunch should begin between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. And dinner should start between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

In addition to not eating three hours before bedtime, it is important to make lunch a regular, consistent practice. The midday meal is the one meal you do not want to miss. In today’s hectic world, it is important to take the time to share meals together. Meals are a time to return to balance and reconnect with family, friends and loved ones. Sharing food together is not only an expression of our appreciation for food and nature, but also for each other.

Birthday celebration at SHI

Birthday celebration at SHI

4 Comments | Tags: acid reflux, Adjusting Your Diet, digestion, healthy living, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics, meal times

Do you soak your grain?

Posted on by Denny Waxman
Rice growing in the fields of Blue Moon Acres Farm.

Rice growing in the fields of Blue Moon Acres Farm.

A number of my longtime clients are elderly women who have come to me with a variety of health concerns.  I have counseled these women over many years regarding their diet and lifestyle practices according to macrobiotic principles.  Some of these women have had serious falls where you would except them to break a bone,  and surprisingly they have not.  I attribute their strong bones and quick recovery to their macrobiotic practice.  Even those of my clients that have experienced broken bones, have healed in about half the time expected.  This would not be the case if they had osteoporosis.

 

In addition, my longtime observation is that children who were born and raised following the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle have stronger and thicker bones than their peers.   This is something I have found to be true around the world.  Both of these situations lead me to believe that there is not a problem with phytic acid and mineral absorption from the amount of grain we eat as part of our macrobiotic practice.

 

There is a general consensus that soaking grains is desirable for taste and digestibility; however there is not a general agreement on the best method for soaking grains.  I found the information in the blog post from macrosano.com very interesting and helpful.  I would like to inform you of the way we recommend soaking grains.  Experiment and see which way you like best.  The only way to really know is to try a specific way for weeks or months and try to see which method is more suitable.  If you are not sure, you can always vary your soaking method.

 

This is our method for soaking and cooking rice.  We recommend rinsing the rice in cold water two or three times.  Measure out the water for cooking and soak overnight or longer, basically between 8-22 hours.  Overnight soaking is more beneficial.  When ready to cook the rice, add a pinch of sea salt or a half inch square piece of kombu and then boil or pressure cook as normal.

We’ve been soaking grains in this way for many years and feel very comfortable in it.  Brown rice is the most sensitive food to our intentions, feelings and emotions; it is uniquely sensitive to our own condition.  Taking time to properly prepare rice in this manner ensures a happy and satisfying meal.  Soaking and cooking rice in this manner is not an afterthought; it is an act that conveys respect and appreciation.

Rice drying at Blue Moon Acres Farm

Rice drying at Blue Moon Acres Farm

4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, grains, Macrobiotics, osteoporosis, plant-based diet

Evidence is Mounting About the Relationship between Diet and Health

Posted on by Denny Waxman

It is becoming more and more evident that diet can prevent and even reverse serious illness including many cancers.  This means that our health is in our own hands.  I find it interesting that there is so much resistance to this vital and life changing information.  Two articles, Can Cancer Be Prevented- and Even Cured- Through Diet? This Scientist is Convinced it Can; T. Colin Campbell has set off a war with the food industry, and This Breast Cancer Month, Don’t think Pink- Think Green, present important information that you can use in the discussion of diet, health and illness.

Rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm.

Rice from Blue Moon Acres Farm.

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, cancer prevention, diet and health, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotics

Something to Digest

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In Oriental medicine, the body is thought to be composed of complementary systems.  In our digestive system, we actually have a second brain called the enteric nervous system.  The same kind of cells are found in both systems. From birth, our gut bacteria guides the development of our immune system and brain.  This ongoing relationship continues throughout our life.  The digestive system processes liquids (food and drink); and the nervous system processes vibrations, or thoughts and images.  Healthy digestion fosters healthy thinking.

 

Creating healthy gut bacteria starts with good eating habits.  That means sitting down to eat without distractions, at regular, recurring times.  In addition, good gut bacteria are fostered by natural activities, like walking, gardening, cleaning and sex.

 

Our gut is nourished by both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are in essence fiber and serve as food for the probiotics, which are the actual bacteria and yeast that inhabit our digestive system.  Probiotics aid in the synthesis of vitamins and other valuable nutrients.

 

Fiber has a variety of functions: it activates and scours our digestive system, and binds with toxins and cholesterol to expel them from our body.  Fiber encourages the growth of healthy bacteria and suppresses the development of harmful bacteria.  Naturally fermented, pickled and unpasteurized foods are important and healthy sources of probiotics.

 

The most important prebiotics are found in whole grains, beans, fruits, and land and sea vegetables.  Sea vegetables include the most common seaweeds, like Nori, dulse, wakame and kombu.

 

Try to get a variety of naturally pickled, fermented, and unpasteurized foods, which come from grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.  The most important probiotics are miso, umeboshi plum, sauerkraut, and kimchi.  The full value of miso comes out when used as a soup.  When miso soup is made, the enzymes become activated and the liquid form is easy to absorb into the digestive system.  Umeboshi is a unique Japanese plum that encourages growth of healthy bacteria, and suppresses unhealthy bacteria.  It has a salty and tangy taste that goes well with grains.

 

Try to observe the connection between your digestion and your moods and thoughts.  I hear consistently from my counseling clients that they feel better, think more clearly, and sleep more soundly in a very short period of time.  A combination of sound eating habits, healthy activities and dietary choices creates the best nourishment and digestion.

digestive

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Macrobiotic Diet, Macrobiotic Philosophy, Macrobiotics

A Nation of Snackers

Posted on by Denny Waxman

In the final stages of completing the manuscript for my new book “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet,” the importance of meal times and eating without doing other things is on my mind and as timely as ever.

 

I am totally amazed at the poor state of our collective diet. Recently, the American Institute for Cancer Research published some statistics about our snacking habits and Today talked about our favorite types of snacks as of 2012. Snacking is replacing meals and nearly half of our population enjoys eating alone because they can get other things done at the same time.

 

It’s even worse that snacks change our taste for healthy foods. Craving snacks is an indication that we are not satisfied with our meals. And through not eating meals at all, snack cravings will naturally increase. Naturally healthy foods are moist and flexible, which is nearly the complete opposite of the dry, salty snacks that are the most popular. The dry, salty, snacks also create cravings for unhealthy liquids. It seems to me that this increased snacking is a symptom of a greater frustration in other areas of life, be it socially, emotionally, or job related.

 

If you’re going to snack, go to a health foods store, find a snack that has ingredients that you can understand. The second step is to then introduce foods that are naturally moist and refreshing and have a mild, natural sweetness. Replacing snacks with healthier choices is a much better approach than trying to stop them.

 

What are your favorite healthy snacks?

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet

Obesity in the U.S.

Posted on by Denny Waxman

The U.S. Leads the way again! Unfortunately, it is individual obesity rate.

 

City Lab Obesity Report

 

How many people do you know practicing macrobiotics or other plant-based diets have issues with being overweight or obese?

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research, Macrobiotic Diet

A Dose of Seaweed

Posted on by Denny Waxman
Miso Soup and Seaweed

Miso Soup and Seaweed

 

Seaweed is coming into the limelight as a superfood because of its abundance of unique nutrients and health benefits. Using seaweed in cooking provides the best protection available against environmental toxins and radioactivity. The iodine in brown seaweed helps maintain the thyroid as well as protect against radioactive iodine. Seaweed protects against and helps pull radiation and heavy metals (such as: mercury, cadmium, barium, lead, arsenic, radioactive strontium-90, to name a few) from the body by binding with them and rendering them inert. Toasted nori has natural anti-biotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-septic properties.

Preparing seaweeds in appropriate ways allows us to derive the maximum benefit of their properties. Seaweed is similar to salt in that it is important for our health, vitality and immunity, but too much negates these benefits. It’s also important to buy high-quality seaweeds from natural food stores and companies.

 

I recommend preparing these various seaweeds in the following ways:

Nori (between a few and several sheets/wk)- in a roll, as a snack, as a garnish*

Wakame (1 or 2 inch pieces/serving often or daily)- in miso soups, in vegetable soups, or sauteed with vegetables

Kombu (standard postage stamp piece – 2 inch strips)- best cooked with beans (2 inch strips) or in a grain dish (stamp-sized)

Arame and Hijiki- best cooked with onions and carrots as a side dish.

 

 

*also great for cats and dogs!

5 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet

Cravings, A Search For Balance

Posted on by Denny Waxman

I’d like to offer a physiological perspective on cravings and how to work with them. Cravings are a way our body communicates with us. They are a way we seek balance and align with nature. For example, warm, dry weather makes us thirsty.

There are two main types of cravings.

1)  Intense cravings. Unsatisfied intense cravings tend to disappear. These cravings often signify that we are eliminating that type of food from our body and we intensely crave it as it leaves. The best thing to do with these cravings is to take attention away from them and place our focus elsewhere. These cravings usually disappear quickly. If it is something our body needs, these cravings will persist.

 

2)  The other type of craving is that of a persistent or recurring craving, usually caused by an actual need. These are more complicated and try handling them in the following way.

         -You like chocolate, but you decide you don’t want to eat it anymore and so you cut it out.

        -Then, you crave chocolate.

        -Take a moment to consider what it is about the chocolate that you crave.

         -Chocolate is essentially concentrated fats and sweets.

        -You may just be craving more high-quality rich and sweet food in your diet.

        -Or your diet may be too simple.

During a chocolate craving, try substituting walnuts and raisins or make a dessert with tahini or a nut-butter and natural sweeteners. They will probably satisfy the craving and are healthier choices.

 

The best way to handle consistent cravings is to break the specific craving down into its components (taste and consistency) and then make a choice with healthier options.

 

Two Dynamics of Cravings

1)  Yin Yang. Sweet cravings (yin cravings), for many, are a result of eating too much animal foods, cheese, baked or toasted and salty foods (yang foods). Reducing or eliminating heavy yang foods will diminish much of the sweet craving.

2)  Crunchy foods create cravings for more crunchy foods. Sweets create cravings for sweets, caffeine for caffeine. Imbalances perpetuate themselves and it seems difficult recognizing this pattern. Fortunately though, balances also perpetuate themselves. Moving towards balance is the most effective way to overcome cravings.

 

Some Substitutions for Common Cravings

1) Crunchy

         -Add a healthy, crunchy food, such as blanched vegetables or carrot sticks

2) Poor-Quality Sweets

         -Add more grain and vegetable, quality sweets such as corn on the cob (naturally sweet) or cooked onions, carrots, squash or sweet potatoes (which become sweet with cooking). Pureed, sweet vegetable soups are even more satisfying. Rice syrup and barley malt are more natural sweeteners.

3) Fatty Foods

         -Use high-quality, unrefined sesame and olive oil (coconut oil is better suited for a tropical climate) in cooking and salads

4) Animal Proteins

         -Tofu, tempeh or seitan and other plant-based protein, matching the consistency and taste of the particular craving. For example, tempeh often satisfies chicken and cheese cravings.

 

Pregnancy Cravings

A baby begins to make demands and choices from the very beginning. Many women know they’re pregnant just from cravings. Babies first choose from the mother’s blood. If it is not present in her blood, they seek it out in her constitution (teeth, hair, bones). If what the baby seeks is not there either, babies call for take-out, which is a pregnancy craving.

 

My entire approach is not on avoiding cravings, but to help create a healthy, natural pattern of balance.

Chocolate, anyone?

4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet

Nature’s View of the Night Shift

Posted on by Denny Waxman
<a href='http://fineartamerica.com/featured/camping-under-the-stars-quincy-dein.html' size='20'><img src='http://fineartamerica.com/displayartwork.html?id=3613901&width=249&height=166' alt='Photography Prints' title='Photography Prints' style='border: none;'></a>

“Camping Under the Stars” by Quincy Dein

 

The BBC recently published an article about the effects on the body as a result of working the night shift. It is no surprise that the overall conclusion was that it is not good for us, but one result of the research was that the “speed and severity of damage caused by being awake at night was a surprise.”

 

Night shift workers are a more extreme example of what happens when we move away from natural cycles, which have developed with the rhythms of the sun. All of life moves according to the sun’s movement. The most harmonious order for our health is to rise early, eat at regular times, settle down in the evening, and sleep deeply at night. We have the best ability to get deep, refreshing sleep between midnight and four, which correlates with the time when the most stars are visible.

 

Our natural rhythm is of intake and discharge. During the day, our bodies take in for activity and at night, our organs and nervous system recharge, repair, and gather excess, which is eliminated in the morning. Upon rising, we go to the bathroom and do our morning routine.

 

According to Oriental Medicine, different parts of our body are nourished at different times of the day. The activation of our organs also follows a rhythm. Our kidneys and bladder– the seat of vitality, balance, and elimination– are most active at night when we are in a horizontal position. Our liver and gallbladder are more active in the morning to do the job of fat metabolism and detoxification.  The heart and small intestine is activated by being upright and vertical around noon. A nourishing lunch starting before 1 p.m. activates our lymph and immune systems, harmonizes our blood sugar and resets our biological clock. Walking outside during a lunch break is a very heart healthy practice. Settling down in the evening helps to regulate our lungs and large intestine. Our various organ systems work in accord with natural cycles daily as well as seasonally.

 

Another result of some studies was that “shift workers getting too little sleep at the wrong time of day may be increasing their risk of type-2 diabetes and obesity.” We have the greatest ability to release excess early in the morning and at night our body repairs itself. When we are awake at night and continuously taking in during these hours, we accumulate and are unable to normally release the accumulated excess. If we sleep during the day, our organs get out of sync. If we take a nap sometime after lunch, however, we align with the receding energy of the day.

 

For ex-night shift workers or the sleeping impaired, the best thing you can do to re-align with natural cycles is to start rising by 7 a.m. and eat a regular lunch by 1 p.m. A daily walk outside helps us to reconnect with nature as well.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Articles and Research

A Second New Year; Get Ready for Spring!

Posted on by Denny Waxman

If you didn’t get a chance to make your resolutions stick since January 1st, you have another chance! And this new year also follows the course of nature. This new year, February 4th, is celebrated in Asia and traces of its western roots are in the celebration of Groundhog’s Day. Groundhog’s Day is a token reminder that Spring is coming, and is related to the Gaelic day of St. Brighid. This is the time of the year we get Spring fever, where we begin to yearn more strongly for warmer weather and the outdoors.

This is because nature’s energy begins to rise, causing us to shed the heaviness we have accumulated during the winter. The height of winter also happens to be the beginning of spring. A prime example of this is that the sap in trees begins to run again. We are actually moving into the time and feelings of spring.

The new year brings change and opportunities, and we can align ourselves with this new and changing energy by incorporating lighter things into our diets. Start to cook less, bake less and start to increase lightly cooked dishes and salads. It’s especially important to be cautious about introducing strong sweets and cold foods until warmer weather stabilizes. For example, baked squash and beans are great winter dishes whereas iced coffee and ice cream are best suited for the warm summer weather when we’d like to cool ourselves.

Now is a good time to observe how we can adjust our diet and activity to align with nature’s rising and warming energy.

No Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Events