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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Portrait of the Spreading of Joy & Health in 2014

Posted on by Denny Waxman
SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

SHI-CCP Graduating Class 2013

The portrait of health has been painted over and over again. People say that in order to look like the portrait that’s painted, you need to follow sets of procedures in order to be healthy and happy. You are probably familiar with those procedures: Eat well in this way, exercise in this way.

Achieving health shouldn’t seem full of obstacles. As we draw near to the holidays, here are five gentle, joyous reminders of health and encouragement for spreading the spirit of joy and health into and through the New Year.

 

Spiritual Health Guides Mental, Emotional and Physical Health.

Spiritual health, the cultivation of endless appreciation for all of life, leads to mental, emotional, and physical health. When we are positive, open and curious for everything around us, our vitality shines. Health starts with a spiritual revolution that leads to changes in our daily habits and attitudes. Physical training alone does not lead to mental, emotional, or spiritual development and refinement. So the process does not work in reverse.

 

Self-love and Self-care are of prime importance. The more you do and care for yourself, the more it spreads to others.

Care in our dietary choices and daily habits helps build a healthy community where we live. As we take care of ourselves, there is no separation from taking care of others at the same time. It can largely be said that our current mindset is one of self-interest that overlooks the needs of others in order to get what we want.  This also has broader, global implications for the health of the planet, the just treatment of all others, and our relationship to our communities. If we are caring for ourselves with spiritual health in our minds and hearts, the opposite begins to happen; we form healthier communities, we strengthen bonds, we nurture the environment and people in ways we may not even see.

 

Health is natural.

When nature is left alone to flourish and grow in its regular state, we see the abundance, diversity and beauty that results. This is a reflection of our natural state as well. Think of a healthy baby which is “unspoiled” or in a natural human state. We can’t help but be drawn to these children and share with them this joy as we remember and invoke our own natural states.

Consequently, it’s obvious to notice that health is more natural than sickness. It takes about 10% to 15% of the time to return to health as it did to become sick. Even if we have spent a lifetime abusing our body and getting sick, our health starts to return quickly from dietary and lifestyle adjustments.

 

Health is a direction not a fixed state.

Health is not a static condition. It develops though our daily habits. Sickness is the same. The combination of a good diet and eating habits, activity and lifestyle practices over time move us towards health. We all have the ability to improve our health on all levels day by day through these lifestyle choices. And since it is a direction, no matter where we are towards health or sickness, we always have the opportunity to move towards health, no matter the circumstances.

 

To create these changes, two things must happen.

We need more healthy friends. These changes become useful and habitual the more we share and practice them. Surrounding yourself around more people enjoying a healthy lifestyle is key. Change will only come when you use your voice and express yourself about what you are doing, experiencing and enjoying.

 

Remember that health craves health in every sense.  This holiday, share your health with as many people as you can. Celebrate!

2 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet, Mental Health, Weight

Healthy Holiday Survival Guide

Posted on by Denny Waxman
A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

A Feast Prepared and Photographed By Susan Waxman

The holiday season is one in which we express our appreciation with our friends and loved ones, with a time to experience real joy and togetherness. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercialization of these holidays. This year, I hope we can be more aware of what these times are supposed to impart, which is joy, togetherness and appreciation.

With some forethought and common sense, it is possible to continue with our healthy habits and practices as well as embrace the spirit of joy that the season brings to us. In this way, we can avoid feelings of depression or feeling restricted during or after the season.

Health is a direction, not a fixed state. That is to say there is not an “on” or “off” state of our health and well-being, but we can always choose to move in the direction of health. Some days and periods will be better than others on the path. Even if we take some detours, if we keep our goals with us, we will reach them. So, it is not healthy to feel overly restricted during the holidays as we enjoy them with our friends and families. During the season, keep in mind your long-term health goals, which will help to decide what you can afford. The controlling factors of our health are our eating habits, our dietary choices, and our activity and lifestyle practices. Keeping in mind the following during the season will help with maintaining healthy habits.

1) Remember to eat at the table without distractions. This is a good time to reconnect with those we may not have seen. Even if you are having turkey and cranberry sauce, sitting down and eating, rather than at a television or while standing up will deter you from overeating
2) Try to limit your eating to mealtimes.
3) Wherever possible, include grains and vegetables to maintain the format of a complete and balanced meal.
4) Include foods that naturally aid digestion such as vegetable soups, radishes, sauerkraut and naturally made vinegars.
5) It’s also a good time to go outside walking together.
6) Keep up with your daily body rub.

 

Below are two natural detox remedies you can implement throughout the festivities to maintain digestion.

-Bancha Twig Tea or Kukicha Tea is a naturally alkalizing beverage that activates digestion and circulation. Drinking a cup of Kukicha is a great way to end a meal. “Shoyu bancha” is much more effective remedy that can be used on occasion and is prepared by putting a quarter teaspoon of shoyu into the cup before pouring the tea in. Stir and drink.

-Doing a foot bath is also a relaxing way to detox and warming for cold nights. Fill a basin with comfortably hot water from the tap and mix in a handful of table salt. Soak for 5-10 minutes.

Our practices of self-care and self-love will help us extend those feelings to those around us. Here’s to a joyous season of celebration!

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Recommendations for PMS

Posted on by Denny Waxman

PMS is part of a cycle of hormones–expansions and contractions. Being aware of where you are in your cycle, what you’re eating and how you’re feeling as a result can guide you with managing PMS.

 During ovulation, hormones are causing contractions to release an egg.

The other half of the cycle, hormones are building and preparing for the shedding of the uterine lining. When there is an imbalance during the building process, it is largely related to eating foods which interfere with the hormones being produced and secreted.

 

Animal and dairy products interfere as do baked, toasted and salty foods. Non-animal dense protein such as seitan does as well. Over indulgence in sugar, alcohol and chocolate at this time interferes too, despite possible heavy cravings. Cravings(to be discussed in a future post) are sometimes the expression of the cause of our discomfort.

 

Try this regiment in your cycle and see if any of the symptoms associated with PMS are quelled. If results are not immediate, it may take two or three cycles to notice the effects as the body adjusts.

4-5 days before the onset of shedding, eliminate the above foods and focus on foods that are light and refreshing such as:

                        -boiled grains and pasta

-salads, steamed or lightly cooked greens and vegetables

  -light proteins such as beans

-fruits and mild sweets(malted barley, brown rice)

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