I was recently surprised to read about the destruction of the natural life experienced by lorikeets when unnatural foods are introduced into their diets. Many are feeding lorikeets simple sugars from syrups, honeys, and jams to encourage them into their backyards. In turn, the regular diet of the lorikeets is changing.
Lorikeets are natural vegetarians. When they eat these unnatural foods, they become very aggressive in the pursuit of eating meat. Over time, they become ill, and develop diseases that are not found in their natural way of life. The health issues facing the lorikeets in Australia are remarkably similar to many who eat the standard American diet.
Imbalances perpetuate themselves. The foods we eat creates and changes the balance in our digestive system. Food creates our taste for other foods and eating unhealthy foods creates cravings for other unhealthy foods. It seems we have followed a similar pattern to the lorikeets. Since we introduced more processed flours and refined sugars and syrups, meat consumption has steadily increased. Many people aggressively pursue and strongly defend their right to eat meat. Consider that lorikeets naturally have a high carbohydrate, low-protein diet, which is similar to our natural diet.
Fortunately, balance also perpetuates itself. When we begin to reintroduce complex carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, we restore the natural balance of our digestive system. This leads to recovering a taste for healthy, natural foods as well as a gentle and enthusiastic approach towards sharing these ideas with others.
I recently read an article in the New York Times about a study in San Diego that researchers conducted on mice. In the study, they restricted some mice to certain eating times; some mice were fed within a five hour window, some an eight hour window and some a twelve hour window. Others were allowed to feed at all times in a twenty four hour period. The mice whose feeding times were restricted had a healthier metabolism than those who could eat any time. Many of the mice who ate at all times of the day began to develop illness and degenerative diseases. Furthermore, when the sickly mice were restricted to regulated eating windows, some of their symptoms actually began to disappear, and their health began to improve. The study concluded that to maintain overall health and weight, eating all daily food within a certain time frame lowered the risks of disease. Results were consistent even if the food was not the healthiest.
This article is an example of how both experience and observation make scientific inquiry more meaningful for our lives. Furthermore, there are studies currently being conducted that validate what many have always known. Yet, the article did not mention another very important practice that regulates metabolism, and that is the times of the day in which we take our meals. Mealtimes have more effect on our circadian rhythms than dark and light cycles. In fact, mealtimes actually regulate our sleeping and rising times. Most people recognize that eating and drinking before going to sleep interferes with our sleep and our ability to wake up refreshed and clear in the morning. Even if you don’t want to change the content of your food, simply eating regularly at certain times has a substantial health benefit.
Because our digestion is most active at certain times of the day, we can optimize our metabolism by eating during these times. I’d like to invite you to conduct a similar study on yourself. Try to observe how eating at certain times of the day impacts the way you feel, the energy you have, and your ability to fall asleep. To get the full benefits, try to minimize snacking between meals. Most people will start to notice changes after the third day, so if you’re casually interested, try for three days. If you’re more serious, give this a try for two or three weeks.
-Jumpstart your metabolism each day by having breakfast by 8.30 a.m.
-Start eating lunch before 1 p.m.
-Observe the differences between sitting down to lunch before 1 p.m., and sitting down to lunch before 2 or 3 p.m.
-One day have dinner between 5 and 6 p.m., one day between 7 and 8 p.m. and one day after 9 p.m.
Think of an older, vital, and active person in your life, and ask about their mealtimes. Our digestion is more active earlier in the evening. The longer we wait to have dinner, the longer it takes for the food to digest. This article was evidence to me of how scientists are beginning to verify human experience and common sense about health. I would like to emphasize that we can regulate our metabolism through mealtimes, and there is a major benefit to eating meals at consistent times. Many common issues including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity can actually be reversed through dietary and lifestyle practices. For more details and guidance, check out this interview in Philadelphia Weekly.
I find it interesting that everything that I thought was healthy for more than forty years is now reported to be harmful or at least not beneficial to our health. These are the same things I have been consuming personally and recommending to my family, friends and clients during this time. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but this seems to be too much of a coincidence for my natural skepticism.
Grain is the most important food on the planet for so many reasons. I will not explore all the reasons at this time. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations developed around grain cultivation and are also synonymous with the grains that they ate. You cannot separate rice from Asia, corn from the Americas or bread from Europe, for example.
The gluten grains, wheat and barley, are two of two world’s principal grains and have been cultivated and consumed for more than 10,000 years. Now, an increasing number of people have gluten sensitivity or gluten allergies. More recently modern wheat has come under attack because it has been overly hybridized.
I cannot argue that many people have various types of reactions from eating these grains in many forms and feel better by avoiding them. It may be that these grains alone are not the problem. It is more likely that our food combinations and methods of preparation are the real causes of the reactions.
I have used these grains in my macrobiotic healing practice for many years with positive results. I have also witnessed many people loose their food sensitivities over time. It has been my long-time observation that the combination of dairy foods and fructose is behind most allergies. Any type of dairy from cheese to yogurt together with fructose in the form of concentrated fruit sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar or honey are the basis of these allergic reactions. Tropical fruits and animal foods, especially poultry, tuna and shell fish compound these problems. Cold dairy such as cold milk, yogurt and ice cream together with cold drinks also seem to worsen the harmful effects.
I have also found out that when these grains are refined, baked or toasted they cause stronger reactions than when they are consumed in their whole or cracked form. When grains, including whole grain products, are exposed to dry heat through baking or toasting they react more like simple sugars in our body and worsen the reaction from these grains. Many people with gluten sensitivity can eat whole wheat or barley without an allergic or inflammatory response if they are cooked together with brown rice.
It now turns out that brown rice, another of the worlds principal grains is not safe because of arsenic contamination. I have already published my thoughts on this in three previous blogs and I hope that you will continue to enjoy organic brown rice as part of your healthy way of eating.
Soy has been under attack for quite some time now and I will write more fully on this subject in a future blog. I have also regularly used the traditional soy products, miso, shoyu, tofu, tempeh and natto in my macrobiotic counseling practice with excellent results. These products actually have a balancing and protective effect on our hormonal systems. They protect against harmful estrogens. On the other hand, texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and other non-traditional soy products do not have these same benefits.
Finally, the Stanford study that claimed organic foods are not more beneficial than commercial foods has been discredited. Common sense tells us that foods grown naturally in healthy soil are beneficial to those not yet born, babies, children, adults, animals, plants and the environment.
It is my hope that common sense and collective human experience will guide science in the coming years and that respect for local and sustainable practices will continue to grow and prosper.
I just finished reading Mark Bittman’s blog in the NY Times with great interest and I could not agree more with his conclusions about the downside of drinking cow’s milk. I am happy to know that this subject has been published in a source that is so widely respected and available. Many more people will now be aware of the various harmful aspects of drinking milk.
I agree that lifelong exercise and vitamin D are essential for healthy bones. However, I would like to add that it is also important to regularly consume the foods, especially leafy greens and beans, that nourish our overall health including building strong and healthy bones. For more details on the essential foods for bone health please see my previous blog, Holy Cow, Calcium From the Source!
The process of healthy aging means transformation from the physical world towards the spiritual world. When young, we are more interested in physical and sensory things. We liked to be very active and we are interested in stimulating our senses, often times with loud music.
As we start to grow and mature, we become more interested first in emotional and then later in social issues. Then as we move towards old age, we start to become more interested in life issues and the value of our own life. We start to look back at our life and ask whether we did the things we wanted to do or are happy with our lives. Then finally, we start to think about moving on to the next world and this is generally the natural process of aging. It is a process of growth and maturation, not getting old, hard and drying out.
Healthy aging means we go into each area of our life and we can enjoy it fully and completely. As we are able to comfortably move on to the next level, it does not mean we are abandoning the level before. It just means our central focus is somewhere else. But we are free to move however we like, up or down continually. This is the most natural part of aging.
Proper, or balanced, nutrition and proper circulation are essential for healthy aging. The practice of Strengthening Health Macrobiotics moves us towards healthy aging. Cancer of all kinds, cholesterol and heart issues as well as many other kinds of sickness all are helped by Strengthening Health Macrobiotics. But its seven steps can also be used simply to age naturally.
Allergies have now replaced the infectious diseases that claimed so many lives in the last century as one of our most pressing health problems. The once common infectious diseases including TB, diphtheria and scarlet fever have largely been eradicated through better hygiene and antibiotics. Yet, not much attention has been paid to the dietary and lifestyle causes of these problems.
Although, not often fatal, allergies represent a weakened blood quality and immune system that leave us vulnerable to a host of dangerous and potentially fatal infectious illnesses. The treatment of allergies can also be very costly in terms of doctors visits, medications, lost productivity and time from school or work. Their symptoms can also make our lives and the lives of those around us miserable.
It is estimated that around 23 million Europeans suffer some kind of allergic, respiratory disorder. Asthma now affects as many as one in seven school children, according to the Dublin-based European Federation of Allergy.
Why have allergies increased so rapidly, especially since the end of W.W.II? Why do they respond so poorly to medical treatments? We have to look at the recent changes in diet and lifestyle to answer these questions.
Allergies are related to a weakened blood quality, which is caused by an overly rich diet or nutritionally imbalanced diet. A diet high in animal fats especially from cold dairy products and cheese raises blood fat and cholesterol levels. These foods include cold milk, ice cream, yogurt, various types of cheese and butter.
Sweets and fruits help to make the blood more fatty. Fructose found in fruits and honeys are worse for allergy sufferers’ in many ways than sucrose, white sugar. Fructose rapidly increases blood sugar in those who eat a high fat diet.
In my previous article, “A Brief History of Food,” I explained how the modern diet depletes our supply of minerals. A lack of minerals allows our blood to be more acidic and open to infections.
Over many years I have seen hundreds and even thousands of children and adults with various types of allergies. My observation is that the increased consumption of the combination of dairy products, fruits and honey has weakened and compromised our immune systems and make allergies possible.
Other animal foods especially chicken and eggs, tuna fish and shell fish, while sweets including chocolate and fruit sweetened pastries add to the problem.
A more sedentary lifestyle further contributes to the problem. Our circulatory system has its own pump. The heart constantly works to move blood around the body. The immune system does not have its own pump, it depends on daily activity rather than periodic intensive exercise to activate its circulation. Without a variety of activity such as walking, cleaning, gardening and carrying things, the immune system cannot function efficiently.
The immune system has the job of filtering our blood. When it is exposed to a chronic high-fat diet, it becomes overloaded and unable to clean our blood properly. It becomes tired and sluggish. At this point we need a stronger method to clean our immune system. This is an allergy.
An allergy is our body’s attempt to clean itself regularly. The common cold is prime evidence of an overworked and sluggish immune system. It is our body’s attempt to tell us to simplify our diet and to take a rest. In this way our lymph system can empty, filter our blood more effectively and return us to good health. Other allergic reactions tell us the same thing.
We must differentiate between the primary and secondary causes of allergies. Allergens, the substances that set off allergic reactions, have different effects on different people.
Common allergens include dusts, pollen, mold, smoke, perfumes, odors of plastics; various foods; chemicals, synthetics, heat, cold, light, pressure, animals and animal products, hair, wool, fur and feathers.
Increased sensitivity to allergens is the secondary cause. Imbalances in diet and activity, which cause the increased sensitivities are the primary causes.
A high fat diet makes our mucus membranes and skin weak, fatty and too sensitive. It is easy to irritate them and cause a reaction. However, it is important not to mistake the irritant for the cause.
Allergens can affect us in various ways and produce many different reactions. The most common are running nose, watery and sensitive eyes, sinus infections, migraines; various types of skin eruptions, rashes and itching; bronchial asthma; digestive disturbances; and extreme fatigue and weakness.
Recent progress in the study of psychoneuroimmunology has shown the connection between mind, emotions, immunity and health. These systems parallel each other.
When the immune system functions well it efficiently and effectively neutralizes toxins and antigens. It then excretes them from the body before they can cause damage.
It is the same in our daily life when we are in good shape and can easily handle the various problems and tasks that come our way each day. We can handle our work or problems quickly and efficiently before things can pile up.
If the immune system becomes tired and sluggish it becomes insensitive or indifferent to these antigens and they accumulate in the body. They are just waiting to cause problems in the future. This is the transitional stage to an unhealthy immune system.
When we feel run down or overloaded in our daily life with too much work or responsibility it is easy to not notice or ignore things. We let things pile up and many projects or responsibilities do not get taken care of. Sometimes we miss important signals or possibilities. This is the transitional stage to problems in life, work or relationships.
In the third stage the immune system starts to overreact or react inappropriately. It produces reactions that are often too extreme, things that others do not react to cause a reaction in us. Exposure to dust, smoke, pollen or the cold or sun may set off an extreme asthma attack or a migraine.
These are allergies. Our weakened immune system tries too hard to help us return to a normal healthy condition.
In life it is again the same. When we really feel overloaded and stressed it is easy to overreact. It is easy to work hard and not produce much or to react in a way that creates even more problems. Sometimes we misinterpret our boss or even friends and loved one’s intentions.
Allergies are the disease of modern society. They have physical, emotional and mental symptoms, yet they are not really a disease. Allergies are a sign to make some basic changes in our life.
The first changes are dietary. Add whole cereal grains and a variety of cooked vegetables into your diet. Please see “What’s Cooking” for some ideas in this area. Be careful of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and mushrooms. These often contribute to allergies due to their acidifying affect on our blood.
Try to rely more on white meat fish, unless you are allergic to it, than other forms of animal or dairy foods. If you are adventurous you can try adding some sea vegetables to your diet. These foods used in small quantities help to strengthen immunity.
After you have added more healthy foods into your diet think about reducing the foods that are the primary causes of allergies. If any healthy foods cause an allergic reaction leave them out for a month and try adding them again.
Try to take a half hour walk every day and walk up stairs when you can. Scrubbing your skin with a hot damp towel daily for about 15 minutes also strengthens immunity.
Keeping your home well cleaned, orderly and well ventilated will also help. Natural materials especially cotton and untreated woods are a good idea.
You can make a drink from simmering equal parts of finely chopped onions, carrots, cabbage and pumpkin in four parts water for about 20 minutes in a covered pot. There is no seasoning in this mildly sweet drink. Strain the vegetables and drink it hot. You can drink one or two cups daily for a month and then occasionally after that. This natural sweetness helps to strengthen immunity.
Sweetness in life also helps. Work on developing nourishing and supportive relationships. Spend time with children and friends. Sing happy songs and see funny movies. And of course laugh more, the happy times chase the allergies away.
Food is our nourishment and is necessary for life, but it is also much more. It is an integral part of our society and culture. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the New year, religious, cultural and historic events with food.
The meal is our time for receiving life. It is the counterbalance to work, exercise and creative expression. It is a time when we realign with Nature, exchange ideas and share socially, a time for receiving rather than giving.
However, the way we view and relate to food has changed dramatically over our 12,000 years of recorded history. These changes are guided by modern science, technology and industry and in many cases have made us feel separated from each other and Nature.
Let’s start at the retreat of the last ice age in northern Europe, about 12,000 years ago. At that time food was scarce. Agriculture was not discovered yet and we had a hunting and food gathering economy.
There were two noteworthy developments then— the cultivation of foods began and boats were invented. These two events made development towards modern society possible.
This period when northern Europe was largely covered by ice and snow created the myth that our ancestors primarily ate meat. Cold temperatures in Europe made food cultivation difficult before and necessitated eating more animal products.
This pattern of eating animal foods changed with the warming climate and the ability to cultivate foods. Advances in the arts of building also aided this process of civilization. The first villages appeared about 9,000 years ago. This was a time when modern grain crops, barley and wheat, began to be cultivated. Animals were domesticated and bred, and pottery and weaving also developed.
The cultivation and consumption of cereal grains as human food led to development of modern societies as we know them today. If we follow the history of food we get an interesting perspective on the development of our modern civilization. The diet throughout the world was generally stable for thousands of years. Unrefined grains were the staple foods in all major civilizations in temperate climatic regions.
The various cereals were used as whole grains, cracked grains, breads and pastas and over time grains became synonymous with cultures. Rice in the Orient; bulgur, couscous, pita and chapatti in the middle East; bread in Europe; buckwheat, millet and rye bread in Eastern Europe; oats in Britain and corn in the Americas.
Animal and dairy foods were used mainly as supplements to grains, beans and vegetables. Animal foods were often used for holidays and celebrations. Dairy products had their place in more extreme climates and mountainous regions. They were often used the way miso and shoyu, fermented soybean products, were used in the Orient.
This dietary pattern continued until the time of ancient Greece and Rome. They introduced cuisine’s from far away places and the diet in temperate western climates became mixed with tropical foods, sweets and spices.
These tropical foods cause our blood to become more acidic than any other foods. We loose minerals and other nutrients in trying to neutralize the acidity. Depleted nutrition then lowers our resistance to infectious illnesses. Though the diet was mainly natural quality and unrefined, the mixing of temperate and tropical foods changed disease patterns throughout the western world more than two thousand years ago!
The 15th and 16th centuries, when trading and conquering were abundant, brought the next important changes. Foods that were once local became more widely distributed and diets became more confused. Tropical fruits and vegetables became abundant and began to be cultivated in Europe.
The potato, which was indigenous to Chile and the Andes, was introduced to Europe by the Spanish. It widely gained acceptance over the next two hundred years and began to replace cereal grains in many cultures. With the tomato, these two foods conquered Europe more than any other foods.
There are five foods that are harder to give up than any other: potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, bananas and sugar. They are all tropical and highly acidifying to our blood.
The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries was the period that had the greatest effect on changing the modern diet other than World War II. During this period Britain, Europe and then America began changing from agrarian to industrialized societies.
This was the beginning of modern technology. The technology was not only used to improve the quality of life but it was also used in agriculture and food refining. For thousands of years foods were grown on a small scale and consumed in their natural state.
Technology made refined foods, especially refined grains, available on a wide scale. There were some refined grains such as sifted flour used before, but it is difficult to do this at home by hand.
Refined foods caused imbalanced nutrition. Nutrition is a fine balance, one nutrient is needed to absorb and utilize another. Once the natural balance it altered is easy to build up excesses of certain nutrients and deficiencies of others.
Many refined foods also make our blood more acidic. Minerals create a buffer action to neutralize the acidity. Refined grains lack minerals. The greatest stores of minerals are in the bran that has been removed in the refining process.
Refined grains also create the need for the increased use of animal and dairy foods. We crave to supplement the nutrition lost in refining. Increased animal and dairy foods in turn increase our cravings for sweets.
These changes eventually led to the cycle that is the trademark of the modern diet, a diet high in refined foods, animal and dairy fats and sweets. It was also the beginning of the development toward modern degenerative diseases. These diseases have had their greatest increases around the beginning of the 20th century and again following W.W.II.
Technology also changed farming. Farming started to become mechanized and many people lost their work. They had to look for work in the newly industrialized cities.
The discovery of the steam engine made this possible. Transportation and communication were easier than ever. However, the change from rural to city life began changing peoples’ eating habits and dietary proportions.
Life no longer followed a natural order according to the sun, moon and seasons. Life began to conform to a business week with its mechanical regularity throughout the weeks, months and years.
Nutrition became even more imbalanced. With the new pressures of modern industrialized life, slowly physical and mental degenerative diseases began to increase.
World War II brought two more devastating changes to our food. The chemical industry developed for the war was also used in food preservation and agriculture after the war.
Before W.W.II, relatively natural quality foods were still available commercially. You could still find whole grain breads, locally grown vegetables cultivated with little or no chemicals, natural pickles and animals raised without hormones and antibiotics.
Modern food preservation is a result of W.W.II. They tried to make foods that would last indefinitely for over-seas soldiers. This may be practical for war but cannot sustain health in the long term. Chemical preservatives essentially take the life out of foods. They make dead foods that cannot sustain health.
Living foods are changing. Traditional methods of food preservation, dried, pickled and cold storage, maintained or sometimes improved the usable nutrition. They preserved the natural quality of the food.
For example, sun or smoke drying increases vitamin D. Natural pickling and fermentation produces digestive aiding enzymes and vitamin B-12. These foods are still living and are slowly undergoing subtle changes. But modern preservation destroys the nutrition and food quality.
Frozen fruits and vegetables also increased during this period after the war. Analytically these foods may be similar to fresh produce but our bodies cannot be fooled. Nutrition is more than can be measured in a laboratory.
Chemicals were used in agriculture also. Petroleum based fertilizers began their widespread use after W.W.II. Slowly the soil changed from living matter, teaming with life, to inert matter.
The excessive use of these fertilizers has destroyed any living matter in the soil and has transformed it to the inert material of petroleum. The soil in commercial farms is more closely related to plastic than soil. This type of soil can only produce lifeless foods.
The loss of minerals, micro-organisms and other life forms including worms produces weak crops that need pest and weed killers. These additional chemical further weaken the crops and our immune systems with it.
It is interesting that crops losses have increased year by year since the late 1940’s. This loss is proportionate to the increased use of chemical in agriculture. The soil is not very different from our own immune systems. Our immunity has decreased with the excessive use of antibiotics.
We have truly entered the era of modern degenerative illness. We now expect to die of a degenerative illness, especially heart disease, cancer or diabetes if an accident does not claim us first.
The diet and food quality in the west slowly deteriorated until fast foods were introduced in the early 1960’s. Complete meals could simply be heated at home in the oven in a few minutes. The original fast food restaurants began spreading throughout the United States and England.
This coincided with the birth of the hippie and the break from traditional values of society. Hundreds and thousands of years of tradition disintegrated overnight.
Slowly the family meal began to disappear with the new ease of getting quicker and seemingly more efficient meals. It fit in perfectly with the modern technological lifestyle.
Cooking on electricity began to increase and the microwave oven was introduced. Both helped to lessen our sensitivity to food and cooking. The microwave was especially convenient for quick cooking.
The family meal is the ‘glue’ of society, it provides a sense of belonging and stability in life. The dinner meal is very important because it gives us a chance to reunite and share our experiences with the food. It keeps the lines of communication open and clear. Now that the family meal has dissolved order in society has begun to change. Families are breaking down and crime is increasing steadily in all industrialized nations.
This is the completion of a cycle. Food that was once natural and shared for proper physical and emotional nourishment and social enjoyment has deteriorated to an almost mechanical process.
The meal does not fit into a busy schedule. The demands of modern business are great and do not even allow us time to stop work to eat. We have lost touch with nature and our ability to respond to the changing seasons. Our true human feelings are getting lost and confused. We can no longer enjoy and be guided by the natural rhythms of life.
It is time to reflect on where science, medicine and technology are taking us, on the nature of food and the value of sharing a meal and breaking bread together. Food is our connection to life and can carry our dreams and memories from generation to generation. It is again time to enjoy food as our celebration and appreciation of life.