In Oriental medicine, the ear is associated with the kidney. Excess consumption of dairy food, meat, eggs, poultry, and other high-fat foods, as well as sugar and white flour, can contribute to mucous and fat deposits in the inner ear, affecting hearing, coordination, and balance.
• Kidney Patients Suffer Hearing Loss - In a study of 73 patients with chronic kidney disease, Chinese researchers at the Xuzhou Hospital in Jiangsu reported that hearing damage varied from 68 percent to 84 percent depending on the type of nephropathy. Patients with kidney deficiencies had lower levels of iron and zinc in their blood and the decrease in serum iron was directly proportional to the degree of hearing damage.
Source: J. Yu et al., “Study on Relation of Kidney-Deficiency with Hearing Damage and Serum Trace Elements in Patients with Chronic Nephropathy,” Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 16(5):274-76, 1996.
• Whole Grain Diet Improves Hearing - A study of over 1400 persons with inner ear symptoms found that when they were given nutritional counseling and put on diets low in saturated fat and high in whole grain cereals and breads, hearing improved. The diets also encouraged vegetable consumption and fruit in place of sugar-sweetened desserts and pastries. Salty foods were avoided as was adding salt to food at the table.
“The response to dietary management is dramatic in most patients,” researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine reported. “With the otologic patient, dizziness clears promptly and the sensation of pressure in the ears and head is quickly relieved, along with associated headache. Hearing improves or stabilizes, evident in the pure tone audiogram and in the speech discrimination scores. Tinnitus often lessens in severity and sometimes even disappears... General health also greatly improves, and elevated blood pressure often returns to normal. The patients have more energy and are free from headaches, their arthritic symptoms improve, and they often sleep better.”
Source: J. T. Spencer, “Hyperlipoproteinemia, Hyperinsulinism, and Meniere’s Disease,” Southern Medical Journal 74:1194-97, 1981.
Heart disease kills one in every two people and is the leading cause of death in the world, including developing countries. A landmark series of medical tests at Harvard University on macrobiotic people living in Boston in the early 1970s helped establish diet as a leading risk factor for high blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease. As a result of dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as better medical treatment, deaths from heart attack have dropped about 30 percent in the last ten years.
See Attention-Deficit Disorder, Carotenoids, Children’s Health Caffeine, Exercise, Fiber, Fish, Folic Acid, Fruit, Ginger, Herbal Medicine, High Blood Pressure, Impotence, Iron, Japanese Diet, Macrobiotics, Miso, Nuts, Phytoestrogens, Rice, Rice Bran, Sesame, Shiitake, Triglycerides, Vegans, Vegetables, Vegetarians, Vitamin B-6, Wakame, War-Restricted Diet, Whole Grains, Wine, Women’s Health, World Health Organization.
• Macrobiotic Diet and Framingham Heart Study - Harvard Medical School researchers reported that Boston-area macrobiotic people eating a diet of whole grains, beans, fresh vegetables, sea vegetables, and fermented soy products had significantly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure than a control group from the Framingham Heart Study eating the standard American diet of meat, sugar, dairy foods, and highly processed, chemicalized foods.
The average serum cholesterol in the macrobiotic group was 126 milligrams per deciliter versus 184 for controls. When dairy foods and eggs were added to their diet, cholesterol and fat levels rose significantly, although fish was consumed as much as dairy and eggs combined. “The low plasma lipid levels in the vegetarians,” the researchers concluded, “resemble those reported for populations in nonindustrialized societies” where heart disease, cancer, and other degenerative illnesses are uncommon.
Source: F. M. Sacks et al., “Plasma Lipids and Lipoproteins in Vegetarians and Controls,” New England Journal of Medicine 292:1148-51, 1975.
• Macrobiotic Diet Superior to Marathon Running for the Heart - Dr. William Castelli, director of the Framingham Heart Study, the nation’s oldest and largest cardiovascular research project, and a participant in research on macrobiotic people at Harvard Medical School, noted that vegetarian and macrobiotic people have healthier hearts and circulatory systems than conditioned athletes:
“One of the most important issues of the 1980’s is the question of reversibility of atherosclerosis. Most doctors have been taught that the process is irreversible; however, in most of the animal studies done, when animals with 90 percent of their blood vessels blocked by fatty deposits and scar tissue have had their cholesterol lowered to 150 mg. percent or lower, 80 percent of all lesions have disappeared in about four years. Case studies in humans have been documented in which blockages in the blood vessels have been reversed over time if the cholesterol level in the blood is lowered. In a study of 18,000 vegetarians in California it was found that they had only 15 percent of the heart attack rate reported in nonvegetarians. In addition, they have only 40 percent of the nonvegetarian cancer rate and the men live six to seven years longer than nonvegetarian men while vegetarian women live three years longer than non-vegetarian. . . .
“The study in Framingham suggests that the best way to determine how large the risk of heart attack is in a particular individual’s life, is, to determine the ratio of his or her total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. For example, a man with a total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL of 50 would have a ratio of 200/50 or 4. The majority of Americans who have heart attacks have a ratio of 4.6 to 5.7 so it is recommended that an individual’s ratio be at least below 4.5. While getting one’s ratio below 4.5 would not totally eliminate heart attack in this country, it would certainly change the fact that it is the number one killer in the U.S. now.
“What a person eats every day is a very important aspect of how his or her health will be in every day as well as later life. Supporting this view is the fact that macrobiotic people studied had a ratio of 2.5 and Boston marathon runners were at 3.4, ratios at which rarely, if ever, is coronary heart disease seen. Studies and observations such as these are a clear indicator that people need to take a critical look at their diet with the intention of making changes now.”
Source: William P. Castelli, “Summary of Lessons from the Framingham Heart Study,” Framingham, Mass., September, 1983.
• Heart Disease Begins in Childhood - In Bogalusa, a semirural Louisiana community, investigators have been monitoring blood values and dietary intake among schoolchildren for a number of years. In 1988, they reported that children had an average cholesterol level 300 mg. and ate a daily diet consisting of an average of 38 percent fat.
Children should be routinely checked for signs of heart disease beginning at age five, according to Dr. Gerald Berenson, chief cardiologist at the Louisiana State University Medical Center. At an American Heart Association forum in January, 1990, he reported the results of a 25-year study of more than 10,000 children showing that doctors can identify at six months those children who are likely to develop excessively high levels of blood cholesterol. He recommended that children at risk of heart disease should be taught as soon as they begin school to avoid fats and keep fit.
Sources: G. S. Berenson et al., “Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Children and Early Prevention of Heart Disease,” Clinical Chemisty 34:B115-22, 1988.
• Pediatric Guidelines - The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children over the age of 2 observe the low-fat, low-cholesterol diet recommended for adults to prevent heart disease and obesity. The Academy’s guidelines limited calories from fat to 30 percent or less and recommended that no more than 10 percent of these come from saturated fats. Currently, American children eat an average of 35 percent of their total calories from fat, including about 15 percent saturated fat.
Source: “Lower-Fat Diet Recommended After Age of 2,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 1992
• Reducing Cholesterol Reduces the Risk of Heart Attack - A study of more than 12,000 men of middle age found that reducing cholesterol by 5 percent, lowering blood pressure, losing weight, and receiving help to stop smoking substantially reduced the risk of heart attack. The research followed the men over a period of ten years and found that the half which made dietary and lifestyle changes had 24 percent fewer deaths from heart attack than the control group which received conventional medical care.
Source: “Mortality Rates after 10.5 Years for Participants in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial,” Journal of the American Medical Association 263:1795-1801, 1990.
• Treating Angina Pectoris with Macrobiotics - Physicians at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City reported that patients with angina pectoris, a form of coronary heart disease, showed significantly improved blood pressure values and lowered coronary risk factors after ten weeks on a macrobiotic diet and treatment with biofeedback in 1984. The chief researcher, Dr. Kenneth Greenspan of the hospital’s Laboratory and Center for Stress Related Disorders, reported that cholesterol levels dropped from an average 300 to 220, levels of blood pressure also dropped, patients could walk about 20 percent farther in stress tests, and three patients with severe angina showed no symptoms at the end of the study. The participants, mostly businessmen, and their wives learned how to cook and ate together at the Natural Gourmet Cookery School under the direction of macrobiotic and natural foods cook Annemarie Colbin. Dr. Greenspan reported that there was “tremendous enthusiasm and adherence” to the new diet. The study was funded and monitored by the New York Cardiac Center.
Source: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, Diet for a Strong Heart (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985), p. 131.
Hemorrhoids, affecting the tissues of the rectal or anal wall, are painful and commonly treated by laxatives or other medication.
• Diet and Hemorrhoids - In South Africa, whites have high hemorrhoid rates, while blacks rarely experience the condition at all. Researchers have associated hemorrhoids with the whites’ diet high in fat and low in fiber and protection from hemorrhoids with the blacks’ diet high in fiber and low in fat.
Source: D. Burkitt, “Varicose Veins, Deep Vein Thrombosis and Hemorrhoids: Epidemiology and Suggested Aetiology,” British Medical Journal 2:556, 1972.
Hepatitis, a liver inflammation, commonly follows contact with one of five viruses labeled A, B, C, D, and E. Contaminated food, water, and blood are the primary avenues of infection. Diet offers an alternative to standard drug treatment for this potentially serious condition. See Dairy, Sugar.
• Low-Dairy Diet Inhibits Hepatitis - In a study to test the interacting effect of hepatitis B virus and animal food consumption on the development of liver cancer, researchers at Stanford University reported that in laboratory experiments, a diet low in dairy protein (casein) significantly inhibited hepatitis B virus infection.
Source: J. F. Hu, “Repression of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Transgene and HBV-Induced Liver Injury by Low Protein Diet,” Oncogene 15(23):2795-801, 1997.
• Case History - Yuko Horio, who worked for a Tokyo publishing house, contracted hepatitis while traveling in Asia and recovered with the help of a macrobiotic diet in which all sugar and dairy food was discontinued.
Source, Gale Jack and Wendy Esko, editors, (Becket, MA: Women’s Health Guide, One Peaceful World Press, 1997).
Herbal medicine, found the world over, relies on herbs, roots, bark, and other plant-quality substances to heal. According to a recent survey, one in every three Americans uses herbal supplements, a tenfold increase since 1990. Top herbs include garlic, ginseng, St. John’s wort, Ginkgo biloba, green tea extract, and echinacea. The survey indicated that 51 percent of those who use herbs take them for specific ailments, 30 percent use them for overall health, and 19 percent for prevention. See Depression, Echinacea.
• Herbal Remedies Protect Against Heart Disease - In a study of the effects of three plants on heart functions, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong reported that green beans, common rue, and kelp contained cardiovascular active substances that had a direct effect on the cardiovascular system. However, specific effects were modified by the interaction of the three plants. “Data explained why herbs, as in herbal medicine, should be used together therapeutically,” the scientists concluded.
Source: K. W. Chiu and A. Y. Fung, “The Cardiovascular Effects of Gree Beans, Common Rue, and Kelp in Rats,” General Pharmacology 29(5):859-62, 1997.
• Chinese Medicine Useful for Hepatitis and Other Liver Conditions - In a review of the liver in traditional Chinese medicine, researchers at the department of pathology, East Orange Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New Jersey reported that traditional practitioners were able to recognize the role of bile secretions and the development of jaundice and treat liver disorders with a combination of acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal medicines. The scientists singled out glycyrrhizin, a traditional Chinese herbal preparation, which has recently been shown to be beneficial in chronic viral hepatitis.
Source: T. S. Chen and P. S. Chen, “The Liver in Traditional Chinese Medicine,” Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 13(4):437-42, 1998.
Herpes simplex, a skin infection, is characterized by small, painful blisters or eruptions on the lips, the cornea of the eye, or the genitals. It is contracted following sexual contact and commonly treated with antiviral cream or other medication. See Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
• Treating Herpes with Seaweed - A red seaweed, Nothogenia fastigiata, inhibited the spread of herpes simplex virus (type 1) in research conducted at the University of Buenos Aires. High in polysaccharides, the seaweed demonstrated strong antiviral properties when added to cell cultures simultaneously with virus inoculum.
Source: E. B. Damonte et al., "Herpes Simplex Virus-Inhibitory Sulfated Xylogalactans from the Red Seaweed Nothogenia Fastigiata," Chemotherapy 42(1):57-64, 1996.
Hiatus hernia is a protrusion of a part of the stomach through the diaphragm.
• Modern Refined Diet Causes Hiatus Hernia Hiatus hernia is a ”characteristically ‘Western’ disease” caused by a refined diet. “Hiatus hernia seems to be rare in developing countries and almost unknown in communities who have departed little from their traditional way of life,” noted two British researchers. “One of us (P.A.J.) did not see a single case of hiatus hernia or esophageal stricture due to reflux esophagitis in an African during seven years as the sole thoracic surgeon in Uganda.”
The scientists suggested that the main cause is increased intraabdo-minal pressures as a result of eliminating hardened stools from eating meat and other animal food. In Western countries, the average transit time of bowel movements is nearly twice that of people living in native societies. The stools are also harder, more compacted, and weigh about half as much as normal.
Source: D. P. Burkitt and P. A. James, “Low-Residue Diets and Hiatus Hernia,” Lancet 2:128-30, 1973.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 15 to 20 percent of the adult population in the U.S. and other modern societies and is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Pioneer studies on the macrobiotic community in Boston in the early 1970s established that diet affected blood pressure and is a prime risk factor in the development of heart disease. In the years since, many studies have shown that diet can help bring down and control high blood pressure without the need for drugs. See Cholesterol, Coffee, Heart Disease, Sesame, Tarahumara Diet.
• Reducing Blood Pressure with Macrobiotics - Harvard Medical School researchers reported a direct relation between blood pressure levels and articles of diet, especially the consumption of animal food. For four months, 210 men and women from many different backgrounds eating macrobiotically in Boston study houses were subjected to a wide range of medical tests. Overall, the researchers found that the men had mean systolic blood pressures of 109.7 mm Hg and diastolic pressures of 60.9. The women had slightly lower readings, 100.9 and 58.2 respectively. Both of these measurements fell well within the normal blood pressure category and approached the systolic level of 100 under which Framingham Heart Study researchers theorized there would develop virtually no coronary heart disease.
Meanwhile, those in the group who ate fish or seafood regularly as a supplement to grains and vegetables had significantly higher blood pressure than those who ate no animal food. The addition of sea salt at the table was not associated with changes in blood pressure in those examined, and those individuals who abstained from coffee or cigarette smoking had lower systolic but not diastolic pressures. Married persons also had lower systolic pressures, as did those who meditated.
The unexpectedly low blood pressure of the macrobiotic group was considered all the more remarkable because of the relatively short time the participants in the study had been on the new diet. “The generally short duration (less than 2 years) of adherence in half suggests that dietary effects on BP [blood pressure] become established relatively earlier. Perhaps of greater interest is that the declared intake of food from animal sources is significantly associated with higher pressures in individuals and there is significant clustering of systolic BP among the members of communal households, a phenomenon hitherto observed only in relation to first-degree relatives of an individual and with varying degrees of association for spouses.” The implications of these findings for a pluralistic society composed of many different racial and ethnic backgrounds were far-reaching.
Source: F. M. Sacks, Bernard Rosner, and Edward H. Kass, “Blood Pressure in Vegetarians,” American Journal of Epidemiology 100:390-98, 1974.
• Traditional vs. Modern Diet - For many years, modern medicine has assumed that blood pressure naturally rises with age. However, population studies in traditional societies have shown little or no tendency for blood pressure to increase with age. In a review of dietary changes among the Inuit, Polynesians, Bushmen, Central American Indians, and other native peoples, Lot B. Page, M.D. of the Tufts University School of Medicine found that in traditional societies abnormal blood pressure began to appear when people started eating the modern diet including refined salt, canned meat and fish, sugar, and other processed foods. In respect to salt, it was found that “acculturation, with use of Western dietary items, invariably appears to lead to increased salt intake.” The researcher concluded that by eliminating these foods “clinical primary hypertension may be a preventable disease.”
Source: Lot P. Page, “Epidemiologic Evidence on the Etiology of Human Hypertension and Its Possible Prevention,” American Heart Journal 91:527-34, 1976.
• Sugary Drinks Increase Risk in Hypertensive Men - In a large cohort study in Denmark on carbohydrate metabolism, researchers reported that the risk of heart disease tripled among men with high blood pressure using diuretics (thiazides and related agents) who added sugar to hot beverages compared to those who didn’t add sugar.
Source: “P. Suadicani et al., “Adverse Effects on Risk of Ischaemic Heart Disease of Adding Sugar to Hot Beverages in Hypertensives Using Diuretics,” Blood Pressure 5(2):91-97, 1996.
• Diet Reduces Need for Drugs - In new guidelines, the National High Blood Pressure Education Program recommended that people with mild hypertension should try dietary and lifestyle changes for 6 to 12 months and only take drugs if they do not work. Hypertension affects two-thirds of the elderly in America, and recent studies indicate that some aged 60 to 80 got off blood pressure medication by losing 8 to 10 pounds and limiting their salt intake to 1800 milligrams a day instead of the 4000 national average. Those who made these changes were 53 percent less likely to have high blood pressure or need medication. They also had less heart attacks and strokes. 30 percent of those who changed were able to stay off drugs altogether.
Source: P. K. Whelton, “Sodium Reduction and Weight Loss in the Treatment of Hypertension in Older Persons,” Journal of the American Medical Association 279(11):839-46, 1998.
Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, taught a natural healing method emphasizing environmental and dietary factors. He especially recommended whole barley, the staple in ancient Greece and the Mediterranean world, supplemented with wheat and other grains and their products, along with simple, safe compresses made of grains, vegetables, and plants that could be prepared at home.
In his lectures and essays, Hippocrates focused on the energetics of food. In Tradition in Medicine, he explained: “I know too that the body is affected differently by bread according to the manner in which it is prepared. It differs according as it is made from pure flour or meal with bran, whether it is prepared from winnowed or unwinnowed wheat, whether it is mixed with much water or little, whether well mixed or poorly mixed, overbaked or underbaked, and countless other points besides. The same is true of the preparation of barley meal. The influence of each process is considerable and each has a totally different effect from another. How can anyone who has not considered such matters and come to understand them possibly know anything of the diseases that afflict mankind? Each one of the substances of a man’s diet acts upon his body and changes it in some way and upon these changes his whole life depends . . . ”
For many cases of illness, he recommended softly prepared barley (barley porridge or gruel), several times a day. He also utilized salt packs, baked millet compresses, and other applications to be placed on different parts of the body to promote circulation and provide comfort.
Source: Hippocratic Writings, G. E. R. Lloyd, editor, J. Chadwick and W. N. Mann, translators (New York: Penguin Books, 1978).
Hiziki (also spelled hijiki) is a brown, pine-needle-shaped sea vegetables that turns black when cooked. Grown in East Asian waters, it is harvested in the spring and dried. Enjoyed for its strong flavor and taste, hiziki has a nutty aroma and firm texture. With one of the highest concentrations of calcium and iron of any foods, it is an excellent source of minerals and trace elements, as well as vitamins A, C, and B-12. It helps reduce serum cholesterol and prevents heart disease and cancer. See Sea Vegetables, Wakame.
• Strengthens Immunity - In a study of the effects of seaweed on strengthening natural immunity, scientists at the Hiroshima University School of Medicine reported that in animal tests and in human tissue experiments tested in vitro, hiziki and other seaweeds stimulated spleen cells to proliferate, enhanced Ig production by B cells, increased tumor necrosis factor (TNF) by macrophages, and stimulated human lymphocytes to proliferate. "These results suggest that seaweed extracts have stimulating activity on B cells and macrophages and this ability could be clinically for the modulation of immune responses," the researchers concluded.
Source: J. N. Liu et al., "B Cell Stimulating Activity of Seaweed Extracts," International Journal of Immunopharmacology 19(3):135-42, 1997.
• Anti-Tumor Effect - In a study of the protective role of edible seaweeds against carcinogenesis, Japanese scientists reported that in animal studies, hiziki enhanced the release of tumor necrosis factor (TNF) from macrophage cells that suppress tumor development. Hiziki also contributed to the suppression of tumor cells in an in vitro culture experiment.
Source: Y Okai et al., "Enhancing Effect of Polysaccharides from an Edible Brown Alga," Nutrition and Cancer 27(1):74-79, 1997.
Ever since Fannie Farmer started introducing modern nutrition to hospital menu planning in the early 20th century, the quality of of hospital food has been a major health concern.
• Hospital Food Deficient in RDAs - In a study of hospital food, researchers at the University of Arkansas reported that only 11 percent of the menus in 11 hospitals in the state met the Recommended Dietary Allowances for zinc, half did not meet the vitamin B-6 guidelines, and one third did not meet the RDA for iron. “Regular and low-fat, low-cholesterol hospital menus had the same nutrient inadequacies because they did not differ in total servings from any food group,” the investigators concluded. “These data indicate that the public may have difficulty choosing a diet that meets both the Dietary Guidelines and RDAs.”
Source: J. Dollahite et al., “Problems Encountered in Meeting the Recommended Dietary Allowances for Menus Designed According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95(3):341-44, 1995.
• Macrobiotic vs. Conventional Diet - In 1980, a macrobiotic lunch program was started at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston for doctors, nurses, and staff. Overall response was favorable and improved noticeably after the macrobiotic food line was integrated with the regular cafeteria line.
By the second year, half of the food served each day in the cafeteria was prepared macrobiotically. Regular attendance increased from about 60 to 120 to 200 persons each day. At lunch, from 70 to 90 percent of all meals served included at least one item from the macrobiotic menu. “Our surveys documented that the great majority of cafeteria patrons regularly had whole grains, or fresh vegetables, or beans, or dairy-free foods, or sea vegetables, or natural sugar-free deserts, or all of the above in their daily diets,” reported Tom Iglehart, consultant to the project, “and for most it was the first such personal innovation in their lifetime. Half of the sheer food quantity consumed by the staff from the serving line were macrobiotic dishes.”
Dr. William Castelli, director of the Framingham Heart Study, contrasted the healthfulness of the macrobiotic food program at the Shattuck Hospital with ordinary hospital food. “Dr. Robert Wissler, the professor and chairman of the Department of Pathology of the University of Chicago fed the usual house diet of the Billings Hospital [the University of Chicago Medical School’s major university hospital] to his baboons and they all lost their legs from atherosclerosis. How our patients are supposed to get well from this is beyond my imagination.”
Sources: Tom Iglehart, “The Shattuck Model: Macrobiotics in an Institution,” in Michio Kushi et al., Crime and Diet (Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, 1987), pp. 203-29.
• Hospitals Start to Offer Vegetarian Fare - In a survey of hospital food, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reported that 22 of 30 hospitals surveyed offered cholesterol-free, low-fat meals for their patients. At the top of their list was Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore (which offers veggie burgers), Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C., and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. All top ten hospitals offered patients low-fat and vegetarian entreés with 10 percent or less fat.
At the bottom of the list, offering no cholesterol-free meals, were the University of Southern California Medical Center, University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Medical Center, University Hospital in San Antonio, and the Medical Center at the University of California in San Francisco.
“A hospital should solve health problems, not aggravate them,” said Andrew Nicholson, M.D., PCRM’s director of preventive medicine. “Too many hospitals still serve pork chops and chicken and offer few healthier choices. They are missing a chance to educate a captive audience.”
Source: Lisa Vidigal, “PCRM Rates Quality of Major Hospital Meals,” Good Medicine 6(3):11-12, 1997.
HUFELAND, CHRISTOPHE VON
Christoph Von Hufeland, M.D., an 18th century German philosopher, professor of medicine, and physician to Goethe, recommended a simple grain-and-vegetable diet with proper chewing, warned of the health hazards of meat and sugar, and promoted breast-feeding, exercise, and self-healing.
“The more a man follows Nature, and is obedient to her laws, the longer he will live; the further he deviates from these the shorter will be his existence,” he noted in his book Macrobiotics, or the Art of Prolonging Life. “The healing power of nature must, above all things, be supported from the beginning, because it is the principal means which lies in ourselves for rendering the causes of disease ineffectual. This may be done chiefly by not accustoming the body at first too much to artificial assistance; otherwise Nature will be so used that she will depend on foreign aid, and at length lose altogether the power of assisting herself.”
In regard to dietary practice, he observed, “Rich and nourishing food, and an immoderate use of flesh, do not prolong life. Instances of the greatest age are to be found among men who from their youth lived principally on vegetables, and who perhaps never tasted flesh.”
In regard to lifestyle, he stated, “The degree of civilization, luxury, refinement, and deviation from nature, in which we at present live, by so highly exalting our intensive life, tends also to shorten, in the same proportion, our existence.”
Source: C. W. Hufeland, M.D., Macrobiotics or the Art of Prolonging Life, 1796.
From 1904 to 1911 British surgeon Robert McCarrison traveled in the Hunza, a remote Himalayan kingdom in the then Northwest Territory of India. There he was astonished to discover a completely healthy culture in which the infectious and degenerative diseases of modern civilization, including colonial India, were unknown.
“I never saw a case of asthenic dyspepsia, of gastric or duodenal ulcer, of appendicitis, of mucous colitis, or of cancer,” he informed his medical colleagues. McCarrison theorized that the unusual health and longevity of the Hunza people were due primarily to their daily diet of whole-wheat chapatis, barley, and maize, supplemented by leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes, apricots, and a small amount of animal food. The Hunzas did not eat refined white rice, sugar, black tea, or spices as did most of the Indian population.
In 1927, as Director of Nutritional Research in India, Dr. McCarrison discovered that rats fed the modern, refined diet of Bengal and Madras contracted cysts, abscesses, heart disease, and cancer of the stomach, while those fed the Hunza whole-grain diet remained healthy and free of all disease.
Sources: Robert McCarrison, M.D., “Faulty Food in Relation to Gastro-Intestinal Disorder,” Journal of the American Medical Association 78:1-8, 1922, and G. T. Wrench, M.D., The Wheel of Health (London: O. W. Daniel, 1938).
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is one of the most prevalent undiagnosed conditions. An estimated 80 percent of people in modern society suffer from its effects, including mood swings and cravings for sweets. See Onions, Violence.
• Macrobiotic Approach - From a macrobiotic view, the main cause of hypoglycemia is excessive animal food that creates tightness in the pancreas and a desire for sweets. Cutting back on meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and other animal foods will automatically reduce cravings for sweets. Meanwhile, a mild sweet taste can be satisfied with Sweet Vegetable Drink, a special recipe combining cabbage, squash, onions, and carrots. Many individuals have relieved their chronic low blood sugar with this approach. In Parade Magazine, film star Andie MacDowell credited Sweet Vegetable Drink with improving her health.
Sources: Michio Kushi and Alex Jack, The Cancer Prevention Diet (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986); Michio Kushi, Basic Home Remedies (Becket, MA: One Peaceful World Press, 1994).
• Psychiatric Problems Linked to Low Blood Sugar - A sampling of 300 psychiatric patients found that about 40 percent were hypoglycemic, a condition characterized by low blood sugar levels brought on by excessive consumption of sugar and other simple carbohydrates. Another study found a 70 percent rate of chronic hypoglycemia in diagnosed schizophrenics. In a group of 220 patients with neuroses with primary complaint of anxiety or depression, 205 were determined to be hypoglycemic. Further studies with 700 patients found 90 percent hypoglycemic. When treated for this blood glucose problem only, the psychiatric problems began to clear up within ten days in the majority of patients.
Sources: H. M. Saltzer, M.D., “Relative Hypoglycemia as a Cause of Neuropsychiatric Illness,” Journal of the National Medical Association 58:12-19, p. 27 and E. M. Abrahamson, M.D. and A. Pezet, Body, Mind and Sugar (New York: Avon Books, 1977), p. 109.