My wife, Jeanette, told me about your wonderful online newsletter. She said there was an interest in having insights on some questions that have arisen in your discussion group. Here are my thoughts on one of the questions.
Osteoporosis in long time macrobiotic practitioners
In order to present my views on this issue, I believe it would be helpful to explain from my understanding of the macrobiotic view on osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is commonly thought to be a disease of the bones. All disease, from a greater perspective (macrobiotic view) is never a disease of just one part of the body. All organs and systems are involved. This is especially true when a large part of the body, the bones, is concerned.
From the view of Asian medicine, energetically, the bones, including the spine, are a major storehouse of energy for the entire body-mind. The bones are part of the Kidney energy system. This system is the battery and energy bank account of the body-mind.
When the body and mind is excessively taxed, stressed and/or undernourished, the body-mind withdraws from the energy bank account that is located in the kidneys and adrenals, reproductive organs, bones and to some extent, in all the solid organs of the body. If the stress or imbalance continues too long, then the energy bank account gets drained. The end result is some kind of degenerative disease, including a degeneration of the bones, osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease that signals an imbalance of the whole body. This situation would indicate, according to the ideas above that the body and mind has been under a tremendous amount of stress for a long period of time. Finally, the energy bank account was overdrawn and the bones suffered.
I heard Michio Kushi discuss osteoporosis during an advanced macrobiotics-training seminar last summer (2001). His view was that a person developed osteoporosis by making the blood more acidic. Our blood condition must maintain an alkaline state. If the blood becomes highly acidic, then the mineral, calcium, stays too long in the blood, and is excreted out of the body.
Alkaline blood is maintained by healthy functioning kidneys, lungs, liver and intestines. If the acidity of your food, and drink exceeds your body’s ability to deal with it, the blood becomes acid. The calcium is lost from the body. The health of these organs is very critical to maintaining alkaline blood. Yin and yang extremes in diet, such as excess sugars, fats, proteins, stimulants such as coffee and alcohol, and the excessive use of tomatoes, green and red peppers, spinach and eggplant are more acidic. The regular use of these can lead to this acidity.
Acidity is one part of the picture in osteoporosis. The other part of the picture is the overall health of the person, which is the result of balance in a person’s diet and lifestyle. The macrobiotic way of life and eating provides the best balance for health. A person’s application of the macrobiotic way makes all the difference.
In the classes, I have taught on osteoporosis, I have presented these additional points on the cause and cure of osteoporosis.
1. Excessive exercise creates highly acidic blood and taxes the immune system. The immune system is also the repair and rebuild system in the body. Unless a person compensates for this stress to the system, severe bone loss can result. Increased amounts of fat (good quality cold pressed vegetable oils, boiled or roasted temperate climate nuts, and seeds and nut butters), extra protein from the nuts and seeds, beans, tempeh, seitan, and fish and more minerals (condiments and salty seasonings) would be required in a macrobiotic diet to compensate for the stress to the system. Of course, the person may reflect on if this amount of exercise is healthy for them.
2. Good quality richness is important after the healing phase of a macrobiotic way of eating. Nuts, seeds, good quality protein, moderate amounts of mochi, sour dough bread and noodles supply this.
3. Balance in a person’s macrobiotic diet is important. Excessive yin in the form of sugars, stimulants (coffee, etc.) and alcohol will sap a person’s energy bank account. After months or years of eating macrobiotic foods, most people will have the health to eat some good quality sweets and desserts regularly, and moderate amounts of mild alcoholic beverages (if tolerated). Some may be able to get away with (without harm) eating wider from time to time. If a person eats too much of these foods and drinks, it will sap the energy bank account. This, I call the “I’m so yang” syndrome which can lead to overcompensating for eating too salty or narrow.
Some people restrict their diets too long. This manifests in one’s diet as overeating grain (generally it is taught at the Kushi Institute to mostly eat 2 times the amount of vegetables to grain, at meals), using excessive salt, oil and sweets and a lack of variety. The moderate occasional use of the acidic vegetables, such as tomatoes, and green peppers, and the use of sweeteners and fruit may help in certain cases to release tension in the kidneys in such cases.
4. Excessive stress can sap the body. Everyone has a different capacity for handling physical and mental stress. Physical and mental rest and relaxation and sleep are important for the immune system to function to rebuild the body. Taking the time to do pleasurable activities, engaging hobbies and time with friends and family are important forms of relaxation. Yoga, chi gung, tai chi and meditation are helpful to stimulate the restorative systems of the body.
5. Moderate exercise, especially of the energy building type above strengthens and balances the system. Tai chi is one the best weight bearing exercises for the bones.
In my mind, balance is the key to preventing and curing osteoporosis and other degenerative disease. Macrobiotics, to me, is the practice of balance or the middle way. In the body, this balance manifests in many ways. One crucial way is the building up and breaking down of the body. Good digestion, good circulation, good elimination, and nerve function is the key to maintaining this balance.
copyright Kozinski 3-9-2002