Our caveman ancestors spent the bulk of their time in hunting and gathering food. Even more important than finding a mate, food was always at the forefront of their minds. They thought about it day and night, planning it and devising strategies that would make for the most efficient hunt. If the caveman existed in our day, we would call his hunt for food obsessive-compulsive.
Fortunately, our ancestors were intelligent because if they weren’t none of us would be here today. As a matter of fact, necessity dictated that some of the cave-women take an interest in the foods and the herbs which would aid in healing. Some people believe that the knowledge of herbs was genetic and instinctual.
So, from the very beginning herbs were considered medicine, and it was found that food could be used to bring about a desired effect. It didn’t take long for our ancestors to figure out that a varied diet was prerequisite for good health. The only thing modern man has done is take what our early ancestors already knew, and improve it. Over time, sometimes by accident and by experience we have learned:
* Vitamin C prevents scurvy – sailors in the 18th century were given lime or lemon juice
* In the 19th century Naturopaths drew attention to food and how it played a part in nutritional therapy
* Fasting became known as a way to help the body heal itself
* Nutritional specialists began to treat specific ailments and symptoms by using food interactions
* By the middle of the 20th century, Scientists put together a list of proteins, carbohydrates, fats plus vitamins and minerals, which became known as essentials to life and health.
* More than 40 nutrients were discovered, including 13 vitamins
* It was found that minerals were needed for healthy body function
By the 1960’s , Stanford chemistry professor Linus Pauling talked about creating the best molecular environment in the mind by supplying the right concentration of vitamins. He named this therapy orthomolecular medicine , and doctors began to treat patients with special diets and supplements, according to the need of the individual.
These doctors of orthomolecular medicine began to prescribe large doses of vitamins to correct nutritional deficiencies which they saw were factors in a large number of physical and mental illnesses. From there nutrition therapy evolved into a more profound treatment that took into account the individual need, called holistic health care.
Then the philosophy of macrobiotics sprung into action, which is a fundamental belief that everyone has the right to be healthy enough to enjoy life to its fullest extent. The idea largely comes from China and Tibet, where it is believed that humanity is part of the environment and cosmos, and that as such, through natural means we should be able to live life to its full potential, assisted by a diet which promotes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Today, we have come to accept the idea that fatigue, susceptibility to colds and other viruses, lethargy, skin ailments and other serious disorders are just part of our stressful life and society. This has become the norm of thought in our western society where we are overfed and undernourished, where food is plentiful but it often devoid of any nutritional value.
The modern world has placed added burdens on our bodies which were completely unknown to early man. Some of these are:
* Depleted soil (minerals are not as rich, therefore food grown in the soil is not as nutritious)
* Animals which graze on depleted soil
* Food manufacturers now add: colorants, flavors, preservatives, emulsifiers, antibiotics, growth promoters
* Environmental pollution…and well, the list could go on, but you get the point.
What the above means is that we need nutritional therapy more than we’ve ever needed it, and it needs to be a thoughtful choice, not something we leave to chance. We now have dozens of laboratory tests which can measure everything about a person’s body from sugar intolerance and blood levels of vitamins and minerals, to thyroid function and levels of insulin. In this case modern technology is on your side.
We can now be scientific, if we desire, on what we lack and what we need to do to get back on track. For instance, we know that research suggests that supplements can treat certain conditions. For instance neuralgia or carpal tunnel syndrome suggest a deficiency of the B-vitamins. Tyrosine, an amino acid has been very helpful in treating depression and anxiety.
The first thing a nutritional therapist will do is test for deficiencies of the following vitamins and minerals:
* Vitamin A (retinol, carotene), B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid and B6 pyridoxine
* B12, folic acid and biotin
* Vitamin C and Vitamin D
* Vitamin E, vitamin F, Vitamin H and vitamin K
* Vitamin M, vitamin P and vitamins T and U
* Minerals, such as calcium, chlorine, chromium and copper
* Iodine, iron, magnesium and molybdenum
* Potassium, selenium, sodium, sulphur and zinc
A healthy diet is one where the food you eat contains all the nutrients needed by the body to grow, repair and to function normally on a day to day basis. A balanced diet, filled with variety is one that should give plenty of energy to function at the highest level, free from disease and malaise.
The Macrobiotic Philosophy is one where disease is prevented rather than treated, and where happiness can flourish rather than the preoccupation and fear over our state of health. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and enables you to maintain good health.
It was written thousands of years ago in the book Nei Ching: “it is hardest to treat someone who has become rebellious [sick]-a wise doctor helps those who are well and have not become rebellious.” It takes commitment and practice to consistently eat for health, but as Macrobiotic practitioners say “…when it becomes effortless and you are genuinely enjoying all the food you eat, then you have become macrobiotic.”
The richest sources of vitamins and minerals in food and herbs:
* Calcium (protects and builds bones and teeth, aids blood clotting and buffers acid in the stomach)
herbs – comfrey, licorice, manestail, oatstraw
foods – sesame seeds, seaweeds, kale, turnips, almonds, soybeans, dandelion leaves, hazelnuts, horseradish, honey, salmon
* Chromium (breaks down sugar for use in the body, helps deter diabetes , and helps maintain proper blood pressure)
foods – whole wheat bread, potatoes, spinach, spaghetti, bananas, haddock
* Copper (converts iron to hemoglobin, helps keep anemia at bay)
herbs – ephaedra
food – peaches, turnips
* Iron (aids growth, helps immune system, prevents fatigue, is essential in reproduction of hemoglobin)
herbs – red raspberry, yellow dock, kelp, nettle
foods – wheat and rice (bean and germ), brazil-nuts, greens, apples, grapes, walnuts, dill, dandelion leaves, pumpkin, squash, plums
* Manganese (needed for normal bone structure, important for thyroid gland’s hormone production, digestion)
herbs – comfrey, cramp bark , uva ursi, gravel root
foods – apples, peaches, rye, turnips, tea, whole meal, bread and avocados
* Magnesium (essential for nerve and muscle functioning, anti-stress and improves cardiovascular system)
herbs – alerian, kelp and dandelion
foods – whole wheat, whole oats, walnuts, almonds, rice, sorrel, rye, cashews, cabbage, okra, dill and oranges
* Phosphorus (formation of bones and teeth, nerve impulse transfer, assimilates niacin in every body cell)
herbs – yeast
foods – rice, wheat, squash, seeds, sesame seeds , brazil nuts , fish, kale, mustard, radishes and seafood
* Potassium (regulates body’s water balance , aids muscle function and disposes of body waste)
herbs – kelp, dulce, irish moss
foods – soybeans, bananas, cayenne pepper , artichokes, asparagus and tomatoes
* Selenium (anti-oxidant, slowing down aging, helps prostate gland, prevents skin conditions)
foods – wheat germ, bran, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, shellfish and tuna
* Sodium (needed for normal growth, aids in preventing sunstroke, helps nerves and muscles function but is excessive in most diets)
herbs – kelp, seaweed and marigold
foods – olives, dulse, apricots, currants, figs, dates, eggs, lentils, oats, red cabbage, strawberries, turnips, celery and cayenne pepper
* Sulfur (good for skin and hair, helps fight bacterial infection, aids the liver and is part of tissue building functions)
herbs – garlic, kelp, dandelion
foods – onion, sprouts, coconut, cucumber, garlic, figs, egg yolk, greens, kale, okra, parsnips, potatoes, strawberries, turnips and carrots
* Zinc (accelerates healing, prevents infertility, helps prostate, promotes growth and mental alertness)
herbs – red raspberries, alfalfa, uva ursi and slippery elm
foods – apricots, peaches, nectarines, oysters, wheat germ, coco, mustard seeds, brewers yeast, eggs and pumpkin seeds
* Vitamin A (helps with night blindness, helps with respiratory issues and promotes growth of teeth, hair and bones)
herbs – alfalfa, oatstraw
foods – carrots, asparagus, cayenned pepper, carrots, kale, spinach,sweet potatoes, apples, garlic, ginger, papaya and rye
* Vitamin B1 (thiamine – promotes growth, aids digestion, improves mental attitude, helps nervous system and prevents stress)
herbs – red clover and alfalfa
foods – rice, beans, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, apples, garlic, papaya, turnips, rye, peanuts, oatmeal and sesame seeds
* Vitamin B2 (riboflavin – aids growth and reproduction, promotes skin, hair and nail growth, helps eyesight)
herbs – alfalfa and red clover
foods – hot red chilis, wheat germ, millet, apples, garlic,ginger, rye, leafy green vegetables, fish, eggs, yeast, cheese, liver, kidney, almonds
* Vitamin B3 (niacin – essential for sex hormones, increases energy, aids nervous system, helps digestion and prevents migraines)
herbs – alfalfa, red clover
food – apples, garlic, ginger, onions, papaya, rye, turnips, wheat, parsley and watercress
* Vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid – heals wounds, fights infections, strengthens immune system and builds cells)
herbs – barberry
foods – rye, turnips, garlic, papayas and parsley
* Vitamin B12 (cobalamin – forms and regenerates red blood cells, increases energy, improves concentration, maintains nervous system)
herbs-alfalfa, comfrey and clover
foods-rye, sprouted seeds, legumes, eggs, kidney, liver and milk
* Vitamin B17 (amygdalin – shown to control cancer)
foods – apricots, peach seeds, apples, cherries, plums and nectarines
* Vitamin C (ascorbic acid – helps body to absorb calcium, helps form collagen, heals wounds and aids the immune system)
herbs – alfalfa, hawthorne and rosehips
foods – oranges, apples, watercress, garlic, onions, turnips, cayenne, sweet red pepper, walnuts, lemons, green leafy vegetables
* Vitamin D (prevents ricks, essential for calcium and phosphorus utilization, necessary for strong teeth and bones)
herbs – alfalfa and fenegreek
food – apples, watercress, fish liver oil, milk, salmon and herring
* Vitamin E (antioxidant, anticoagulant and anti-aging)
herbs – alfalfa, flaxseed
foods – apples, parsley, rye, wheat germ, whole wheat, broccoli and eggs