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One day Sally goes to her local bookstore to browse around. In her wanderings through the aisles she comes across a book about macrobiotics and she flips through the pages. She decides this looks interesting and takes it home. On further reading it all makes great sense to her and she decides to start eating a macrobiotic diet. She finds a place to buy all these strange sounding foods, gets a cookbook, pressure cooker etc. and gets started. In a few days she is eating her miso soup with wakame, brown rice (maybe a little burnt!) and vegetables. In a few days she starts feeling really good. She has more vitality, she is sleeping better than she has in years, her skin looks clearer, she has lost a couple of pounds, and she feels pretty perky.
Then, during the third week into the diet she suddenly develops the most hideous headache, her throat is burning up and she has a fever of 104.5 degrees! She has a fitful night and has to get up and pee three or four times during the night and in the morning she discovers she has this foul smelling muck coming out of her vagina.
She immediately gets in a panic and goes to the doctor and gets some antibiotics because she has "strep throat" and a "yeast infection" and after the taking the antibiotics she feels even worse. She develops diarrhoea, is really depressed and lying in bed mulls over the events of the past few weeks to try and figure out why she is so 'sick'. In a fit of anger she thinks it is this stupid macrobiotic diet and decides to quit it there and then. In her lousy mood, she goes to the nearest ice cream parlor and says to herself, "the hell with this dumb diet, I am going to treat myself to the most decadent ice cream I can possibly devise and eat half a pint".
She does, and feels so much better the next morning. Her fever is gone, the vaginal discharge is gone, although there is still some irritation. Her bowels are better and she had a great night's sleep. This only confirms her assessment of "this stupid macrobiotic diet" and a few xenophobic comments about orientals cross her mind as she goes about tossing her miso etc. in the garbage.
I am sure this scenario, or variations of it, has played itself out thousands of times in the last twenty years. So, was Sally correct in her assessment that it was "this stupid macrobiotic diet" causing her to experience her headache, fever, sore throat and vaginal discharge? Yes, she was!
When anyone goes on a macrobiotic dietary program it is axiomatic the body is going to detoxify itself. It is more accurate to say the body is always detoxifying itself all the time. The general term under which this function is occurring is called metabolism, which consists of two processes, anabolism and catabolism. The food we eat provides the information which is used to build the body tissues which is anabolism; this largely occurs at night while we are asleep. The activities we undertake during the day cause the body to break down, which is called catabolism. Catabolism creates waste products which the body has to rid itself of daily which is called elimination. So, in essence the human organism is in this continuous daily rhythm of building up at night and breaking down in the day. The essential aspect for our health and vitality is to maintain a balanced rhythm of anabolism and catabolism on a daily basis. This means we need to have the amount of food we are eating approximately equal to the amount of wastes we are eliminating, through bowel movement, urination, breathing and skin breathing.
As I have stated elsewhere in The Alchemycal Pages the dynamic of the organs of elimination of the body- kidneys/bladder, lungs/large intestine, liver/gall bladder and skin has been designed to function harmoniously when the body is informed by a diet of cooked whole grains and vegetables. One of the consequences of abandoning these foods as our staple foods and replacing them with the staples of the "meat and sugar" diet is these organs begin to be unable to efficiently manage the job of eliminating the waste products of catabolism. The ensuing dynamic is the process of disease, which is at one and the same time the body attempting to heal itself under the adverse conditions of the "meat and sugar" diet.
So, when we begin eating a macrobiotic diet after many years of eating the "meat and sugar" diet it signifies both a boon and a relief to these organs and they soon begin to manage the job of efficiently eliminating these wastes and so detoxification is accelerated. However, the acceleration is such that the body also uses other avenues of elimination to get rid of these waste products.
Now, how this detoxification manifests itself is unique to each individual. Generally speaking the range of detoxification symptoms, or discharges, range from weight loss, increased bowel movement, increased urination to, in addition, fevers, headaches, sore throats, diarrhoea, vaginal discharge, skin break-outs, flu-like symptoms, coughing, sneezing, copious nasal discharge, and, in extreme cases, vomiting. All these symptoms mean the body is healing itself, under any and all circumstances, macrobiotic or not. The million dollar question is, of course, how do we know whether these symptoms indicate we are getting worse or getting better.
If a person is eating macrobiotically and develops these symptoms the first response is to start being ecstatically happy and then check the following: Appetite; Nausea; Sleep; Vitality. In the case of discharges indicating we are getting better, these four are generally positive. Our appetite is still good, we do not feel sick, we are sleeping fine and our level of vitality is okay. The reason the vitality is not great is the chi is being used to effect the discharge and we do not have much 'left over'. In other words, we can have a fever of 104.5, have copious nasal discharge and a sore throat and feel fine, have a good appetite, not feel tired and sleep well. I have experienced this several times in the first seven to ten years of my macrobiotic practice.
Generally speaking we can have three of these four being negative and it still means we are healing. If all four are negative in that we have no appetite, we feel sick, we cannot sleep and we have no vitality, then we are getting worse and need to avail ourselves of the 'crisis medicine' of doctors, emergency rooms etc. In my 15 years of counseling I can remember having to advise someone to go to the doctor only twice.
The reason Sally felt better after she had eaten the ice cream and stopped eating her macrobiotic diet is in so doing she had stopped her body from discharging and so the symptoms of her body healing itself had stopped. Thus she felt better. I feel it is essential a person during the first few years of their macrobiotic practice has one or more "healing crises" as this means the healing is true and deep. It cannot be overstated that unless during the course of our healing we experience pain and suffering then our healing is superficial and in the long run our disease symptoms will return or manifest in worse symptoms.
Note: the above is an expanded version of an article to be published in Macrobiotic Times.