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One of the most important conceptual tools in macrobiotic practice is the Five Transformation Theory (also called The Five Element Theory) which comes out of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Five Transformation Theory:

The illustration shows the relationship of the five paired organs to one another in relationship to the seasons. There are two cycles, both moving in the same direction. The outer cycle is called the mother-daughter or nourishing cycle and the inner one, the controlling or destructive cycle.

In essence the Five Transformation Theory is the result of observing the events in nature as they change throughout the course of the year and attributing the outward manifest changes taking place in nature (seasonal changes in the vegetation and weather patterns and the behaviour of animals etc.) as resulting from the activities taking place in the atmospheric chi or etheric world. The poetic imagination necessary to come up with this tool states that the Spirit of The Seasons creates the state of transformation of the etheric forces or chi designated by the name associated with those seasons.

We are going to begin our study with the WATER season as this begins around the Winter Solstice. The essence of macrobiotic practice is to harmonise ourselves consciously with the rhythms of the earth, simply because this is what the state of health for the human being- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually - is understood to be founded upon. Thus, we need to understand the relationships that pertain the human being and the earth during the course of the year so we can center our eating habits in the course of the seasonal rhythms in harmony with the seasonal changes.

According to the Five Transformation Theory, The Spirit of Winter creates the state of transformation called Water and it says:

"The NORTH creates extreme COLD; COLD creates WATER,

The Forces of WINTER create COLD in Heaven and WATER on Earth.

They create the KIDNEY organ and The BONES within the body...

And the EARS, and the BLACK color, and the SALTY flavor...

The emotion FEAR and the ability to make a GROANING sound."


This is from the Nei Ching (Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) as reported in Naboru Muramoto's classic, "Healing Ourselves". It goes on to say about the KIDNEY;

"The kidneys strengthen the bones and the marrow, and the bones and the marrow strengthen the liver; the kidneys rule over the ears."

"Extreme fear is injurious to the kidneys, but sympathy can overcome fear."

"Too much sweet flavor in food endangers the kidneys, and 'the bones ache and the hair on the head falls out'"


Classification by The Five Transformation Theory:


Yang Organ Kidneys
Yin Organ Bladder
Tissue Bones
Indicator Hair
Sense Organ Ears
Sense Hearing
Body Fluid Urine
Direction North
Adverse Climate Cold
Season Winter
Time of Day Day
Planet Mercury
Number 6
Emotion Fear
Expression Groan
Manner in Time of Excitement & Change Trembling
Faculty Will
Taste Salty
Grain Beans
Fruit Chestnuts
Vegetable Watercress
Domestic Animal Pig

As stated, the Water Season begins traditionally at the Winter Solstice although I believe this is not the case everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere; the local geography and topology of the place where we live will mean the date when the change takes place will be different for different localities. Thus we each need to be attentive to the changes occurring in nature to find out when the change takes place where we live. What we are attempting to do is harmonise our blood quality with that of the seasonal changes and since the cycle of the red blood cells circulating in the bloodstream is four months (120 days), we need to begin introducing those foods which are strengthening to the kidneys(and bladder, since the bladder is the complementary paired organ of the kidneys) approximately four months ahead of the date the season changes from the Metal Season(Fall; Lungs and Large Intestine) to Water.

The important point to grasp is during the Water Season(Winter) the atmospheric chi/etheric dynamics are focused (obviously ALL the states of Transformation of chi/etheric forces are active all year round) on the kidneys and bladder and those tissues and senses related to them in such a way that they are being strengthened, cleansed and harmonised in their structure and activities. This means if those organs are toxic and stagnated (which is necessarily the case if we are eating the modern "meat and chemicals" diet) then the strengthening and cleansing of them by the Water state of Transformation will be manifested as symptoms indicating those organs are being detoxified - sore throats, flu-like symptoms, tiredness(especially between the hours of 4-8PM), anxiety, headaches(especially at the top of the forehead), excessive urination, cystitis and vaginal discharges in women, being the main symptoms of these organs healing themselves.

Incidentally it both interesting and not surprising to students of the Five Transformation Theory the "Flu Season" occurs between the January I and March 1 in the United States, which is why we are hearing a lot of promotional announcements telling us to get our 'flu shots' now. Of course, it is redundant, macrobiotically speaking, to suggest the taking of 'flu shots' is a waste of time, since it causes weakening of the immune system, thus undermining what we need to do, which is to strengthen the kidneys/bladder (the kidneys being an important organ of the immune system, along with the spleen, liver, lymphatic system and the large intestines).

Of course if we get these symptoms often and throughout the course of the year, this means the kidneys and bladder and related tissues and senses are chronically toxic, which is hardly surprising since most people eat the modern "meat and chemicals" diet all the year round and year in and year out and have done so since they were born.

This of course means there are further symptoms indicating a more chronic condition of Water Disease and these include poor hearing, clogging of the ears, tinnitus (a permanent ringing in the ears), chronic sore throats, poor eyesight due to distortion of the lens of the eye as well as glaucoma and cataracts, incontinence, kidney stones, osteoporosis, deterioration of the ligaments and tendons, chronic pain in the middle of the back, balls of the feet and the little toes, and in women chronic problems of the menstrual cycle, vagina, ovaries, breasts, and problems in the uterus and cervix, including cancer. In men sexual organ problems like prostatitis, swollen testicles, and prostate cancer. In both sexes, Water Disease also manifests as sexual impotency and sterility. Also chronic tiredness, hair loss especially at the top-front of head, and split-ends in women. Obviously, kidney diseases like nephrosis, nephritis, kidney stones and loss of kidney function, and in addition, adrenal insufficiency. Problems like pain, stiffness and weakness in the ankles and wrists; if a person sprains or breaks their ankles or wrists this is a symptom of kidney toxicity- left ankle and wrist means the left kidney is weak and the right ankle and wrist means the right kidney is weak.

Another important condition which, at first glance, would not be thought to be associated with the Kidneys is Asthma. However, the weakness and poor functioning of the kidneys means if we are drinking too much liquid then the excess yin condition thus created can lead to the lungs becoming too yin; the response of the lungs to becoming too in is to initiate short, sharp contractions which are the asthmatic attacks. There is no question a reduction in liquid inatke is very helpful to reduce the chances of an asthmatic attack.

There are also emotional/psychological symptoms of Water Disease which include fear, anxiety and lack of self-confidence. Poor ability in decision making, especially those requiring relatively quick responses. Poor long term memory.

Now, all these symptoms can be cleared up by going a macrobiotic dietary program and doing ginger compresses and, in the case of women, also the daikon bath.

First I want to focus on osteoporosis, which is a condition which happens in both men and women, the condition of loss of mineral content of the bones. What has this to do with the kidneys? As related in the Nei Ching, the condition of the bones is related to the condition of the kidneys.

In terms of yin and yang the bones are more yang than, for example, the soft tissues. Minerals are more yang than say, sugar or fruits. Now, when the condition of the blood and tissue fluids becomes more yin, this initiates a process whereby minerals are leached out of the bones because the body is always in a process of maintaining its internal balance. In the healthy person, this means the more yang minerals are leached out, enter the more yin blood and tissue fluids to bring them into balance and when the appropriate dynamic balance is achieved, the minerals return to the bones(and ligaments and tendons).

However, if we are always pushing the blood and tissue fluids toward a more extreme yin condition by our daily eating and drinking habits, over the long term more minerals are being leached out of the bones than are being replaced, with the excess being lost through urination and bowel movement. Thus, over the long term a chronic loss of mineral content of the bones and tendons and ligaments occurs. This is osteoporosis.

The reason why osteoporosis tends to accelerate in women after menopause is due to the fact that the monthly menses a woman experiences from puberty to menopause is, among other things, a monthly flushing of excess blood out of the body. If the woman's blood is excessively more yin, this flushes out excess yin and therefore means less leaching of minerals will occur. Once this stops at menopause, then the blood will be more yin than it was before menopause, and so more leaching of minerals occurs, meaning an acceleration of osteoporosis.

The main foods which cause the blood and tissue fluid to become more yin include any food with simple sugar content, including fruits, milk and milk products like butter, ice cream etc., any food with a high sugar content like sodas, sports drinks as well as those foods which are extreme yang like meat, table salt, dried foods like chips etc. So, necessarily, we need to avoid eating these in order to lessen the stress on the kidneys/bladder.,

Now, here we come to what is perhaps the most significant reason in modern culture for kidneys becoming weakened and damaged ... excess liquid intake. It is now commonplace for people to be encouraged to drink eight to twelve eight ounce glasses of water a day, with people taking their bottle of spring water with them wherever they go, sipping it every ten minutes as if it were some kind of security blanket. This is greatly in excess of the body's needs.

The reason people are strongly suggested to drink so much liquid is because when consumed animal protein is metabolized to produce ammonia and uric acid, which are both highly toxic. Thus, it is thought, drinking plenty of fluids will have the effect of both diluting their concentration and flushing them out of the body quickly.

The problem here is the kidneys are not flushing organs, they are filtering organs. They filter the blood and release the toxins and waste metabolites out of the body in urine. Since they are filtering organs they only have a limited capacity of fluid (blood and plasma) they can filter in a given unit of time. Furthermore, the body can only hold a limited amount of fluid and if we drink excessive amounts of fluid we start to place undue stress on the kidneys and they start to get overworked because the excess amount of liquid is asking them to do more than they can handle. Thus, over time they become weak, damaged and lose their vitality, leading to all the various symptoms of Water Disease described above.

Summarizing the foods which actively weaken and damage the kidneys:

refined salt.

animal protein and fats.

foods with simple sugar content- dairy products like milk, ice cream, cream; alcohol; all fruits.

all foods and drinks with refined sugar content- soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks.

all refined, processed foods, including refined flour products.

all cold producing foods like raw food, salads.

excess fluid intake, including water.

We also need to start on a macrobiotically oriented and informed dietary practice and one of the fundamental insights derived from the Five Transformation Theory is we begin introducing those foods which are also manifestations of Water state of transformation. The following is a menu which is specifically designed to strengthen and harmonize the functions of the kidneys and bladder, and therefore also the sex organs, bones, ligaments, tendons, wrists, ankles and the eyes(lens and intra-ocular fluid tension) and ears.

Click on the link to go to a MENU for strengthening Water.


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