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Make Your Own Delicious Mustard – It’s Easy!

 

Make Your Own Delicious Mustard – It’s Easy!

by Cynthia Briscoe

Last night David made the most delicious seitan. Yum. “Let’s have seitan deli sandwiches and soup for dinner!” I exclaimed. And since we both love mustard on seitan sandwiches, I went to fetch a bottle of it. However, when I went to squeeze the mustard bottle, the  “plph-fwwt-fwwt-fluppering” sound of not-enough-mustard dashed my sandwich dream. That was until I remembered the big jar of mustard seeds languishing in the spice drawer.
 
“I’ll surprise David and make some delicious home-made mustard  to compliment his tasty seitan,” or so I thought.

“Look before you leap.”
Sometimes I do quite the opposite, especially when blinded by a flash of inspiration. That’s how new recipes are born, right?  I’d wanted to try making mustard for a while, and now the perfect opportunity presented itself. I eagerly poured a cup of brown mustard seeds into the Magic Bullet blender. 

“Hmm…what kind of vinegar should I add?” I asked myself. “Oh, I know – the persimmon vinegar I made this past fall.” I was sure it would be deliciously tangy and sweet. So, I added enough persimmon vinegar to cover the top of the seeds and began grinding.

Quickly enough the little blender groaned for more liquid, I added the remainder of brown rice vinegar that was in another bottle. Still more liquid was needed, so I added some unfiltered apple cider vinegar, taking care not to let the mother vinegar slip into the blender. I tasted it and added additional water and more sea salt, as it was still pretty thick and pasty.
 
On the next taste It was horrible, something akin to bitter dirt – nothing like the mustard of my flavorful imagination. With deeply deflated enthusiasm, I shoved the mustard toward the back of the counter, abandoning it to the company of the food processor. I really meant to compost it that night, but with other distractions, I forgot.
 
Two days later, armed with a rubber spatula, I was ready to feed the failed mustard to the compost. But then, that ever-hopeful little voice told me to give it a farewell taste. Perhaps before it had only been a bad mustard dream. To my surprise, it now tasted like an expensive gourmet mustard – flavorfully pungent, very spicy, and with subtle tangy sweet undertones. 
 
Little did I know just how incredibly easy and foolproof it is to make your own mustard. With only three basic components, the possibilities are endless. There’s not even any cooking involved. Here’s a quick primer for what you need to know about the three main ingredients before launching into your own personal mustard adventure.

The 3 Main Components in Making Mustard
 
1. Mustard seeds come in two basic varieties: light and dark.  The lighter colored seeds, known as yellow or white, are milder tasting like the common yellow mustard. The darker colored seeds, referred to as black or brown, yield a spicier, more pungent and robust mustard. At least some of the seeds of either variety need to be broken or crushed in order to release the pungency.

2. The liquid can be varied but almost always includes some type of vinegar. Fruit or fruit juice, citrus, water, beer or other spirits my be added. Acidity unlocks and activates the spicy volatile chemistry in the mustard seeds. The more acidic the liquid, the slower the heat is unlocked and the longer the heat will stay in the mustard. Acidity sets the spicy flavor and preserves it. If no sour liquid is used, for example, if only water is used, the mustard will lose its potency within a couple of days. 
 
Also the temperature of the water/liquid used effects the flavor. Hot water deactivates the mustard enzymes and heat levels, while cold water keeps the burn intact.
 
 3.  Salt balances and enhances the flavor, and when combined with vinegar preserves the mustard for many months refrigerated, if not indefinitely. In fact basic mustard may dry out with age, but does not spoil.
 
4.  Optional additions such as herbs, spices, horseradish, hot peppers, chopped nuts, seeds, or sweeteners may be added for variety. Tumeric is often added to dial up the yellow color. Just add a pinch at a time until you get the desired color. Sweeteners tame the heat and give the mustard a sweet and sour tone.  
 
Basic Proportions for Making Mustard 
1 part mustard seeds
2 parts liquid
½ tsp. salt per cup of mustard or to taste
 
The seeds and liquid parts can be soaked for a couple of days before pureeing or the ingredients may be pureed and let rest for a couple of days. 
 
Start with ½ cup of mustard seeds and you will get about a pint of mustard. It’s fun and so easy to create your own gourmet mustard.

Some Interesting Historical Tidbits about Mustard
 
Ancient civilizations such as in China, Egypt, India and Mesopotamia used mustard seeds as early as 3,000-4,000 years ago. However, they used the seeds roasted or sautéed whole as a seasoning, not ground into a mustard sauce.
 
Romans were the first to turn mustard into a sauce, a precursor to what we squeeze out of a bottle today. One 3,000-year-old Roman recipe says to crush the mustard seeds and combine with grape must. Must is the first liquid pressed from grapes before fermenting into wine. This grape juice was cooked and reduced by about three quarters and was commonly used as a sweetener. The Latin name for mustard is “mustrum ardens” which translates to “burning must”.
 
One of the more curious historical mysteries of mustard lies here in California. In the springtime, fields and orchards, and margins along highways are awash in the intense yellow glow of flowering mustard. It is the black seed mustard variety. Yet mustard is not native to California. So how is it that mustard came to be so prevalent?
 
Some stories credit Father Junipero Serra for bringing mustard to California. He established the first mission in California in 1769. This was the first of 61 missions built along the 600 mile trail known as the Camino Real or Royal Road. The distance between missions was about 30 miles or a day’s travel by horseback. Purportedly, Father Serra and other Franciscan monks traveling from mission to mission, cast about mustard seeds to mark the trail with mustard plants. 
 
Why mustard and not some other plant? No one knows for sure, because it was not written. Some surmise that perhaps it was the symbolism of the yellow mustard flower itself. Each individual flower has four petals that form the shape of a cross, as do the flowers of all cruciferous plants. Or maybe it was the parable of the mustard seed when Jesus told his followers that if they had as much faith as the size of the small mustard seed, they could easily command the hills to move and they would move. The small mustard seeds have certainly come to command the hills of California. Mustard seed can rest in the ground for 50 years and still remain viable. Or perhaps it was simply sown for the practical value of mustard as food source. The leafy greens and the edible seeds are both nutritious and medicinal.
 
Regardless of the reason why mustard seeds were cast about, there is proof within the adobe bricks of the missions themselves. The bricks were made from local mud and straw. The earliest bricks show no signs of mustard pollen or seeds, only signs of native indigenous plants. Subsequent later adobe contains mustard signatures within the clay bricks.

Here Comes The Sun, Part 1: The Sun Within You by Cynthia Briscoe

It’s hard to believe that less than five centuries ago, people believed that the earth was the center of the solar system. Copernicus’s heliocentric proposal was published in 1543 shortly before his death.  His treatise was then somewhat shelved. It took another 100 years to “come to light” when Galileo attempted to build upon Copernican theory. A sun-centered view of God’s creation was such a radical departure from the accepted earth-centered cosmology that the very idea was considered heresy against the Church and Galileo was promptly placed under house arrest.

Scientific understanding of our solar system is still evolving today as well as our view of our place within the cosmology of  newly accepted theories. Regardless of human stellar opinion, the sun shines on.

Aveline Kushi once taught us a children’s song called “Amaterasu” which translates, “the Sun is our Mother”. This concept was something I had never really considered in this way. In fact the sun, in my mind, was just there. It came up in the morning and went down at night. For my whole life, I had taken the sun for granted.

From a child’s simple perspective, I recall a visceral and aesthetic moment in the sun. In one instance, I was laying on my back in the cool green grass, looking up at the swaying rhythm of the tree canopy above. The white sunlight dancing in partnership with limbs and leaves, was brilliantly blinding white in contrast to the cool, soft leaf shadows. It caused me to squint and my eyes to tear. I remember sinking into the delicious lullaby of dancing, green-shaded notes contrasting with the staccato of blinding white light.

Squinting through the narrowest of slits, I was fascinated to see a mesmerizing kaleidoscope of rainbow orbs caught within my lashes. I don’t remember how long I stayed in that moment, but the tiny memory stuck with me all these years. Perhaps that was the moment I became so enthralled with color. If there were no sun, there would be no color.

How is it that we can even see colors? The child within me wonders. Could it be because we internalize sunlight or that our biology evolved dependent upon sunlight?

We Are Solar Powered

If you think about it, our very existence is coalescent to the sun. If the sun was removed from the equation of life, there could be no life as we know it.

We literally “eat” sunshine, perhaps not directly as we think of ingesting a meal, but further down the food chain. Unlike plants, we cannot go outside and wave our arms in the air and collect sunlight to fuel ourselves. Fortunately for us, plants can. Through photosynthesis, plants turn sunlight into various forms of carbohydrate, which is the baseline fuel source for humans and animals. Carbohydrates are converted storehouses of sun energy primarily sourced through the vegetable world.

      
Even if a person chooses to eat meat, that person is still consuming sunlight via the animal that consumed the plants, that became flesh, which is then eaten. Eating meat inserts an animal between you and your source of energy in the food chain.

After plants do the work of capturing sunlight and converting it into carbohydrate, we humans are able to recover the sunlight through our process of digestion in order to become useable energy. Our bodies are designed to do so as a perfect compliment to the plant world.

The Sun’s Center within Eastern Cosmology and Healing
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Ancient Chinese scholars were astute observers of the natural world. They understood the world to be subject to two opposing, yet complementary forces of energy. These two forces comprising the Whole, followed orderly patterns of change. This concept became known as the Unifying Principle, or the governing laws of Yin and Yang. Yin represents upward expanding energy sourced from the earth’s rotation and magnetic forces, and Yang represents downward contracting energy of forces emitted from heavenly movement, mosy closely from the sun. The mingling of these two forces in various proportions gives rise to all phenomena. Yin/Yang Theory further evolved into The Five Transformations Theory, which is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Feng Shui and Martial Arts.

Early roots of the Five Transformations Theory depict the Five Elements representing the four cardinal directions, with the Earth Element placed in the center as a fulcrum and stabilizing force through which all energies transform. Fire and Water form a central axis as Full Yang and Full Yin respectively. Wood (rising, expanding change) and Metal (descending, contracting changes) are transitions between the two extremes.

Truly, a miracle occurs when the two primary energies collide, sparking life. This miracle occurs in the mid region or earth plane of manifested energy depicted as the Earth Element n the Five Transformations Theory.

The human body can be viewed as a miniature version of the larger macrocosm of these two main energies at play: the ascending earthly Chi and the descending heavenly Chi. The center of the torso is where these two forces along the main axis are most equally balanced in proportion.

This is the home of the Five Transformations Earth Element, representing the Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas. It is through this center that we digest our food. Digestion is the portal through which we unlock the  solar energy within the food we consume and make that energy available as fuel. This process is referred to as “separating the pure from the impure”. The Stomach “cooks” the food, with digestive acids. The Spleen extracts the “pure” energy essence from the food, in contrast to the “impure” or physical food components. The Pancreas is the “brain” that signals the liver to release glycogen (stored carbohydrate) and determines how much glucose is needed to fuel the cells. You can see that Chinese Medicine views these “organs” more as an energy processesing center rather than the anatomical function of these physical organs in Western Medicine.

Further, a parallel can be drawn between the Earth Element and the solar plexus in the chakra system

. The rainbow colors of the 7 chakras depict the various vibrational waves lengths of pure sunlight. This system, too, acknowledges the sun’s significant central position within the body. The solar plexus, or sun center, represents the union of the pure non-manifest vibration of the heavens with the earthly forces of more dense physical vibration that gives us the gift of life within a physical body.


Briefly, the solar plexis rules:

1) turning food matter into energy through digestion.
2) Digesting thoughts and ideas and transforming those ideas into goals, and goals into action.
3) It represents who we are in this life, our intellectual clarity, and also our will power.

As we enter the summer season of longer days and more direct sunlight in the northern hemisphere, let us celebrate the sun both outside and inside of us for the role it plays in giving us life. When we reside in darker days remember that you are made of sunlight. Remember when you eat the food that sustains you, that you are ingesting the sun’s power. May the power of that gift activate your dreams into reality.

In Part 2 of “Here Comes the Sun”: An informative and clarifying interview with Cynthia Vann regarding a healthy relationship with the sun and Vitamin D production.


Whole Salt or Refined Salt: What’s the difference?

Whole Salt or Refined Salt: What’s the difference?

by Cynthia Briscoe

 

Most Americans unknowingly consume a great deal of poor quality, commercial salt in the form of snack foods, prepared foods, fast foods and restaurant fare. The salt used in these products is highly refined. You can think of it as the white sugar of the salt world. Common refined table salt looks like salt and tastes like salt. However, you are getting much more and much less than you bargain for. Let ‘s look at the difference between commercial refined salt and naturally harvested sea salt.

Much Less

     Common table salt is mined and stripped of its naturally occurring trace minerals, which are then sold separately for profit as supplements. Magnesium is extracted by processing the original salt with caustic soda or lime, fetching a higher price

Other valuable elements in the sea salt are also lost or extracted. Some folks argue that the trace minerals are of such miniscule proportion that they are insignificant to human health. It’s true that we do not need huge amounts of copper, manganese, selenium, boron, etc., but our human biology is evolved to include this subtle but vast array of trace minerals to support cell metabolism. Natural sea salt contains 60 to 90 trace minerals.

Much More

    After stripping the salt from its naturally occurring minerals, commercial salt is heated at high temperatures and supplemented with iodine and various agents to make it free flowing. The most common free flowing agent is aluminum silicate. Aluminum concentrations have been found in the nerve dendrites of Alzheimer sufferers. Many people avoid aluminum cookware for this reason, but are not aware that they are consuming aluminum everyday in salt.

Remember this cute little girl dressed in yellow, holding an open umbrella over her head? She adorned the carton of Morton’s Salt with the slogan, “When it rains, it pours”. The addition of aluminum silicate to Morton’s salt eliminated those pesky lumps in the saltshaker making it free flowing. Naturally processed sea salt has a softer texture and is hydroscopic, meaning it attracts some moisture from the air, which can form lumps. I would definitely “take my lumps” over “when it rains it pours.”

Perusing salt cartons in the supermarket, I noticed another agent listed on the back of Morton’s Sea Salt and also on Morton’s Kosher salt: yellow sodium prussiate? Hmm, what is sodium prussiate?

Sodium prussiate or sodium ferrocyanide (YPS or E535) is another free-flowing chemical agent industrially produced from hydrogen cyanide. It is added to road salt to keep it from clumping and a stabilizer for the coating on welding rods. In photography it is used for bleaching toning and fixing.

According to the MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheet), it is a hazardous irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory system. Advised in case of ingestion: Do not induce vomiting. Loosen tight clothing such as the collar, tie, belt or waistband. If the person is not breathing, perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and seek immediate medical attention.

Obviously, the FDA must have approved a certain proportion of these anti-caking agents in food grade salt, but one must question the subtle long-term effects on human health, especially if an individual’s health is compromised. For me, I prefer the inconvenience of a few clumps in my salt box by the stove.

Salt Choices

I remember Cornellia Aihara advised folks to choose a clean, white naturally harvested sea salt over colored salts such as the gray or pink salt. She said the colored salts were too yang or contracting for humans: that these salts were OK for pickling or for animals. She never fully explained why. I questioned whether this was a “Cornellia-ism” or simply because she exalted Mr. Muramoto and the salt he produced. I know many camps highly promote the gray Celtic Sea Salt.

So I called David Jackson, who processes and provides the brand, SI salt, available through Goldmine Natural Foods and is sold at various natural foods stores. His opinion agreed with Cornellia’s that the colored salts are more yang than the cleaner white salts and that he had observed that consumption of the colored salts over time produced some pretty yang folks. From a macrobiotic perspective (big view) perhaps the more mineral rich impurities in colored salt may benefit those whose condition is more yin or needing more minerals, perhaps for certain lengths of time.

So use your informed judgment and select a quality, naturally harvested salt that appeals to your personal needs and biology. Number 1, choose a salt produced by natural elements of clean water, wind, sun and earth with minimal processing. Number 2, choose a salt free from chemical additives.


Na/K – Dr. Ishizuka Was Onto Something, Part 1 by David Briscoe

Na/K  – Dr. Ishizuka Was Onto Something, Part 1

by David Briscoe

Ever since coming across the first mention of Dr. Ishizuka’s sodium and potassium  (Na/K from now on)  theory over 40 years ago, I have been on a mission to find out more. George Ohsawa based his macrobiotic theory on Ishizuka’s teachings. It was Ishizuka’s books on Na/K applied to food and health that first caught Ohsawa’s attention, and by following these teachings he was able to recover from serious illness. Over time, Ohsawa created his yin-yang interpretation of Ishizuka’s theory, and macrobiotics was born. In the process,  unfortunately in my opinion, Ishizuka’s original Na/K theory faded from view.

Regretfully, I don’t read Japanese, so I have never been able to explore any of Ishizuka’s original writings. My search to understand Na/K and its relationship to food and health began, in its early days, by spending endless hours combing through dense scientific tomes and researching medical journals in university libraries. Most of it I couldn’t comprehend as I am not a trained scientist or physiologist, but I persisted. With persistent research discovering new bits of information, the pieces of the puzzle filled in to form a more comprehensive picture. Here’s my interpretation of Dr

I. Ishizuka’s theory in a nutshell:

  1. When the food we eat has an Na/K ratio closest to the Na/K of our body, we maintain good health.
  2. According to current scientific views, the Na/K of the human body is approximately 1:3. (George Ohsawa taught it as being something like 1:7.)
  3. When we regularly consume foods that are way high or way low in their Na/K ratio, their potential for contributing to various health problems increases.
  4. There are physical and mental health conditions which are signs of regularly consuming foods with a low Na high K ratio.
  5. There are physical and mental health conditions that are signs of regularly consuming foods with a high Na low K ratio.
  6. We can adjust the consumption of foods to restore balance to our body, by choosing food that have a more balanced Na/K ratio that is closer to that of our body.

For an example of a food, let’s look at a banana. It’s Na/K ratio is 380:1. From Ishizuka’s viewpoint, banana, though it can certainly be enjoyed  as a treat now and then, would not make a good primary and daily food for human consumption because its Na/K is way high in K.  An opposite example is bacon. Bacon is extremely high in Na and low in K.

George Ohsawa categorized foods that are high in Na and low in K as “yang.” Foods that were high in K and low in Na he categorized as “yin.” There are other factors that can be used to determine the yang or yin of food, but Na/K ratio was a significant determining factor in Ohsawa’s view. Ishizuka’s theory offers us another tool for determining how to appreciate a food, not just for taste and satisfying hunger, but for healing as well.


Goma Wakame Saved Me From a Dumb Mistake! by Cynthia Briscoe

Goma Wakame Saved Me From a Dumb Mistake!

By Cynthia Briscoe

      When Cornellia Aihara taught students how to make miso soup, she always explained the significant protection of wakame in miso soup. Wakame has the ability to chelate or bind with heavy metals and remove them safely from the body. Remembering her lesson helped me recover from an unwitting mistake.

This occurred perhaps 12 years ago. I enjoy repairing things around our home, a lovely solid Craftsman Style house constructed in 1924. The window screens and their original wooden frames sorely needed refurbishing. I bought this great little orbital sander to buzz off the peeling paint from the wood frames rather than messy stripping. I marveled at the many layers of paint. In my imagination I made up a history of the aproned women who chose yellow, apple green, peach or standard white. I pictured how they must have dressed or what color hair they had as I happily buzzed off layers of history back down to the bare wood with many changes of sandpaper.

I completed the project, but then started feeling very weak, so very tired to the point I could barely get out of bed as well as flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea and abdominal pain. A more seasoned repairman friend brought up the fact that I most likely had inhaled and ingested a great deal of lead paint dust due to the age of the house and the fact that lead based paint was used until 1978.

Who knew? I hadn’t known or I certainly would have worn a mask!

I thought, “How am I going to get myself out of this one?” Then Cornellia’s voice came into my head, “Wakame protects against lead poisoning, radiation exposure and other toxic pollutants we are exposed to every day.”

Thank you Cornellia!

I got busy and poured on the wakame – wakame in miso soup, baked wakame onion casserole, and goma wakame. Goma wakame afforded a concentrated amount of wakame that I could sprinkle on just about anything edible. I used it heavily on my breakfast porridge. It tasted great, so I knew my body needed it. After 5 days, I felt stronger. After 2 weeks I was fully recovered.

That’s the beauty of macrobiotics: the cure often lies in your kitchen. I would like to share with you a recipe for Goma Wakame (see below). It is delicious and rich in minerals. It is suitable for children or people who wish to reduce sodium, as contains less sodium than Gomashio or sesame salt. It builds strong bones and teeth and is highly alkalizing. Best of all, it can save you if you are dumb enough to sand lead paint without proper protection!

Goma Wakame
Powdered Wakame and Toasted Sesame Seed Condiment

1/2 cup sesame seeds

12 inches of dried wakame

  1. Place the wakame strips on a cookie sheet and bake at 350? for 12-15 minutes or until the wakame is very dry and crumbles easily.
  2. Grind the roasted wakame in a suribachi until it is ground to a fine powder.
  3. Place sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water. Pour off the seeds that float to the top into a fine mesh strainer to catch the sesame seeds.
  4. Repeat the above process, covering the sesame with water and pouring the seeds and water through the strainer until just a
    small amount of seeds remain in the washing bowl. This method any small stones or sand in the sesame seeds, they will by heavier than the seeds and remain in the bottom of the bowl after the majority of seeds have been strained off. Check these last seeds for stones or pieces of sand. If there are more than two or three pieces of sand or stones, repeat this washing process again.

5.  Drain the seeds in the strainer.

6. Dry the sesame seeds before roasting. Place in a skillet over a medium flame. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon, drying until the seeds no longer stick to the wooden spoon.

7. Heat a stainless steel frying pan over a medium flame.

8. Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of seeds.

9. Place a lid on the pan. Shake the seeds in the pan in a back and forward motion similar to popping corn

. The seeds are done when you can crush a few seeds easily between the thumb and fourth finger.

11. Pour the finished seeds into the suribachi with the powdered wakame. Continue roasting the seeds as described above until all the seeds are roasted.

11. Grind the seeds in the suribachi with the powdered wakame until about 2/3 of the sesame seed are crushed.

12. Serve a sprinkling on grains as a condiment. Goma wakame may be stored in an airtight jar for about two weeks for maximum flavor and freshness or store in the refrigerator to keep the oil in the seeds fresh.


A Cancer Healing Story and Celebration


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A PERSONAL HEALING CELEBRATION & INSPIRATION –

We recently received this wonderful letter from our friends, the Cusenzas…

“Hope this finds Cynthia and yourself well and enjoying life. I thought I would write you and let you know how Carol is doing after 10 years of being cancer free, with your help. You may remember she was diagnosed back in June of 2005 with stage 4a cervical cancer, which had spread throughout her body. The doctors gave her 6 months or so to live with no hope of curing it, and said there was nothing medical science could do. Basically the 6 doctors on the diagnostic board (surgeons, oncologists, and radiologist) told her to go away and die. I am so glad they did because you were there to give her hope and empowered her to fight the cancer and cure it. Following your advice and guidance on changes to a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle, based on Carol’s needs, not one size fits all, 6 months later her oncologist told her the tumor was gone, the metastasized sites were clear, and her lymphatic system was back to normal. He also told us “You can’t dissolve tumors!” while looking at the CT scan. That was our greatest Christmas gift ever.

Today, Carol is doing well, active as always and enjoying life. As you often said, “Cancer can heal you,” and it certainly has. Carol and I still follow a somewhat macro diet, every morning it is miso soup, vegetables, and grains, though we do cheat a bit mostly at dinnertime, but since we know when we over step the line we also know how to steer ourselves back to a balanced diet. Knowledge is power. Can’t get our kids to follow it though, but then they have to live their own lives. Someday they may ask for help and we will be there for them. Here is our Christmas photo (see below) from last year and I think you can tell how happy Carol is to be here. I may be even happier than she. Thank you for all your love and support. May God continue to smile on Cynthia and you, and all the good people you help

. You truly are a blessing.”

Dave Cusenza


Outward Impatience & Internal Digestion by David Briscoe


Outward Impatience & Internal Digestion

by David Briscoe
www.macroamerica.com

“If you have no patience, you’ll become a patient.” – Herman Aihara

You’ve probably noticed: it’s become a very impatient world. Individually and collectively, patience seems to be fading. On the road, in traffic, in stores, in relationships, in politics, international relations, finances, waiting in line, fast food, fast medicine, etc., lack of patience is expressed in many ways. There can be many explanations and opinions as to why this is so.

I’d like to present one that is not commonly considered, if at all: we’ve become impatient at the physiological level; and very specifically we’ve become digestively impatient. The human digestive system has a very natural and gradual way for food to be digested, before it is absorbed into the blood and then assimilated by our cells. Let’s look at carbohydrate, for example. The way the body works is that carbohydrate digestion is supposed to begin in the mouth; that is, when the carbohydrate we are eating is the complex kind, polysaccharide.  Complex carbohydrate is meant to be chewed, mixed with saliva, and through the action of the enzyme, salivary amylase, begins to be broken down to disaccharide, a simpler form of carbohydrate.

If you’ve ever chewed brown rice really well, you noticed that it starts to taste sweet. You are tasting the complex carbohydrate in the brown rice being slowly converted to simpler carbohydrate, preparing it for the next stage of digestion. The body is smart. It likes to digest slowly and patiently. Next, the complex carbohydrate that has been chewed is swallowed and goes down to the stomach. No further digestion of the carbohydrate takes place in the stomach due to stomach acid that stops the action of the salivary amylase. The chewed carbohydrate moves from the stomach to the duodenum, the passageway between the stomach and small intestine, where is stimulates the secretion of pancreatic amylase from the pancreas, further breaking down the complex carbohydrate that wasn’t broken down through chewing. This disaccharide now enters the small intestine where the enzymes lactase, sucrase and maltase, break it down into monosaccharide, single sugars, that can then be absorbed through the small intestine and released into the blood.

This is a gradual and natural process, relying on digestive patience. It’s how the body wants to digest carbohydrate, if given the chance to do it right. In today’s world the carbohydrate most widely consumed is not complex carbohydrate.

It is chemically processed simple-sugar carbohydrate such as white sugar, candy, high fructose corn syrup, and dextrose. Even many so-called natural sweeteners like agave syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice, and others, are highly processed into simpler and concentrated sugars. And honey, long-considered by many to be the favored natural sweetener, is 100% simple sugar, pre-digested by the bees. All simple sugar bypasses the body’s need for natural and gradual complex carbohydrate digestion, since it has already been reduced to its simplest form. It travels quickly through to be released into the bloodstream. This impatient, hurry-up digestion has become the norm, and over decades of modern eating, the body has become habituated to it, though it doesn’t respond well to it. It is well-known that many physical and mental health problems today have their roots in the over-consumption of simple sugar.

One argument to this idea of “patient digestion” is that all sugar eventually ends up in the small intestine as simple sugar prior to absorption into the blood, and therefore it doesn’t matter if it started out as complex carbohydrate or manufactured simple sugar. But it’s the rapidity and the quantity of delivery of simple sugar to the blood that is the difference between consuming complex carbohydrate and processed simple sugar. And I would further clarify this by emphasizing “complex carbohydrate with its natural fiber intact,” such as whole grains, fresh vegetables, and beans, as the healthiest carbohydrate to for digestive patience and overall health. Also, when the simple sugar, fruit sugar or fructose, is consumed I suggest eating the whole fruit, with its fiber, rather than in the form of juices, concentrates, flavorings, syrups and powders. Fiber in food has long been proven to support natural digestive function (digestive patience).

There is a saying, “Biology precedes psychology.” I would adapt it and say, “Physiology precedes psychology.” If we hurry up our digestive physiology, demanding that it work faster through the consumption of simple sugar of various kinds, we will see a reflection of that outward in all kinds of  expressions of impatience. Outward behavior is influenced by what’s happening inwardly at the physiological level. The two cannot be separated.

Inevitably, all of the body’s internal organs are made to work harder by the modern diet of excess protein, fat and sugar, ultimately causing over-stimualtion of the metabolism and nervous system, giving further rise to personal and social impatience. Re-estalishing inward physiological and digestive patience, eating in a way that supports the body’s natural stability, we see outward patience being restored over time.

© 2016 David Briscoe


Yin-Yang & Truth

Yin-Yang & Truth

by Cynthia Briscoe

 

When people first begin to study macrobiotic principles, they often get frustrated trying to pin down yin and yang. There are columns and lists of yin and yang to be memorized, but the lists are shifty as items may change columns relative to what is being compared to. Why? Because yin and yang are not ‘things’. Yin and yang in actuality are more verb-like, describing the active, relative movement of energy. In macrobiotics, we use the terms yin and yang as a relative means to describe states of energy in its movement from an expanded state of vibration to more dense state of materialization with relationship to time.

Movement is the natural state of energy. Life is energy and we are made up of energy. Our lives express the undulation of energy between these two polarities. In our traverse between opposites, we cross that middle point of balance and that fleeting moment is the moment of truth: who we really are when the relative world is stripped away. It’s the eye of the hurricane, the stillness in the midst of the change swirling around us.

So what is truth? I think of it as that center core within us that rings the bell of peace independent of the swirling relativity around us. It’s our core, our home base. Perhaps truth lives in the center of the spiral in our DNA that we share collectively as human beings regardless of race or religion or nationality and individually as a singular unique expression of energy. As we traverse between polarities and cross that sweet spot, we take a snapshot to hold in our soul memory. We hold it up to the light in times of darkness to remind ourselves of who we truly are and what we came to experience in this relative world.

In macrobiotic practice, we try to move the edges of polarity closer to home center

. Then as we oscillate between the poles of vibration, we cross that peaceful point more frequently and perhaps we are able to linger there just a moment longer. Macrobiotics considers the energy nature of everything and how the movement of that energy takes form in our health and conscious awareness.

In the book Food for Thought by Saul Miller, he popularized the simple visual of the yin/yang teeter-totter seen in the version below.

On the yang or contractive end of the food spectrum are condensed energy expressions such as meat, chicken, hard cheese and eggs. It takes about 16 lbs. of plant food to produce a pound of beef and 10 pounds of milk to produce a pound of cheese. On the yin or expansive end of the food spectrum are foods that express concentrations of that energy. For example, it takes 3 feet of sugar cane to make one teaspoon of sugar. When the extremes on both ends are reduced or eliminated, the pendulous swing between opposites becomes less extreme biologically, hormonally, emotionally and mentally. Eliminating the extreme yin and yang foods from the teeter-totter of our diet translates into less extremes of energy expression within our bodies, biologically and emotionally. In our lives, even though there may be the extremes of expressed energy chaotic and swirling around us, we are better able to maintain our stability and peace and to respond with stable and peaceful action.

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The Heart Is More Than Just A Symbol of Love by David Briscoe


The Heart Is More Than Just A Symbol of Love

by David Briscoe

There’s a reason the heart is a symbol for love. It’s not just a Valentine’s Day graphic for commercial purposes. The heart is in fact the physiological base of love

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Cardiology studies for years have shown that those who are most natural in their expression and reception of love have the healthiest hearts. And we use many phrases such as “warm heart, ” “open heart, ” “expansive heart, ” and “deep heart,” for a reason. They are not just figures of speech.

The physical heart is the organ that circulates blood and warmth to all cells, tissue and organs of the body. To be a “warm-hearted” person actually requires that the physical heart and circulation be unobstructed and free-flowing. When we say someone is “cold-hearted” we are expressing an observation of his or her behavior, but if we were to examine such a person, we would most likely also find that they are actually colder on the surface of their body, natural warm circulation to the surface having been blocked by long-standing internal muscular contractions that prevent blood from fully reaching the skin. These contractions are the result of life experience that has required the person to withdraw away from the external life and go inward. This causes a concurrent withdrawal of energy and feeling from the surface of the body toward his or her core, as a means of self-protection. The Latin word for heart is “cor.” To withdraw feeling from the surface of the body back toward the core, requires a physiological withdrawal of energy, including blood circulation.

Many people today experience heart problems, not only because of unhealthy diet, but also because life has brought them trauma, abuse, betrayal, alienation, and isolation. If you would like to read more about the role of the heart in happy living please read, Love, Sex and Your Heart by Alexander Lowen, MD.

On a daily basis there are many ways to open the heart. For example, finding ways to give to others in our local community can be a good place to start. One such way of giving would be to sign up to be a reading or math tutor at your local library. Or give some time to a local school or a local food pantry. Your giving doesn’t have to wait for a global catastrophe far away, there are people who need you right where you live. The world right where you are is waiting for your heart to open to it. Join me in finding ways to let our hearts flow openly to the world around us, and find our heart becoming far healthier than good food alone can make it. This is my wish for us all on this Valentine’s Day weekend 2016.


Food Fiber: Beyond Just Adding Bulk….. It’s Prebiotic! by Cynthia Briscoe


Food Fiber: Beyond Just Adding Bulk…It’s Prebiotic!  by Cynthia Briscoe

I remember my first macrobiotic cooking class with Aveline Kushi. We drove from Kansas City to Chicago in our Hornet station wagon purchased for $150. Talk about trust in the Universe! The brakes gave out during rush hour traffic upon entering Chicago. Miraculously, we made it to the hotel ballroom where Aveline Kushi lightly floated behind butane-fueled cook stoves preparing a delicate blanched salad. I recall her words of wisdom as she blanched the whole stems of parsley. She advised us to include the stems because, “They are like little toothbrushes in the intestines.” The image her words invoked stuck with me, especially whenever I mince parsley!

This was in the ‘80’s (post Wonder Bread generation), when fiber was recommended to moisten the stool, cleanse the intestinal villi and add bulk in order to move the stool along, thereby preventing constipation and avoiding diverticulitis. The gamut of IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease), such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, gluten intolerance and other subsequent related inflammatory diseases were not yet common medical diagnoses.

Oh, life gets more and more complex! It seems that generationally, diseases progressively compound to mirror our ever-increasingly refined dietary practices. Also, subsequent generations inherit the health conditions arising from the previous generation’s dietary patterns, both at the dinner table and through their genomes.

Here’s the good news, though. Aveline Kushi’s words still ring true, as does the wisdom within a macrobiotic diet centered on whole grains, vegetables and legumes. Current science reveals much more than little fibrous toothbrushes scrubbing the lining of our intestines. While fiber was previously thought of as indigestible to humans, turns out to be an essential food for literally hundreds of commensal bacteria (helpful microbes) in our colon with outstanding implications to our health. Perhaps it is the microbes that are wielding teensy tiny little toothbrushes.

Fiber is found exclusively in whole plant-based foods. You will not find a speck of fiber in flesh foods or dairy foods. Fiber provides a source of energy that plants can utilize, but fiber is virtually unaffected by the digestive enzymes of humans. Fiber travels all the way through the digestive tract intact until it reaches the colon. Most of the excess water and nutrients have already been extracted along the way. At the end of the line, we have colonies of specialized bacteria waiting for the “goodie wagon” to arrive so that they can have dinner. These bacteria thrive on fiber and are able to digest the complex carbohydrate locked within fiber and turn it a myriad of chemical substances and short chain fatty acids

.

One of the most notable of these by-products of microbial fiber digestion is butyrate. Butyrate repairs the gut mucosal lining so that toxic waste and pathogens do not leak through the intestinal wall and enter the blood stream. It keeps our heart healthy by removing plaque from our arteries. Butyrate acts as an epigenetic switch that serves a healthy immune system by stimulating the production of regulatory T-cells in the gut. By keeping these friendly microbes fed with plant fiber, we can avoid the cascade of autoimmune diseases such as atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, and diabetes to name just a few.

An interesting experiment conducted by Tim Spector, Professor of epidemiology at King’s College in London illustrates the significance of fiber. He collaborated with his 23-year-old son who was working on his dissertation toward a college degree in genetics. His son ate only a fast food diet consisting of burgers, fries and Coke for ten consecutive days. As a special “treat” he could also break the burger monotony by sometimes substituting chicken nuggets in place of the burger. He was also allowed extra “nutrition” in the evening in the form of beer and chips.

His microbial gut profile was carefully monitored and recorded through 3 different labs to ensure that the results were accurate. The lab results showed that in 10 days, he had lost over 1200 microbial species, a 40% reduction in microbial diversity. Spector stated that this experiment had changed he and his son’s perspective on why junk food is bad for us. Previously, they had thought that junk food is bad for you because of the sugar and high fat content. After the experiment, they concluded that the 10-day diet, lacking dietary fiber had literally starved off these helpful bacteria that need fiber to survive.

So next time you are craving French fries, a burger or a soda, think of your colon friends and have mercy upon them. Cook up a yummy dinner with whole grain, veggies and beans. And when you are mincing parsley, remember Aveline Kushi’s wise words and think twice before tossing those stems into the compost.


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