Modern macrobiotics dates from the late 19th century when a Western-trained Japanese Army doctor, Sagen Ishizuka, became frustrated by allopathic medicine’s ineffectiveness treating his own chronic illness. He researched traditional Oriental medicine and developed a therapy he called shoku-yo (“food-cure”). This treatment proved so successful that Ishizuka left the army and set up a private clinic. According to David Briscoe, macrobiotics teacher, blood is the foundation of health, both physical and mental. For the blood quality to be good, the quality of the food must be good. Without changing your blood quality, it is probably not possible to have long-term health.
All other changes, beneficial as they may seem, will be undermined if the blood quality is not healthy. Blood quality is much more than having adequate volume of blood or enough production of red and white blood cells. Blood quality is determined by many factors in the blood, as follows:
- pH or acid-alkaline balance
- Blood sugar
- Fat and oil
- Na/K (Sodium/Potassium) balance
- Concentration of other minerals
- Yin-yang balance
These factors are determined daily by what we consume. Macrobiotics teaches about changes in diet that will improve blood quality and thus, improve both physical and mental health. The macrobiotic view is that eating proper varieties and proportions of foods helps us achieve balance and harmony. Therefore, appropriate food choices depend on variables such as an individual’s health, age, sex, geographic location, physical activity, ancestry, the season, etc.
Theoretically, there are as many definitions of a macrobiotic diet as there are people practicing it. Macrobiotics encompasses a broad spectrum of theoretical and practical interpretations. There is no macrobiotic diet per se. One practitioner, Ohsawa, proposed ten different diets (idiosyncratically numbered -3 to 7), ranging from one including 30 percent animal-derived foods, to the legendary 100 percent whole grain Diet #7. The latter was intended only as a short-term healing diet for serious illnesses—preferably administered under supervision. Having gained recognition for its effectiveness, macrobiotics has been growing in popularity as the natural health alternative, and qualified macrobiotic cooks, cooking teachers and counselors are in demand.
In North America, the two main schools of macrobiotics are based in Massachusetts and California respectively. The West Coasters tend to be laid-back and intuitive in their approach, while the larger, Eastern faction is more systematic and formulaic, although these are broad generalizations.
To learn macrobiotic or Chinese dietary cooking, it is best to take cooking classes from an experienced cooking instructor. Cooking instructors often have developed their profession through many years of their own self-healing practices and serving as apprentices under major teachers, going to conferences, studying in Kushi, Vega or Europe.