(Parts adapted from The Book of Macrobiotics, by Michio Kushi with
Alex Jack, Japan Publications c. 1987)
Many people ask Is it preferable to start macroblotics by jumping
in with both feet and changing my diet 100%, or to gradually introduce
the new foods and slowly let go of the old ones? In most circumstances
the answer is that the greatest results are achieved with the greatest
change. So, to begin 100% macrobiotic eating is easiest and best.
In order to develop a taste and appetite for the new foods it is helpful
to refrain from eating the old ones. The grains, beans, and vegetables
that make up the standard macrobiotic way of eating complement each
other and youll experience the most complete nourishment by
including them all straight from the beginning. Also in order to recover
health, it is important to eliminate, without delay, the foods which
may have weakened you and contributed to degenerated body conditions.
When beginning the practice of a diet to recover the health, it is
not uncommon to experience some unusual physical and mental symptoms.
Some of these may be uncomfortable but are no cause for alarm. Most
of these symptoms are helpful signs that the body is responding to
recent dietary change by eliminating (discharging) accumulated excess
resulting from past eating. These symptoms of discharge and adjustment
are part of the natural healing process and signify that our systems
are regenerating themselves, dislodging and throwing off the excess
that has accumulated over many years of imbalanced diet and lifestyle.
The reactions of a normal and safe transition should last no longer
than several days on average although a few symptoms may last up to
4 months until our blood quality changes thoroughly. Some of these
reactions may be generally classified as follows:
General Fatigue: If you ate an excessive amount of animal protein
and fat you may experience a feeling of general fatigue. The energetic
activity you may have previously experienced was the result of the
vigorous caloric discharge of these excessive foods rather than a
more healthy, balanced, and peaceful way of activity. You may initially
experience physical tiredness and slight mental depression until the
new diet starts to serve as an energy supply for activity. Such a
period of fatigue usually ends within a month of balanced, varied
Aches and Pains: You may experience aches and pains especially if
you have been taking excessive liquid, sugar, fruits, or any more
strongly expansive food and drink. These aches and pains most
commonly experienced as headaches, lower back aches in the kidney
region, intestinal cramping, and aches in the joints occur most frequently
because of the gradual contraction of abnormally expanded tissues
and nerve cells. These aches and pains disappear either gradually
or suddenly - as soon as these abnormally expanded areas return to
a normal condition. This process usually takes between three days
to two weeks, depending on how much volume and for how long you indulged
in these stronger foods.
Sometimes headaches, lower back aches and other discomforts occur
from contracting the cells and tissues too much or too quickly, This
can result from the overuse of salty seasonings, dry, baked or roasted
foods, overly simple meals for a long period of time, overcooked food,
unbalanced meals, meals lacking in lightly cooked vegetables, or the
excessive use of condiments, pickles and sea vegetables. It is helpful
to consult an experienced macrobiotic teacher for advice if aches
and pains persist.
Fevers, Chills, and Coughing: As the new diet helps the body form
a more sound quality of blood, previous excessive substances
excessive volume of liquid, fat, and many other things begin to be
discharged. If at this time the functions of the kidneys, urinary
system, and respiratory system have not yet returned to normal, this
discharge sometimes takes the form of fever, chills, or coughing.
They are temporary and disappear in several days without any special
Abnormal perspiration and frequent urination: Generally signs of the
body eliminating excess liquid, you may experience more profuse or
frequent perspiration and/or urination. It may occur for only the
first week of your new eating or from time to time over several months.
Also, many of you may be taking extra fluids initially in the form
of special teas which act to rid the body of stored excess and stimulate
eliminatory function. In this case, extra urination is quite acceptable.
If in your previous diet you drank excessive amounts of fruit juice,
stimulant or aromatic beverages (such as coffee, tea, alcohol, sodas,
milk) and ate plenty of dairy food, sweets, and fruit, than it is
likely that you will experience more liquid type discharges such as
runny nose, temporary diarrhea or loose bowel movements and perhaps
more urination. As you regain more normal metabolic function these
discharges will cease.
Skin Discharges and Unusual Body Odor: Our skin acts as one of the
largest elimination avenues. It is not uncommon for some to experience
skin rashes, reddish swelling at the tips of the fingers and toes,
red, white or yellowish pimples or boils. These types of elimination
arise especially among people who enjoyed heavy and regular consumption
of animal fat, dairy food, sugar, spices, chemicals, drugs, and those
who have had chronic malfunctions of the intestines, kidneys, and
liver. These elimination symptoms heal naturally and usually disappear
within several days to a few months maximum without much special attention.
The discharge of unusual odors (from the entire body surface, through
the breath, urination, bowel movements, flatulence, and in women vaginal
discharge) occurs most frequently in the first 4-6 weeks of new eating.
These odors are largely the result of past overconsumption of oily
foods, animal fats and sugar. These smells will cease naturally with
in a week or two.
Diarrhea or Constipation: If you have had chronically disturbed intestinal
conditions you may temporarily experience either diarrhea (usually
lasting only a few days) or Constipation (for a period lasting up
to twenty days). In this case, diarrhea is a form of discharge of
accumulated stagnated matter in the intestines, including unabsorbed
food, fat, mucus, and liquid. Constipation is usually the result of
the contraction of the intestine which was previously expanded due
to the former diet. As this contraction restores normal elasticity
to the intestinal tube, the smooth movements of bowel elimination
resume. In most cases it is preferable to allow the symptoms to pass
unaltered by remedies. If the symptom is too strong to comfortably
endure, then a simple adjustment to daily eating with the addition
of a special tea may aid the intestine to return to normal more easily.
Please consult an experienced macrobiotic educator for advice.
Decrease of Sexual Desire and Vitality: Some of you may feel your
normal sexual appetite or vitality diminish or disappear. Dont
worry! This is temporary and in most cases is a sign that the sexual
organs are healing actively, nourished by the new, stronger blood
supply - and they are not yet prepared to resume normal activity.
In some cases, particularly when you have taken plenty of medication
and/or have endured major surgery, the body is working to restore
vitality to the primary organs and all available energy is going towards
that deep repair. Therefore, extra energy is temporarily unavailable
for sexual activity. These conditions last only for a short period,
usually for a maximum of a few weeks to at most a few months. As soon
as this recovery period is complete, healthy vitality and desire for
sexual activity return.
Temporary Cessation of Menstruation: Some women may stop menstruating
for a period of one to four months. Once again, in this case the vital
organs need to regenerate first and utilize all available body energy
to recover their maximal functioning. Less vital functions, which
includes reproductive activities, are healed later. The period of
menstrual cessation varies depending on her past eating patterns,
the strength of her native constitution, and the amount of drugs,
hormones, surgeries, and other medical treatments she may have received.
However, when menstruation begins anew, it is healthy and natural
and begins to adjust to the normal 28 day lunar cycle. Healthy menses
present little or no discomfort. Most women experience increased emotional
calm, mental clarity, and physical flexibility after their period
finishes. In order to reduce cramping and remain regular it is helpful
to adjust daily eating by reducing or eliminating animal food from
the diet for the week to 10 days prior to menstruation and to ease
up on salty taste, dry, hard baked foods, and raw foods. Enjoy normal
eating following your monthly menstruation.
Mental Irritability: If you have consumed plenty of stimulants (such
as coffee, alcohol, commercial black teas, drugs, medications, and
spicy foods) you may temporarily suffer from emotional irritability,
impatience, and/or mood swings. This irritability reflects adjustments
taking place in the blood and various body functions following the
change to more stable quality of foods and it will generally pass
within one to three weeks, depending on how deeply affected your body
systems were by the previous use of such stimulants. The consumption
of sugar as well as long-time cigarette smoking also produces temporary
emotional irritabilty. Your new way of eating assists the body and
emotions to release these old stimulants and return to calmer, more
Other possible transitory experiences: In addition to the above conditions,
you may experience other manifestations of adjustment such as hair
loss, bad dreams at night, coldness, mild depression, temporary changes
in perception and sensitivity including the senses of touch, taste,
smell, heating, and vision. These too will pass.
In many instances, the discharge process is so gradual that none of
these more visible temporary conditions arises. It is in fact ideal
to cleanse the body slowly, allowing the discharge of accumulated
excess through means of normal elimination. However, when symptoms
of transition and discharge do appear, the symptoms vary from person
to person, depending upon their inherited constitution and physical
condition, and usually require no special treatment, and cease naturally
as the whole body readjusts to normal functioning.
The most important thing to understand is that the discharge mechanism
is part of the normal healing process and it is best not to supress
these symptoms by taking drugs or medications, resorting to vitamin
or mineral supplements, or going off the diet altogether in the mistaken
belief that it is ineffective, deficient, or creating allergic reactions.
If there is any uncertainty or question about proper practise that
arises during this transition period, a qualified macrobiotic educator
or medical professional should be contacted. In most cases, all symptoms
of transition and discharge pass away quickly without any cause for
During the transition period, it is quite common to crave the tastes,
textures, odors, and other characteristics of previous foods and drinks,
especially those we enjoyed as children. This is entirely natural.
In addition, many people strongly crave sweets and feel guilty about
it. These feelings should be put aside and a more relaxed attitude
developed. Such cravings are a natural biological phenomenon. We need
only reflect a bit to understand whats causing the craving.
Usually, during the first weeks or months of the new diet, these cravings
reflect the natural discharge process. As our condition improves,
the toxins and mucus that have accumulated in our bloodstream and
internal organs are eliminated from the body through the bowels, urination,
perspiration, and other normal excretory functions. As they leave
the body you are reminded of them and might crave them as a result.
Later on, after your condition has stabilized, presistent nagging
cravings signify that your diet is unbalanced in a certain direction
usually in the opposite direction ying or yang
from the food to which you are strongly attracted. Thus, if you are
attracted to fruit juice, ice cream, or chocolate you are most probably
overusing salty seasonings, condiments, sea vegetables, and/or are
probably overcooking your food or taking too much long cooked food
without an adequate amount and variety of lightly cooked, mildly sweet
food. You may be excluding oil for too long or not taking enough beans
or bean products. If, on the other hand, you crave meats, fish, eggs,
or salty food then you are very likely taking too much fruit, liquid,
oil, sweetner, or other more yin food. You may also be forgetting
to include enough well-cooked, sturdier dishes. In any case, these
promptings are one of the bodys wise ways of alerting us to
an imbalance in our eating and in some cases our activity and environment.
Rather than suppress these natural urges, it is best to acknowledge
them and to satisfy them with the best quality foods. If cravings
persist more than a day or two, please contact an experienced macrobiotic
educator who can help you identify the dietary imbalance that may
be causing the persistent cravings. In all cases, listen to your body
and nourish it with the best quality, most natural food and activity.