How to be a good samurai in today’s world

By Dr. (Shihan) Bolz
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor, 6th Degree Black Belt

You may think by the title of this article that it is going to be about fantasy, manga, anime, or video games, but read further. It seems that today, more than ever before in history, we need to live like a good samurai.

In feudal Japan, the samurai were some of the world’s most fierce, most loyal to their lord and cause and bravest of all soldiers that have ever lived and fought upon this earth.

In Japan, around 1603, the Tokugawa government took over and a long period of peace began, known as the Edo Jidai (Edo Period). In the mid 1800’s Japan began having more contact with the Western world when the Netherlands started exploring in Japan and the United States began to send ships over there as well. In 1876, it became against the law for any samurai to wear their swords on the streets. So from the 1600’s on, more and more samurai were without jobs; that is, there were no wars to fight, they were not needed in war. The samurai still practiced their skills, however, as that was still their work, even though they may have been unemployed. It was all they knew. Very skillful samurai were retained in the castles to protect the local lords still, but only a few were needed for that. The only skill these soldiers had was their sword fighting skills. Those that were retained in the castles by the local lords took up the high arts such as tea ceremony, writing and painting, besides practicing their combat skills. They became highly refined and highly educated. Not all of them were fortunate enough, however, to be retained by their lords. Many were let go. Thus, many became masterless. Many were homeless. Some began making their living by challenging duals so their own sword schools would become famous and then opening their own swordsmanship schools, or dojo in the town. These were called machi dojo, or town martial schools.

The merchant class admired the ethics, discipline and bravery of the samurai and would send their children to these schools to teach them manners, etiquette and discipline. The children, who usually were sent to the schools in their teens, thought they were going to learn how to be great fighters and dig into the sword fighting immediately. In reality, most of the students did not get to even touch a sword for three years.

When the student entered the school under the tutelage of the master swordsman, they were taught many things about living. The student had to wash clothes for the master, mend clothes, learn how to cook for himself and his master, how to fish, how to clean the fish, how to wash the rice, how to raise vegetables and rice, how to take care of the futon, sweep and scrub the floors and all the drudgery of every day life. Pretty soon after entering the school, the student would start to complain. “How unfair, the master is is an eccentric old man who can no longer move well. We had come here to learn how to use the sword and become a master swordsman, what is wrong with this teacher? Is he mad?” These were common thoughts that the these children who became adults later wrote about. But at the time, for these children, it was not fun and neither parents nor master listened to them. The parents did not go and take them out of the school. Those that questioned the master would go visit him. The parents began to understand the master if they didn’t already. Remember, though, that most parents put their kids into these schools to give them a better education.

After one year of this, the student began getting more used to the life. After two years more accustomed to it, and after three years, they would be so used to their comfortable life that they fully accepted it. Then one day, when the student would have never guessed, the master brings him to the dojo and allows him to touch and pick up the bokken (wooden sword). Shocked and feeling surprised and honored, the student picks up the wood sword. The master begins to teach basic moves. The student always began with the bokken first, before using the live blade.

This was the usual method of becoming a student of the martial arts in those days. The students and the parents began to realize that the master samurai indeed was teaching the way of the sword and the way to be a good samurai from day one when the student first came to the master. The master was teaching the student how to survive, these were all survival techniques! Besides becoming proficient at household tasks and taking care of one’s own life, the student was also learning patience, perseverance and the ability to bear situations without complaining. They also learned etiquette and manners.

There is a saying in Japanese, “Ishi no ue ni mo, san nen.” “If you sit straight on a rock and that is all, you will be used to it after three years.” Thus, the three years of basic training under the master samurai. After three years of practice, people will be used to the situation. That means everything just takes training and patience and you can then do it. This was the greatest lesson of life that the master samurai could teach the student, more important than learning how to fight well with the sword, in the peaceful era. But of course, the student did learn the actual swordsmanship too.

This method also took great understanding and wisdom on behalf of the parents. They did not go to the master’s house and scream at him or take their child away. They kept the child going, they didn’t give in to the child’s complaints. This method of learning also teaches people to not blame others for their situation, but to accept and take care of their own life and do whatever they need to do to survive.

The employed samurai took on great responsibility for the life and safety of their lord and the people belonging to that castle. So much so, that they constantly put their life on the line in battle. They did not blame others, that would get no where. It indeed would literally cost them their life.They met the challenges and consequences of their own actions. The faithful never blamed their lord. The few that did go against their lord did it the good old fashioned honorable way-they fought to the death, or if they lost and were still alive, then they were ready to take their own life. They felt responsible.

This history of the samurai way of life and spirit still permeates in Japan at a subtle level. The Japanese are known the world over for their resilience and ability to survive as a people and for their patience. Parents to this day send their children to the “machi dojo” (town martial arts schools) so they will learn discipline and manners and become more refined and educated. Of course, as Japan is becoming more modern and more Westernized, it has more and more spoiled people, but as a whole, there is still this essence there.

This is also a story to point out that self defense goes way beyond hand to hand combat. We need more than ever today, in the United States of America, to become samurai. We need to practice self defense against diseases of all kinds, and especially against the disease of complaining and blaming others. It is time we become samurai and take the responsibility upon our own selves for our situation in life. It is time we cook, clean, mend, take care of every day matters seriously. It is time we truly cook, not buy already prepared food in the store, not buying green salads already washed and stored in plastic. The nutrient value and life-force is almost gone in these things. It is time to study about food and how it is raised before we purchase. It is time we practice self defense and when it comes to health, that means prevention. Cooking is a duty of the samurai warrior as well as that of the samurai warrior’s wife. The samurai’s wife also had to learn the basics of handling a knife and spear; it was needed for survival. We need to become proficient at all the basic tools of life, not just a single career. The career will not be stable if you don’t know how to take care of your health. Health begins with cooking whole foods, organically raised by either yourself or a local farmer and honoring the food and earth that sustains your life.

Self defense means defending ourselves against physical disease and the mental diseases of unrest and anxiety that comes from superficial living. Self defense against the disease of lack or self responsibility. No one is responsible for our welfare but our own self. It is time to have self pride and honor. The homeless samurai who were very hungry would walk around with a toothpick in their mouth, it has been said. That means they were not prone to want hand outs and they did not blame someone else for being hungry.

It is time to stop blaming others and ask what we can do for others. At the risk of sounding very old fashioned, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Old values are stable values and the values that President John F. Kennedy spoke of and that of the Japanese samurai of an even older era, are never out of fashion. It works in any era, no matter how smart we think we are. It is time to realize how smart we are not. It is time to think about how to be a good samurai.

Journey to a Mountain

This was a journey as the last straw in search of a true follower of a true natural farmer, a master, a saint of the land, who once lived and practiced his farming for over 60 years in cooperation with nature. He was one of the few persons who wrote about his path to enlightenment through farming and one who actually understood the way of farming with nature. He was a philosopher and had such wisdom that saw the fallacy and foibles of the modern scientific era and how it was and is destroying nature. He was the author of a famous book that was translated into several languages and in English it is called, “The One Straw Revolution.” He was a Japanese man who lived in Iyo-shi, Japan. He also wrote several other books, another one that has been translated to English is “The Natural Way of Farming” available through Kodansha Publications.

I met this man almost thirty years ago when I was living in Kochi-shi, Kochi-ken, Japan. A friend of mine knew this humble farmer and knew I was interested in nature and in the restoration of natural food and natural farming and the health of the entire planet along with all of its beings. He was Fukuoka Masanobu (family name is written first in the Japanese language. the given name is second and I have used the Japanese here), a man of enlightenment, a Buddah in his own time. At that time, we sat on his mountain, drinking tea in his old traditional Japanese style farm house around the “irori” in the middle of the room. An “irori” is a fireplace and a cookstove in the middle of the room. It is like a square little sandpit. A large hook hangs from the ceiling to hang the cooking pot over the fire. This was very important in the traditional house because this is where the family gathered around at meal times to have good conversation and wonderful cooked meals right in the center. It served well to boil the water and make the tea with our conversation at that time. Our conversation was about farming, the land and the environment and the state of the world. He did most of the talking and we did most of the listening, my lifetime friend and partner and our mutual friend.

Mr. Fukuoka is no longer with us, he passed away at the age of 95 on his farm. But his farm was a mountain. It was a mountain of which everyone had said could not possibly be farmed in a natural manner as the soil was very poor. Mr. Fukuoka proved that it could grow enough food for humans. He did not till, no, never turned even one inch of soil, ever. All he did was throw seeds out randomly of many different species, from eggplant to daikon to carrots to rice to…….so many more. Then he put down straw for mulching. He said that his was the lazy man’s way of farming and also much less expensive. He did not put anything in rows and furthermore, very importantly, he did not put one species of seed in place. He mixed all the different types of plant seeds and literally scattered them randomly among the current grass and weeds. In nature, there are no weeds, all are plants, and in nature, many species grow together and live in harmony. Mr. Fukuoka was trying to copy nature. He did get harvests. I saw them. The daikon I saw were very big, crispy and healthy, then I saw blades of rice growing among weeds and many other vegetables scattered here and there, no order, all chaos, as a typical modern farmer would probably say. It was beautiful. When he harvested, he never harvested it all. He always left some crops to go to seed and reseed themselves. Once he established this, he never planted every year. Nature did the seeding. He never weeded, he never plowed, he never sowed, he never watered and he absolutely never used any fertilizer and and of course, never any herbicides or insecticides. He painted and wrote poetry on his mountain in that house, often. He remarked at how hard the other farmers were working and how much money they spent. They needed tractors, plows, rakes, fertilizer, chemicals; he marveled at how they were breaking their backs, had no time for family conversations and sometimes still could not make enough money.

Not only did he see most of his neighbors in this plight, but he also saw the destructive method that modern farming is to the environment including all of the lifeforms of the earth, from the tiniest bacteria to the humans and large animals. If you want to have a better understanding of what I am talking about, please obtain and read, the book, “The Natural Way to Farming” by Masanobu Fukuoka.

Back to the present, this trip, July of 2016, my mission to try to find a disciple of this master of natural farming. While there are many organic farmers in Japan, I wanted to find his disciple, one who could follow this truly natural way of farming, much more natural than just organic.

After having landed in Tokyo and meeting a friend there and then visiting old castles in Matsumoto, Kanazawa, Nagoya and visiting old temples in Kyoto and Nara, we finally went to Kochi City on Shikoku Island where I had lived years past.

Besides this trip being a search for a disciple of Fukuoka Masanobu Sensei, this was an exploration of all organic framing and traditional Japanese cuisine using only whole foods organically grown. What I found is that there is much more demand for organic whole foods and there are many more small-scale organic farms in Japan than the United States. I have also learned that there is great concern among the people in Japan about the GMO (genetically modified organisms) farming push in the United States. About 97% of all food in Japan is NOT GMO and the Japanese government is so far listening to its people. Do know, however, that the majority of farming is still chemical-based and is based on monoculture, the same as in the United States.

There is also a rise in the interest and use of Chinese herbal medicine both by the medical profession itself and the lay people. Some medical doctors in Japan have observed many side effects from the use of modern pharmaceuticals in patients and are studying Chinese herbal medicine on their own. They are trying to reduce the prescribing of these medications as a whole, also. These days the allopathic medical schools in Japan have added two semesters of Chinese herbal pharmacology to the medical curriculum.

The Japanese government itself seems more concerned about the health of its citizens and how to prevent and reduce the heavy doctor and hospital bills, especially since there are many aged people there. Also, the government and medical profession are concerned about the high incidence of modern diseases such as Alzhiemer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s disease, stroke incidences, diabetes and heart disease. As most of you may already know, the Japanese government foots the bill for all of these financial burdens (it is socialized medicine) and it is beginning to bankrupt them. Therefore, the federal government as well as the prefectural governments are interested in preventative health, such as promoting exercise programs and life-style recommendations, including diet and including recommendations of more traditional Japanese foods which they now realize are much healthier than the modern Western diet which they have adopted. This includes not ascribing to genetically modified organisms because it is so against nature. The further we have gotten away from nature, the poorer the health of the humans, animals, plants and the earth itself. This, more Japanese people understand, it seems, than Americans.

After getting settled in Kochi City, where I have friends, it was easy to get a network of referrals to many small-scale organic farmers because friends of my friends are doing such. Because of this, I had the opportunity to be taken to different farms. These farms are not easy to get to. Japan is a country that is 85% mountainous and all these farms are in the mountains, tiny roads and well hidden. The countryside, I must add, is stunningly beautiful because of the lush, thick vegetation and trees on all these mountains. Japan is a country of heavy rainfall and lots of sun and humidity in the summer. All excellent for raising food crops as well. A big problem for many farmers is that rice consumption has decreased in Japan and the price of rice is going down. It is difficult for them to make a living, so many sell out and move to the city. Young people can’t make a living farming, either. As in the United States, most farmers are aged 65 years and above. So I met some of the happiest people I know on their small organic farms, 82 years old, 75 years old, etc. Amazing people. While I can not possible tell of all my adventures in this short article, I would like to make the point that there is quite a consortium and network for organic farming, especially on Shikioku, and organic fresh markets as many of them are publicized with where and who is operating them and maps are included. There was no one, that we could find, that was practicing the “One Straw Revolution” farming, however.

The last farm to visit was a trip to Iyo City, about 80 kilometers from Kochi. We had contacted Mr. Fukuoka’s son, Masato and he welcomed us to come and spend some time with him. Masato is 73 years old, about the age that his father was when I had met him. He is practicing organic farming, but not the truly natural method of his father’s. Alas, Masanobu’s mountain is all wild; weeds, some wild vegetables and the old farm house on the mountain is falling down, a wreck, and dangerous to go inside. But all of it so beautiful. It was nostalgic, it was moving to my heart to see fallen clay pots lying by Masanobu’s old house. I peaked in and saw a remnant of what appeared to be the “irori.” There! There! I thought to myself, there is where we had tea. There is where we sat at the foot of the master and listened! It was here he had drawn a “sumie” (Japanese ink painting using brush and India ink) for us so many years ago, which now hangs framed in my house here in the United States. How could he not still be here? This ghost of a house and this ghost of a mountain……….. Now, we are listening to the son talk about this mountain. “None of us could make a living on it like my father,” he said, “none of us.” After walking, reminiscing and listening on the mountain, we all had a lunch at the local corner cafe, so fresh and all traditional.

His son, Masato, remember, is 73 years old and has delegated most of the farming, to his son. His son (Masanobu’s grandson) is farming down from the mountain, in dedicated mono-crop fields, and is doing most of the farm work now. We did not meet the grandson, Masato called him to see if he could get away for even five minutes to meet us, but he couldn’t reach him on his cell phone.

After coming down from the mountain, Masato took us to the tiny house which is being built of all wood, all natural, and no chemicals which he is building as a memorial to his father. The wood is all used wood, but looks totally new. He does realize his father was and still is quite famous among certain sectors of farmers the world over. To this day, he still gets some visitors from foreign countries. Masato does not speak English, and, rightly so, is not interested in people who don’t speak Japanese. It is too difficult to deal with them, he says. I don’t blame him. Who would want anything else besides this beautiful countryside of peace? He and his son sell their crops and he has juices boxed up in the barn for sending off to local stores. One of my friends bought cases. Of course, not me, I had to go back to America and these things would not be allowed.

So, no natural farmers………except some farmer back in Kochi told me that the closest follower of Fukuoka Masanobu is now farming in Nara! That is the trip for next year!

Now, let’s learn something from this. The reason I am sharing all of this with you is because I want you to understand what is occurring in our country and want you to know how you can become healthier. We are what we eat, there is no doubt about that.This is the way nature is set up. It is all about the transformative processes which must not be skipped.

We are in a crisis in this country with our food and the federal government seems to be part of the big problem. The GMO business is getting stronger and stronger. Most of our seeds are becoming this. Corn, soybeans, wheat, salmon. Here is why GMOs are being produced by Monsanto and sold to thousands of big farmers:

The seeds are being genetically modified so that they can be resistant to the chemical compounds which are being used for herbicides and insecticides. The idea is to be able to raise the wanted crop while killing the unwanted plants (called weeds). The problem is, these chemicals they are selling to the farmers and which they are using are very dangerous both to the plant, insect, animal and human life. Why are the honey bees dying out? Guess what, without them, no open pollination and the farmers need them; but it is the very farmers using these chemicals that are killing them. Farmers are pressured by salespeople to buy these GMO seeds and the dangerous chemicals; they are told they won’t make money without them.

But there is more. For example, Monsanto is now making a second GMO soybean seed to withstand even more dangerous herbicides than RoundUp. The first GMO soybean was created to withstand RoundUp, so that when that herbicide is sprayed, it would kill the weeds but not the soybean plant. Well, three years later, the weeds have adapted and have become resistant to RoundUp. Now, doesn’t this show the beauty and power of nature? It is so powerful. Good for the weeds! This second GMO soybean Monsanto engineered can withstand dicamba, an herbicide which is illegal and has not been approved for use by our EPA. The dicamba, when sprayed, drifts over to fields of farmers that have not used the GMO soybean and it kills their crop! Thousands of acres of other soybean farmers’ crops are being killed and could slash those farmers’ yields. This hurts these farmers financially and they are already in their leanest year since 2002, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The GMOs created by Monsanto and fostered by other agrochemical companies are upsetting the entire eco-system and harming the environment, including humans. In addition, it will never end if this is kept up because the weeds will mutate to resist the chemicals and agrochemical corporations will just make more dangerous and toxic herbicides and insecticides and ALL crops will be GMOs (that means YOUR food) and we will be more and more prone to sickness and disease.

Please refer to the August 3, 2016 Wall Street Journal article in the business section for more information on this soybean story. Please also research more about your food crops.

There is also a recently enacted labeling system put out by the FDA for our food products. Alas, the only requirement is that the label be a scanning bar code and smaller food companies are exempted from labeling. The best solution is to buy certified organic by the CCOF or USDA, because organic farmers do not use GMO seeds. Also, most of the tables at farmers markets are NOT organic. Look for their certification. To be safe, buy all certified organic whole produce and cook it yourself; the same goes for meat if you eat meat. Stop buying packaged and canned food.

Take the next step and grow your own, but make sure the seeds you buy are organic and non-GMO! Now go further and write all your senators, Congress and the President and tell them you don’t want GMO food. Call them. Speak out. We can’t give up. The BEST proof to the FDA that you want healthy food is to stop buying the unhealthy and buy certified organic. Our government seems listen to Monsanto and the other big agrochemical corporations on this mostly, but if you don’t buy Monsanto’s product, they will fail. We have only one life and one body and mind on this earth, let’s make it a healthy and fun one. This is the last straw and our last chance.

Dr. (Shihan) Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
6th Degree Black Belt Okinawan Karate & Kobudou

Create your health and keep cool!

By Dr. Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor

If there is one thing that never changes about our world and the entire universe we are in, it is that change is the constant. Cyclical change, in actuality. The ancient peoples of Asia looked at the universe as a continuous circle. No beginning, no end. It just is. Where the circle begins, it ends and where the beginning is and where the end is can not be known. Why should anyone care? To understand how to flow with the cycle was more important than trying to change the cycle. It can not be changed, anyway. At least, not by any of the simple forms of life on this planet, including humans. Go with nature, you are happy. Go against nature and you will pay the consequences. This is still the basic understanding of the people of Asia and the same understanding that is at the root of Traditional Oriental Medicine. While the concepts of acupuncture and Oriental medicine are very ancient, the principles are solid, they are unchanging. This is because the way of the universe does not change. Its setup and cycles are unchanging. But the appearance or manifestation changes. To think otherwise, people are deceiving themselves. Since the principles are based on truths of the way of the universe and on simple physics, it is very adaptable to each era in time. Oriental medicine is based on solid principles that do not change and that is what keeps it so applicable to modern times. That is why it works so well. Many people are so amazed and impressed with the results they get from acupuncture and Oriental medicine in this country. But to us Oriental medicine practitioners, that is the way it should be.

The human body, all other bodies, and the earth itself have their own innate healing and balancing mechanisms. It is only when the species become too out of touch with that mechanism that they can not heal. Humans are the best at becoming out of touch with the power of nature. Too much ego, too much greed get in the way and thus history repeats itself with the fallacies of the humans; wars, sickness, prejudice, pride, unhappiness. Yet those of the human species who have managed to be at peace with themselves and others and who live and eat according to the cycles of the universe, manage to live a satisfied, healthy, happy life while on this planet earth.

What may seem like a new view of health that is being presented here, is actually an ancient view of health. Health is the foundation of life for each of us humans. If we have health, we can enjoy all the wonderful experiences that life offers. Without health, our lives become limited and unhappy. To find health, the first step is to learn how to prevent ourselves from becoming sick. Unfortunately, the conventional and modern understanding of health fails at this very first principle-how to prevent sickness. What we need is a wider view of health. Instead of trying to divide the world into small parts, and to study these parts in greater and greater detail, we need to see the big picture of life. The microscopic way of thinking has created a wealth of knowledge about the detailed workings of atoms, cells, plants, animals and other parts of nature, but misses the wider view of how all these details are related to each other and work together as a whole. Our modern knowledge is made up of fragments rather like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, without having any idea of how they can all be fitted together. Thus, you have fads in science, fads in the medical community, fads in diets, fads in clothing, fads in thinking. What is needed is a good, basic, solid understanding and then people will not be “yo-yoing” in all they do and going crazy seeking truth and balance.

In the conventional field of health, this microscopic approach has created blood specialists, bone specialists, eye specialists, psychiatrists, psychologist, nutritionists and a myriad of other health professionals. While this detailed understanding can be very useful, it does not take into account how all these individual aspects fit together to form a whole person. The person’s relationship with his or her food, activities, natural environment, emotions, and social relations, and other influences affect the person’s health. The Oriental medicine view of health takes the broadest view possible, with a macroscopic way of looking at ourselves and nature. This provides the whole pictures so that the pieces of the puzzle can be easily fitted together. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine doctors treat all diseases and and pain because it is wholistic.

A great advantage of the Oriental medicine approach is that it helps us to understand the fundamental causes of illness, which lie in the way we have chosen what to take into our bodies and give back to our environment. By changing to a more balanced way of eating and other more healthy ways of living, we can usually avoid having to use various symptomatic treatments of the conventional type such as medication, drugs, surgery and radiation. Any, and all artificial treatment has damaging effects on a person’s overall health and the more unnatural or artificial it is, the greater the harm. You can start on the road to good health right now, by making changes in your daily eating and lifestyle. Your health will be restored using the body’s own natural healing powers; food, sun and appropriate activities. For those that need more than merely this, there is the wonderful option to you of acupuncture and traditional Oriental herbology. Based on solid, ancient, unchanging principles, it will help make your body, mind, and soul adapt to this modern world.

Let’s talk about what you, yourself can do to start on the road to health today. Clean out your cupboard and refrigerator. Get rid of all, yes all, that is packaged or has artificial ingredients, refined ingredients, sugar, and preservatives. For many people, this may mean getting rid of everything. Get rid of any canned food and frozen food. Start stocking your refrigerator with fresh, organic vegetables and some fruits. Learn how to cook! Don’t give your money and your health away to the big business of fast food. (Is that still called food?) Well, if I do this, you think, what can I eat? Let’s take a look at what food is more likely fit for humans than what is pervading the market today.

Start by looking inside your mouth. Humans have two incisors, one canine, two premolars, and three molars, I2 C1 P2 M3, in each quadrant of their upper jaws. The numbers for each quadrant of the lower jaw are the same, and the general formula is written I2/2 C1/1 P2/2 M3/3. To arrive at the total number of teeth in the animal’s mouth, sum these numbers (2+2+1+1+2+2+3+3) and multiply by two (=32). Premolars are usually, but not always, slightly smaller and simpler than the molars that follow them. They are distinguished from molars because premolars are deciduous; that is, there is a milk set that is later replaced by an adult set Canines are most often used for stabbing and holding prey in animals, and it is in herbivorous species that they are often reduced in size , such as in horses. Interestingly, they are very much reduced in size in humans. What does this set of teeth tell you? Well, it is very much an indication of what we need to survive as a species. The basics for survival are air, water, and food. Teeth obviously are so we can consume food, not just for cosmetic purposes. What are the functions of these type of teeth? Molars are used for grinding. Incisors are more used for tearing., and humans’ canines are also used for tearing. Stabbing and holding prey for consumption does not sound too appealing to most humans. Seeing our teeth and understanding their function, it appears that we were meant to consume more grain and vegetables; molars are for grinding and incisors for tearing. Look at the horses’ mouth. Quite similar. What do horses eat? If we look at how nature is set up in its natural state, as in the wild before humans have domesticated the animals, we can get a good understanding of what we are intended to eat as a species.

Another clue is to open an anatomy book of humans and that of the various animals. The human intestinal tract, especially the small intestine is very long, as well as that of the herbivorous animals. Look at the intestinal tract of the carnivorous animals. It is short. the reason it is short is so that the flesh of other animals they eat will not get stuck in the intestines and rot there. In species with long intestinal tracts, undigested meat will get stuck in the intestines and remain there for years, even life. That is a breeding ground for bacteria and excess growths, like cancer.

All of the older societies and cultures of our earth used grains as their staple. In Europe, wheat was more often used, whereas in Asia it was rice and still is for the most part. The problem with these modern Asian societies is that they have changed to eating refined rice (i.e. white rice). Rice, in its natural state is loaded with nutrition, but when the bran and germ are taken off in the refining process, almost all of the nutrition is gone. What you have left is calories with little nutrition. To add insult to injury, almost all commercially grown rice that is refined is then bleached. That is because the manufacturers believe that people like to see it white and beautiful. In addition, talc is added as a preservative. Then, you have one of those horrible “carbs” that is criticized so often in the news and advertising today.

The fact is, carbohydrates are the most important and the basis of our energy source. It is only the refined carbohydrates that are unhealthy, refined means simple sugar. Unrefined grains are classified as complex carbohydrates in the modern nutrition realm. They take a long time for the body to break down into glucose which is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and used as the energy is needed. Refined grains, i.e. simple sugars do not take long to break down and if not used immediately, their excess energy supply is stored as fat in the human body. Grain should be taken in its whole form, not in the form of bread, for the greatest benefit. Bread tends to produce phlegm in the body and stays in the digestive tract because it is sticky. Cook whole wheat berries and eat them. That is whole food, not whole wheat bread. Modern yeast used in the making of bread is also unhealthy and creates bloating and digestive problems.

There are many forms of good carbohydrates from whole grains, to nuts, to vegetables to fruit. Remember that all refined sugar is like a drug. In modern recent times, there is much research that implicates sugar as a large cause of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

It is also important to eat with the seasons. This means eating vegetables and fruits that are locally grown and become ripe where you are. If you eat avocados in the winter here, they are likely imported. If they need to be imported, then you know they are out of season, don’t eat them. Eat seasonally!

This time of year, it is summer. That means you will be eating fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, etc. Eat what is grown here. Go to the farmers markets, but always look for organically or biodynamically grown. At the time of this writing, it is the earlier part of June. There are loads of local and organic strawberries at good farmer’s markets. When you eat with the seasons, you will be better able to tolerate the local climate. For example, searing a large beef steak on your barbecue grill in the summer is definitely not seasonal. In the summer, more vegetables and fruits that are freshly picked are available. Vegetables and fruits will cool you down. Steak from your barbecue grill will make you feel even hotter. When people eat their grilled steak in the summer, they try to cool down with cold beer and other iced drinks. Wrong! Taking in iced beverages harm the digestive system and will not cool you down in the long run because it is weakening your entire system. Our digestive system needs and creates heat to function. Cold foods and drinks put our our digestive fire and then our gut must work so hard to try to make up for all these cold things put in it.

To cool off in the summer, steam or grill the local organic vegetables, eat lighter grains. More fruit is allowed in the summer because they are in season. Make barley tea from roasted whole barley and chill slightly. Do not use ice and do not sweeten it! This will help you cool down. Refined sugar will make you thirstier and hotter.

Here is a very nice cooling dessert that I just made on this fine, beautiful day in June. It is a cooling, sweet, fruitful gelatin without using common gelatin such as in the “Jello” product. The production of gelatin starts with the boiling of bones, skins, and hides of cows and pigs, a process that releases the protein-rich collagen from animal tissues. The collagen is boiled and filtered numerous times, dried, and ground to a powder.

This dessert does not use common Western gelatin and is not only not harmful, it is good for you and loaded with vitamins and minerals and so delicious!

Boil two quarts of water in a saucepan and put in one cup of agar agar flakes which are available from your local health food store and even at my clinic. Agar agar is a kind of seaweed which cleanses toxin from the body and contains many minerals and vitamins and very low in calories. After it is boiled and cooled, it will become hard like “Jello” at room temperature. It does not need to be refrigerated to get hard, but after you put the fruit in, you should refrigerate it so the fruit does not rot.

Stir this mixture of water and agar agar until all of the agar agar is melted and the water seems thick. Add one jar of organic brown rice syrup (available at health food stores, some grocery stores, and yes, also at my clinic). Brown rice syrup is one of the safest sweeteners for adding to desserts. It is made just by fermenting the brown rice until it becomes very sweet. It is still 60% complex carbohydrate, so it doesn’t all go into the blood stream at once like simple sugars. If this is not sweet enough for you, add 1/4 cup of real organic maple syrup. Stir well. Take off the stove. Slice two or three baskets of freshly picked organic strawberries and/or any other fresh fruit. Lay the fruit in an oblong glass baking dish and pour over the agar agar water mixture. Let it get hard. A delicious dessert that is cooling, sweet and refreshing without the harsh effects of sugar, chemicals, gelatin or coloring. The real key for good flavor is the quality of your raw materials. Choose just picked, local, organic produce. Sit back and enjoy it. Ah!

Allergic Asthma

By Dr. Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor

The incidence of allergic asthma and of eczema, which is associated with it, has steadily increased in industrialized countries in the recent past decades and both morbidity and mortality are increasing. In the USA, an estimated 20 million people (of which 5 million are children) suffer from asthma. In spite of new drugs, severe asthma is still the most common chronic debilitating disease in childhood and its mortality rate has not declined.

Long-term use of some anti-asthma drugs, i.e. bronchodilators, may have increased the mortality rate, which has increased by 45% in the last 10 years in the USA. In the UK, deaths from asthma in the 1960s surged after pressurized aerosols for asthma became available over the counter. As the sales went up, so did the deaths. In New Zealand, asthma deaths increased four-fold in the 1980s over five years. This was also attributed to the introduction of ß2 agonists. In the USA also, mortality from asthma has increased constantly from 1979. In the USA, asthma prevalence (the percentage of people who have ever been diagnosed with asthma and still have asthma) increased from 7.3% in 2001 to 8.4% in 2010. In 2010, 1.8 million people visited an ER for asthma-related care and 439,000 people were hospitalized because of asthma.

Symptoms and signs evolve from three basic characteristics that underlie the disease: 1) airway obstruction 2) airway hyper-responsiveness airway inflammation

Pathology is characterized by partial and temporary obstruction of airflow in the airways. Bronchial narrowing in asthma can be caused by three main factors: mucus in the bronchi, swelling of the internal layers, bronchial narrowing which interferes with ventilation and raises the resistance to airflow in the bronchi. This is more marked on exhalation and it causes air to be trapped in the lungs. The narrowed bronchi can no longer be effectively cleared of mucus by allergic asthma, the bronchospasm is caused by an allergic reaction due to immune hypersensitivity. This is also called anaphylactic or Type-I reaction. The narrowing of the airways is more often due to the other two factors.

Only IgE(reaginic) antibodies produce Type-I reactions. As these antibodies adhere strongly to tissues (and particularly to mast cells in the tissues), they are often called tissue-sensitizing antibodies.

What are some of the causes of this increase in modern societies? We know that almost all of our diseases and imbalances are caused by our diet and lifestyle and by the environment having been violated with human interference (e.g. human-made chemicals and human-caused chemical imbalances in the environment). Rarely is the cause entirely exogenous in reality, because if our immune system, our bodies, are in balance with nature, we remain in a state of homeostasis which we call good health. Some direct and specific causes are as follows:

Chemicals in food and in the air are likely a major culprit.

Look at the following chart or some common additives in boxed food.

 In patients with allergic asthma, inhalation challenge with an antigen produces an immediate broncho-constriction, reaching a maximum in 20 minutes. This early asthmatic response is almost identical in time course to the wheal reaction seen in the skin in cases of skin allergies, such as eczema, which often accompanies allergic asthma.

This shows that the primary etiological factor of allergic asthma is indeed the allergic reaction rather than the inflammation process following the allergic reaction. However, the main thrust of the therapeutic conventional medical intervention is based on the use of anti-inflammatory drugs (corticosteroid, such as Prednisone). While these class of drugs can relieve the symptoms and seemingly allow relief of symptoms, these are not really addressing the problem. The inflammatory process is not the cause, it is the result of the reaction. Therefore, the corticosteroid use of drugs such as Prednisone should be questioned as to the efficacy and one should think about the great side effects of these drugs. Some Chinese medicine doctors and medical thinkers place the stress on bronchoconstriction as opposed to inflammation as the main cause of asthma. Chemical mediators of inflammatory response are present in the normal lung and do not cause broncho-constriction: this seems to prove that inflammation is not the primary cause of asthma, while allergy is.

According to Dr. Giovanni Machiocca, (doctor of Chinese Medicine), asthmatics do not have a plateau to bronchoconstriction following histamine challenge. The lack of plateau with resulting unrestricted bronchoconstriction cannot be explained by excessive smooth muscle excitation by neural or humoral mediators. Dr. Machiocca states that Macklem1 thinks that airway smooth muscle hypertrophy is the main culprit in producing unlimited bronchoconstriction. As a result, Macklem expresses his doubts about steroid therapy as this has no effect on airway smooth muscles.

Many different allergens are implicated but the main ones are: house dust mite, fungal spores, feathers, animal dander and cats’ saliva.

Individuals with allergic asthma have levels of IgE immunoglobulins up to six times higher than those found in patients suffering from non-atopic asthma. Atopic individuals have a hereditary predisposition to anaphylactic (orType-I) reactions. One of the main allergens is pollen. Once the mast cells have been primed by exposure to these allergens and high levels of IgE immunoglobulins adhere to them, they also become hypersensitive to other non-specific allergens such as: smoke, tobacco smoke, petrol fumes, dust, atmospheric pollutants and perfumes.

Occasionally, an allergic reaction in the bronchi can be elicited by ingested allergens from food which reach the bronchi via the bloodstream: shellfish, fish, eggs, milk, yeast and wheat. Viruses may also act as allergens and that is why an attack of allergic asthma in a child may be triggered by a viral infection, the most common ones being the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza virus.

Other causes:

The “hygiene hypothesis,” i.e. increased incidence of atopy is due to lack of infections in childhood (itself partly due to immunizations). At birth, infants destined to become allergic have impaired production of interferon γ by their circulating T lymphocytes. Exposure to bacteria in early life increases production of interferon γ. This concept has given rise to the hygiene hypothesis in which changes to infant diets, early use of antibiotics and reduced exposure to bacterial substances predispose to the persistence of Th2 responses in childhood. In short, the children are not exposed to enough common and normal germs in every day life.

This is confirmed by a study conducted on children attending anthroposophic schools, where children are not vaccinated, use of antibiotics is minimized and fermented products with lactobacilli are consumed. Prevalence of atopy was lower in children from anthroposophic families than in children from other families. A study conducted in Guinea-Bissau, found that exposure to measles infection protected against the development of atopy in African children. The study also found that those who had been breastfed for more than one year were less likely to have a positive skin test to house dust mite. The clean living conditions of Western societies, by reducing the incidence of infection, may up the balance toward the TH2 phenotype and predispose people to asthma.

Another study concluded that: 1) Exposure to at least one course of antibiotics in the first year of life appears to be a risk factor for the development of childhood asthma. 2) This study also forms the hypothesis that growing up in a more hygienic environment with less microbial exposure may increase atopic immune responses and thus the development of asthma.

Dairy foods, which certainly are a possible etiological factor in asthma, are not mentioned in the etiology of Xiao-Chuan (ashma-type diseases) in Chinese medical texts simply because they are not eaten in China traditionally. Dairy has not been a food eaten traditionally in Japan nor any other Asian country. Before WW II, Japan did not use dairy products. It was after the United States destroyed them and they were lacking food, that the U.S. then sent powdered milk over there as well as other American foods because the war damage destroyed food crops, farmers, and jobs. Intolerance to milk is an important etiological factor in allergic asthma as well as sour, greasy or cold foods.

Phlegm is not the main pathogenic factor in allergic asthma, whereas it can be, in chronic asthma.The wheezing and breathlessness are due to narrowing of the airways from bronchospasm following an allergic reaction. The narrowed bronchi cannot be properly cleared of mucus by coughing.Seen from this point of view,phlegm is therefore the result rather than the cause of the wheezing. Other doctors also understood as early as 1868 that wheezing and breathlessness in asthma were due to bronchospasm rather than obstruction from phlegm and that this was the result rather than the cause of asthma. There is also a difference between the type of mucus in chronic bronchitis and in asthma.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the immune hyper-reactivity which is at the basis of allergic asthma is due to a deficiency of both lungs and kidneys. Physiology confirms this as all cells involved in the immune response are derived from a common stem cell in the marrow (which is a product of the Kidney-Jing). The kidney’s Wei-Qi system is also involved (something similar, but not the same, as the immune system).

There are a few modern Chinese doctors who place emphasis on tonifying the kidneys in asthma. For example, Dr. Zhang Jing Lei believes that in order to treat the inflammation process, the atopy and the bronchoconstriction, it is necessary to nourish Kidney-Yin. Dr. Shen Zi Yin thinks that tonifying the Kidneys is necessary not only from the perspective of Chinese medicine but also from that of Western medicine. He says that using herbs with a sweet and sour taste stabilizes the cell membranes and therefore has a stabilizing effect on the mast cells in the bronchi. Dr. Shen also says that tonifying the Kidneys (and especially Kidney-Yang) in asthma has the effect of regulating immunity by regulating the T cells and reducing the levels of IgE.

How does a deficiency of the Kidney’s Wei-Qi system arise? It may derive from: a) hereditary constitutional weakness; b) problems to the mother during pregnancy such as a shock, smoking, drinking alcohol, or using medications and drugs; c) problems at childbirth such as fetal distress, induction of labor and premature cutting of the umbilical cord; d) immunizations.

Some drugs may also been have shown to predispose infants to atopic disease. For example, beta-adrenergic receptor-blocking drugs taken for toxicosis of pregnancy, had elevated IgE levels in the cord blood and children developed clinical allergy during the first four years of life significantly more often than the children of placebo-treated control mothers.

The period of time during the actual birth has a bearing on the development of the Lung and Kidney’s Wei-Qi systems. Studies have shown that stress during the neonatal period may increase the risk of development of allergy later in life. In particular, premature severing of the umbilical cord may interrupt the vital flow of hormones and immune cells from the placenta to the offspring and the excretion of waste products from the baby to the placenta. IgG immunoglobulins which prevent IgE-mediated allergic reactions, are the only immunoglobulins that are transported across the placenta to reach the fetal circulation. Therefore, premature severance of the umbilical cord may lead to a deficiency of IgG immunoglobulins in the baby and therefore a predisposition to IgE-mediated allergic reactions later in life. Levels of IgE antibodies are already higher at birth in infants who later develop atopic disease. As IgEantibodies do not cross the placental barrier they must be of fetal origin. Elevated levels suggest a spontaneous antibody formation which is not suppressed by IgG immunoglobulins.

Umbilical cord blood is rich in stem cells found in bone marrow and has been used instead of bone marrow transplant. Placenta and umbilical cord has been used for the treatment of asthma in children in Chinese medicine. The very last development of lungs and kidneys takes place in the birth canal and in babies delivered by Caesarian section there is a higher incidence of allergic asthma.

Immunizations may sometimes trigger off atopic asthma and/or eczema in susceptible individuals. Animal studies have shown that pertussis bacteria induce IgE antibody formation, therefore pertussis immunization may induce excessive levels of IgE antibodies: more so if given during the pollen season. Some have suggested that the increasing incidence of asthma may be due to vaccinations, primarily to whole cell pertussis vaccine. Some have hypothesized that vaccines might change the balance of immunity towards allergic responses either directly (that is, caused by the immune responses to the vaccine) or indirectly (by altering the balance of immune responses to infections in infancy). Also, just by preventing infections in childhood, vaccinations may cause an imbalance in immune responses later in life. Studies have shown that atopic dermatitis was significantly lower in the babies of mothers avoiding dairy and other of the previously mentioned foods during the first six months of breastfeeding. Other studies have also shown that the incidence of asthma in children under 6 is higher in children who were introduced to milk other than breast milk before 4 months of age.

There are certain herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that are used to help relieve the symptoms and there are certain herbs used to help cure asthma. All Chinese medicinals use formulas, not single herbs, as one single herb or folk-medicine type use of herbs, does not work. Many centuries have been put into the science and art of Chinese herbal pharmacology and it cannot just be guessed or bought over-the-counter to effect a real cure nor truly address the symptoms. Practitioners of TCM spend years of study and practice which give them the tools to diagnose and treat both allergic and chronic asthma successfully.

Interestingly, some of the herbs which Traditional Chinese medicine uses for treatment have been shown by modern research to reduce levels of IgE immunoglobulins which are responsible for the antigen-antibody reaction which triggers off an asthma attack. Acupuncture has been shown to provide immediate relief in helping to relax the bronchial spasms and provide more open airways. To cure the problem, consistent, ongoing acupuncture treatments must be done for a period of weeks or months. In some cases, acupuncture more controls the problem than cures it, depending on how difficult the case is.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) has reliable and flexible tools which can treat and often, not always, cure allergic asthma as well as chronic asthma. An additional benefit of using this type of medicine is that there are no long-term side effects or dangers of causing other diseases as in the use of allopathic pharmaceuticals. That, of itself, would help you breath easy!

1Macklem P T The Importance of Excessive Broncho-constriction in Asthma in Giornale Italianodi Allergologiae Immunologia Clinica, Vol. 2, No. 5, October 1992, p. 276., Vol. 2, No. 5, October 1992, p. 276.

A Healthier Year…………Porridge and More!

by Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Master Martial Arts Instructor

“Health is wealth” is an old saying that our forefathers would say. I remember my father remarking about this when I was a little girl, after the chores were done on the farm and he finally came in for supper late at night. On the farm where he worked from dawn and beyond sunset, he seemed content. I remember not getting quite a few of the toys I would ask for, but yet receiving more than enough.

Not getting everything we materially want is great. The more affluent our society is, the sicker it becomes. Look at all the health problems around us. We forget that health is wealth, not money. If we have our health, there are many possibilities for us. If our health is poor, there is little we can do.

Health starts with air, water, and food. We need fresh air. All the more reason to look for ways each of us can cut down on air pollution by the way we live. Walk more, drive less. Use less heating and air conditioning, don’t use burning fireplaces, etc.

Water needs to be conserved to ensure that we do have some to live for now and the future. We also need clean water unladen of too many synthetic chemicals, including chlorine. Invest in a water filter for your home. Quit using plastic water bottles. Buy water only in glass or carry your own filtered water in a glass bottle or stainless steel bottle or thermos. Water that is stored in plastic contains less oxygen and synthetic hormones (including estrogen) and other chemicals leach into the water from the plastic, even BPH-free plastic. Use filtered water in cooking, as well.

Food needs to be pure and mostly of vegetal quality. Today I am going to write about the  benefits of porridge for breakfast and even any time of the day.

In China, in the homes and the restaurants, you will usually see rice porridge offered for breakfast, known as zhou in Mandarin. Japan also has a long history of rice porridge for breakfast, known as o-kayu. Japanese may eat it to use up old rice anytime and have always served it fresh cooked to sick people to help their recovery.

Rice porridge is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine in dietary therapy, as well as in Japanese dietetics.  Wet-cooked porridge is the best breakfast for a wide range of medical conditions. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment principles, rice porridge is good for: 1) Weak digestion 2) Chronic dehydration 3) Excess inflammation or heat pathology. 4)  Very young children, older people, convalescing people 5) Those who ate or drank too much the night before 6) People who worry too much or are too stressed.

Weakened digestion can be the cause of many diseases, including hypertension and diabetes, chronic digestive diseases and irritable bowel syndrome, etc. Chronic dehydration conditions that are not recognized by allopathic medicine doctors, underlies many serious health conditions, and consistent use of cooked, wet breakfasts can induce real improvement in the relief of symptoms and can treat the underlying cause of many medical conditions. This kind of dehydration is not relieved by drinking more water and fluids, and I see it as a very common condition in my daily clinical practice in many individuals. It is very popular and faddish right now to avoid carbs and grains, but what people need to recognize is that it is really SUGAR and poorly combined foods that cause metabolic problems for so many people. According to TCM, grains are “Earth” foods, the center of the Five Phases theory used in diagnosis and treatment of disease. When used correctly, grains are central to diet and digestion, the foundation of good health.

Making good rice porridge
Put 8-12 cups of water in a in a stainless steel or ceramic cooking pot.
Add 1/8 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and/or a strip of kombu seaweed. Salt provides a mineral contribution, a balance for us as all life originates in the sea. Salt resonates with the kidneys and is good for them but in excess, it harms them.
Put in 1 cup uncooked short-grain white or brown rice in large, empty pot. (Make sure your grains are organically grown and that the white rice has not been bleached and does not have talc added to it. If possible, soak this anywhere from 8-24 hours. Overnight is also good enough. If you forgot to soak it, it’s okay, make it anyway.
Bring to a boil.
Turn down to a simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not allow the grains to settle and stick to the bottom of the pot.
The consistency when done should look like a milk water between discernible rice grains, very soft-cooked.
Add an umeboshi plum to each serving bowl of porridge, for more flavor and more medicinal effect. Umeboshi alkalinizes the blood, many people have an over acidic condition of their blood, which is attractive to many disease-causing agents.
Add finely chopped green onions.
You may add miso after cooked, stir it in well, to enhance the prebiotic and probiotic effect to improve digestibility, add flavor, and add more nutrition.
One cup of dry rice will make porridge for 4-6 people.
Eat with some side dishes, such as steamed vegetables and tofu.

If you want your porridge all cooked by the time you get up to eat breakfast in the morning, buy a Zojirushi rice cooker and warmer made in Japan which has a porridge function and set the time that you want to eat it. It will be done and ready for you! This rice cooker has many functions for brown, white, and partially milled rice. You can use it for other grains, as well. So simple! So handy!  White rice is the easiest grain to digest, so if you are having stomach problems with gas, bloating, cramps, etc., use white rice.

Other porridges besides rice

Millet porridge
Millet makes excellent porridge also. In northern China, it is eaten more than rice porridge. Millet is non-glutinous, classified as sweet and salty, neutral or slightly cooling with affinity for the spleen-pancreas, stomach, kidney and lung. Millet is especially good for people with diabetes and lung problems. It is helpful in inflammatory conditions. Millet is the most hydrating grain, and pairs best with nuts, seeds, and fruit, more than any other grain.

One cup dry millet makes porridge for 4-6 people.
Wash the millet prior to cooking by flooding it in a pot with cold water, then gently tipping the water over the side 3 or 4 times until the water looks clear. After washing, use a strainer to remove remaining standing water.
Cook in the same method as previously described for rice porridge.
As with rice, serve with seeds, an organic egg, organic and unfermented tamari or shoyu.

Buckwheat porridge

Use whole buckwheat groats (kernels) and follow the recipe given for rice porridge. Add seeds, nuts, eggs, tofu, etc. Buckwheat is not related to wheat and is gluten-free. It is classified as sweet and warming with spleen-pancreas, heart, and large intestine affinities.

Polenta or corn grit porridge.

This is a Western-style porridge made with polenta or corn grits. Use ORGANIC CORN ONLY; GMO foods raise internal heat through challenging the kidneys, the organ system that adapts to change (too much modified corn is not designed for human consumption anyway.) No GMO foods should be consumed! GMOs are another money-making scheme for Monsanto, Inc. who would like to convince you that they are harmless. Think! We already have far too many diseases because we are consuming foods and drugs that nature never intended for us to consume. Follow the recipe given for the rice porridge, except traditional grits need an hour or more of cooking; instant grits lack flavor. Corn is sweet and neutral, with spleen-pancreas, stomach and kidney affinities.

Quinoa, Amaranth, and Teff porridges.
These make excellent porridges and are loaded with protein as well as other nutrients. They are gluten-free, rich in protein, fiber and minerals, easy to cook and delicious. Wash the quinoa to remove saponins.

Wheat porridge
Wheat has a very long history as breakfast porridge. The grains would be cracked, toasted or ground, then boiled until soft. Beer began as wheat or barley porridge that may have inadvertently fermented. Wheat contains gluten, a set of proteins that a minority of individuals can’t tolerate (celiac disease) and that can gradually cause inflammation problems in a much larger proportion of the population. But don’t let trends convince you that you can’t eat wheat if you don’t have celiac disease. If you have IBS, wheat is more difficult to digest, use other grains. Wheat porridge helps build and hold blood, useful for blood deficiency with fatigue or lethargy. Once benefit has been attained, return to rotating grains to avoid problems from overeating only one kind of grain. Ancient hybrids of wheat like spelt, kamut, emmer, freekeh are significantly easier to digest that the modern varieties. They do contain gluten and individuals with celiac disease cannot eat them, but individuals with wheat or gluten sensitivity often can. Wheat is sweet and warming and has spleen-pancreas, heart and kidney affinities.

Oatmeal or oat porridge

One of the most well-known porridges to Americans. In Chinese medicine dietetics, oats are classified as sticky, as are glutinous grains, but they don’t contain gluten (be sure they are not processed in wheat factories, then they might, but in nature, they do not contain gluten).  Oats are sweet, slightly warming, with spleen-pancreas and stomach affinity. The bulk fiber of oats promotes peristalsis while the stickiness balances with some restraining quality. Oats are moistening like rice and millet. Steel cut oats are harder to digest than rolled. Cook oatmeal long enough to allow the grains to absorb as much water as they will. Add sliced almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, apricot or fig and spices such as cinnamon. Do not add any sweetener. Oat porridges are not good for people with phlegm problems, such as chronic cough, COPD, nasal congestion or sinus congestion, because they are too damp and phlegm-producing. Use other grains.

So, to improve your health, include wet-cooked porridges in the morning menu. It is one of the simplest, least expensive, and most powerful things we can do to take care of ourselves. And, one more thing, always buy organically grown, and if at all possible, grown in the USA grain. Organic and local–important for your health. Enjoy that hot porridge!