Archive for the ‘macrobiotics’ Category


How to keep mosquitoes away

August 8, 2007

I wrote a letter to Mind Your Body about taking umeboshi to keep mosquitoes away. It got published today as The yin and yang of fighting mosquitoes.


Your August 1 edition of Mind Your Body carried an interesting discussion, Can garlic keep mozzies away? The answer given was ‘No’ but the article contained a vital piece of information – that drinking alcohol attracts mosquitoes!

As a student of macrobiotics, who looks at food and phenomena in terms of yin and yang, or ‘expanding’ and ‘contracting’ energy, I have always known this to be true. I did not realise that it had actually been confirmed by scientific research.

From the macrobiotic perspective, alcohol is yin or ‘expanding’. Having alcohol in the blood thus attracts mosquitoes, which are compact – that is, contracted or yang – creatures. Other yin foods like sugar, carbonated drinks, most food chemicals and excessive amounts of fruits will, according to macrobiotic principles, likewise attract mosquitoes.

The way to keep mosquitoes away is thus not garlic, but foods with qualities opposite to that of alcohol and sweets.

This would be salt, which is very yang or ‘contracting’. In particular, macrobiotics recommends umeboshi, a salt-pickled sour plum similar to what the Chinese call sng buay. But it has to be natural, organic quality. Umeboshi containing chemical food colouring may not work.

One of my macrobiotic teachers related how, when he was in Africa, the ceiling of his room would be covered black with mosquitoes if he opened the windows. Since he disliked sleeping with air-conditioning, he slept with the windows open and with an umeboshi in his mouth – and was not at all bitten by mosquitoes.

While I have not experienced this personally, I have ever observed locals in Indonesia with swamps of mosquitoes buzzing over the heads and yet they never seem to be bitten or bothered. Is it something in their diet?

Right now, this is regarded as unscientific. But until some scientist bothers to conduct appropriate research, it will forever remain in the realm of ‘non-science’.

If a scientist is open-minded enough to further investigate this claim, he or she could well hit upon an important scientific discovery – and help save lives, avoid suffering, reduce the cost of medical care and reduce the need to constantly fog the environment with toxic insecticides.


Macrobiotics in Mind Your Body

June 24, 2007

Macrobiotics made it to the cover of Mind Your Body, the health supplement of The Straits Times, this week (Wed June 20).

I was pleansantly surprised, not least because I was mentioned right at the very end of the article, as a resource person. The journalist who wrote the article had not contacted me, so I was not expecting that.

Another pleasant surprise… this morning I got about 10 email contacts from my website, mostly about macrobiotics.

The main article was about this man, Michael, who recovered from a rare blood disorder by following a macrobiotic diet. Michael now runs an organic food shop, Camu Camu, at Blk 211, Hougang St 21, Tel: 6287 0267.

 A side article was about Doreen, a certified macrobiotic chef who (sometimes) teaches macrobiotic cooking classes. Doreen is a friend of mine and I was mentioned at the end of this side article. She must have told the journalist about me. Thanks Doreen 🙂

I was active in teaching and promoting macrobiotics during the 1990s. In fact, I introduced the subject to Doreen during a talk I gave athe Civil Service Club many, many years ago.

Although I am much less active now, and I don’t follow the diet so closely, I still go by its guiding principles. There is a lot of wisdom there, not just dietary wisdom but also about life.

Macrobiotics is too complicated to explain here, but you can read more at my websites: and

It’s a fascinating subject (to me, anyway) and a totally different way of understanding how food affects our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health (and vice versa).

I invite you to find out more.




Doctor, no

May 27, 2007

No, this is not a post about the James Bond movie.

Doctor, no is the title of an article in the June 2007 issue of Men’s Health magazine about yours truly — about how and why I have not seen a doctor for the past 22 years. I thought it was a nice title 😉

Now Men’s Health is not the sort of magazine that I normally identify with. I just don’t fit into the image of the cover photo, which usually shows a muscled, macho guy.

But because I had been making some noise recently about trans fats and other health issues, I caught the editor’s attention and he asked if I would write some articles for the magazine. I agreed.

The article is quite long, so here are just brief excerpts:

I was born half dead. According to my mother, I was a “blue baby” – not breathing and blue all over. And a doctor massaged me to life, using brandy! At five, I developed tuberculosis, along with two of my older sisters. Once again, my life was saved by a doctor.

But while doctors gave me life, they did not give me health. I grew up weak and sickly. At one stage, I was visiting the doctors and taking their medicines every two or three weeks. Thus, it was only natural that I started to look for ways to improve my health.

I had not deliberately sought to stop seeing doctors. Like most people, I took for granted that doctors and the drugs they prescribed were absolutely necessary.

A few things had changed, however. First, I’ve learnt how to take care of myself such that, for minor ailments, all I now need to do is rest and, perhaps, take some simple home remedies.

Second, I’ve discovered that complementary and alternative healthcare often work better – faster, more effectively and without unpleasant side-effects – than chemical-based medicine.

Third, as I read and researched more about health, I also discovered that doctors often do not truly understand what is going on. For example, I once read medical literature that said: “The third leading cause of end stage kidney disease in the US is glomerulonephritis, a disease that damages the kidneys’ filtering units. In many cases, the cause of this disease is not known.”

Essentially, this tells me that kidney disease is caused by a disease that damages the kidneys! I have lost faith in people who consider such statements enlightening…..

The article goes on to talk about how plenty of carrot juice, plus a diet of mainly salads and raw fruits, helped solve the severe sinus problem that plagued me since childhood — but brought on other problems instead.

First, I developed a skin rash that would not go away for months, until my open-minded doctor recommended me to consult a Chinese sinseh. That was my introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine and I began to respect it a lot.

Then, one cold rainy night, after having a salad for dinner, I woke up with a mild asthma attack. I switched back to eating mainly cooked food after learning macrobiotics and yin and yang.

Meanwhile, I discovered the power of natural remedies… Once, I had a high fever. By that time, I no longer had any Panadol at home. I flipped through my book of natural remedies but I had none of the various herbs and other remedies recommended – except for a cold, wet towel. I applied the towel over my head and the fever subsided in half an hour.

Of course, it is not always that simple. When I fell badly ill in 2003 (it turned out I had chicken pox) no amount of home remedies, not even my trusted Chinese sinseh’s herbal brews, could provide quick relief. I had to let the illness run its course and just do my best to control the symptoms.

In such cases, perhaps a strong dose of antibiotics and other chemical medicines might have been more efficient. But by then, I also knew that such a course of action, while possibly beneficial in the short term, would weaken me in the long term.

I learnt recently that the intestines of a normal, healthy person has about 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) “friendly” bacteria in the intestines. They enhance immunity, help digestion and bring many other benefits. Even when a person falls ill, the good bacteria still far out number the bad.

No way am I going to destroy all of that goodness with antibiotics – and create an environment for harmful bacteria to reproduce more easily. Not when doctors are scientists are themselves finally acknowledging that antibiotics had been over-used and abused, resulting in more and more strains of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. For example, tuberculosis used to be easily treated with antibiotics, but is now more difficult to treat than ever.

The article ends off with an emphasis on the importance of research and self study, and some food for thought about the safety of modern, chemical-based medicine:

I had been gradually restoring my health since 1985 and learnt much during the process. This learning is absolutely necessary for anyone wishing to reduce his or her dependance on the medical system. It is serious learning, not from hearsay or, worse still, from the promotional literature of multi-level marketing companies touting health products.

Today, much of that learning can be done via the Internet. It’s a place of much information but, unfortunately, also misinformation, some intended, some simply misguided. You need discernment, which comes from experience as well as from making mistakes.

Fortunately, any mistakes associated with natural health and alternative medicine are usually mild. Yes, once in a very long while, someone might die from alternative medical treatment or from taking some natural food products like royal jelly. Because such incidents are exceedingly rare (like “man bites dog”), they make sensational news.

In contrast, medical treament kill hundreds of thousands of people each year. It is routine (like “dog bites man”), not news, so you seldom read about it in the newspapers.

But there is even a medical term for this – iatrogenic illness, meaning illness caused by medical treatment. These may be due to errors such as misdiagnosis, wrong treatment and wrong prescription or overdose of drugs. They may also be due to legitimate reasons such as acceptable side effects of drugs, or “normal” complications arising from surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other routine medical treatment.

In the US, medical studies have found iatrogenic illness to be the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. One 1994 study found a death rate from iarogenic illness of “only” 0.56 percent. This seemed a low and acceptable figure. But it translated to 180,000 people dying in the US each year, equivalent to three jumbo jet crashes every two days!

Comparing with other industry standards, the author of the study, Dr Lucian Leape, pointed out that a mere 0.1 percent error rate would produce:

• in aviation, two unsafe planes landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport every day;

• in postal services, 16,000 pieces of lost mail every hour;

• in banking, 32,000 cheques deducted from the wrong bank account every hour!

When I read reports such as this, I become more determined than ever to keep myself drug-free and doctor-free.


How to spend your last $100,000

March 17, 2007

A friend just had a relative pass away — after spending more than $100,000 on medical expenses, including injections that cost several thousand dollars per jab.

News of the passing reminded me about an article I wrote some years ago, when there was a debate in the press about Medisave. I cannot remember what exactly the debate was about, possibly about Medisave contributions by the sel-employed.

Anyway, my article was never published, so here it is. (The $30,500 figure mentioned in the article is, I believe, the Medisave account limit).


How to spend your last $30,500?

If you are seriously ill and have a limited time to live, and you have $30,500 worth of savings, how would you like best to spend that money? Hands up those who like to spend it in a hospital. Anybody?

In the present debate about Medisave, there seems to be broad agreement that it is both necessary and desirable to set aside a large sum of money for medical expenses. One newspaper editorial states that arguing against the merits of Medisave “is a waste of time”.

At the risk of wasting both my time and yours, I ask that you reconsider this basic premise.

First, is it necessary?

Not if you accept the fact – and this is increasingly confirmed by medical research – that the majority of illnesses can be prevented.

If you take good care of your health, your arteries will not get clogged up, your liver, pancreas, kidneys and other organs will not break down and your immune system will conquer most bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.

What if you don’t take care?

Well, if you have a heart attack or a stroke, there is good chance that you will die suddenly. So there is again no need for medical expenses.

If you develop diabetes, your Medisave fund won’t cover your daily jabs of insulin. The money will come in handy if you need to amputate your leg, but again, not after that when you need to engage a maid to take care of you.

Of course, there will be some people who might find their Medisave money useful, such as those who require heart bypass, stent insertion and similar surgery.

But hey! The same procedures can be done in Malaysia or Thailand for a fraction of the cost, even after factoring in travel expenses.

Using Medisave to have them done in Singapore then becomes like buying expensive items from a department store when those same items are on sale cheaply everywhere else. You do it only because you have a gift voucher that cannot be redeemed elsewhere.

But Medisave is not a “gift”. It’s your savings!

About the only significant group of people who might find Medisave “necessary” are those who spend the final months in and out of hospitals, fighting one medical battle after another.

If you belong to this group, you would do well to ask yourself – and your children, who might be using their Medisave money: Is this desirable?

One person who found a better way to use his money was the American journalist Norman Cousins, who was diagnosed with a so-called “incurable” illness.

Instead of feeling miserable in a hospital, he decided to check into a hotel. He felt better right away. The service and the food was far superior and there were no nurses waking him at night to ask him to take his medicines. Best of all, it costs less money.

To entertain himself, Cousins rented funny movies. This was in the 1960s, before video, VCD and DVD, when movies came as film and a projector. Cousins literally laughed himself to recovery, and became famous for writing about his experiences in Anatomy of an Illness.

Hugh Faulkner, author of Physician Heal Thyself, was a British medical doctor who was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in his mid-70s. Despite being a medical doctor, he sought alternative treatment through a macrobiotic diet.

He also drew up a list of things that he had always wanted – either to have or to do. He bought a computer and learnt to play a musical instrument. These contributed as much to his recovery as his change of diet. He led an active, healthy and fulfilling life for about another seven years, even though the original prognosis was just six to nine months.

Recovery is never guaranteed, of course. What is guaranteed is that you will feel much happier spending your final $30,500 on the things that you’ve always wanted, than on chemotherapy (or other medical treatment) that causes you to lose your hair, your appetite and your will to live.