Dr. Benjamin Spock

World's Foremost Baby Doctor

Shares His Experience with Macrobiotic Shiatsu

 From the Foreword of Whole Health Shiatsu by Shizuko Yamamoto and Patrick McCarty

I have to confess that I slid into macrobiotics and shiatsu, in the beginning, without any intention-or even awareness- of what they might mean for me. That is unlike me; all the earlier turns in my life-to become a children's physician, to devote my career particularly to the everyday emotional aspects of child management, to go from pediatric practice to medical school teaching, to branch out into political activism when I realized that the major unsolved problems of childhood (day care, good schools and health care for all, housing, nuclear disarmament, to avoid a holocaust, and to save money for desperate civilian needs)-all these shifts had come from deliberate analysis and planning.


Then a good friend in a neighboring town, suffering from a serious disease, asked my wife Mary to save a date two months hence for an appointment with her health advisor who would be coming from out of town. When the date approached, Mary could not remember just what the therapy or activity was. I guessed it was massage because both Mary and the friend are great enthusiasts.


We were introduce to Dr. Marc Can Cauwenberghe a macrobiotic counselor who is also a doctor of medicine trained in Belgium. He asked for a brief summary of my health history, which included a heart arrhythmia being treated with a pacemaker and digitalis, a mercifully brief stroke for which I was on coumarin, a "blood thinner." I had had a miserable previous year with half a dozen attacks of bronchitis that required antibiotics, and a chronic prostatitis that got me up five times a night and left me sleepy all day. Dr. Van Cauwenberghe noticed that my fingertips were unusually pink and asked how much fluid I consumed. Aerially I answered, "Two or three large iced teas at lunch and the same at dinner." He said my circulation was overloaded with fluid and that iced drinks and caffeine were unwise, too.


I was impressed with th concept of overloaded capillaries and Mary with the interpretation of her muscle aches. We decided to go along with the macrobiotic diets prescribed, basically whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables and seaweeds. No meat (except for occasional white fish), no eggs,no potatoes, no dairy foods. That last item was by far the most painful derivation for me, for I loved butter on my vegetables,half-and-half on my cooked cereal, Brie or saga cheese on my crackers, and creamy soups.


The first couple of weeks we felt sorry for ourselves and apologetic to our stomachs. I might have quit, but Mary never compromises on health. Next came tolerance of the diet. Then a positive though moderate enjoyment. But what impressed us and bound us most was the loss of weight-fifteen pounds for Mary and thirty pounds for me along with a good appetite. That proved to the skeptical Western-trained physician in me that something very real and significant was going on, whatever the explanation. My nocturnal trips to the bathroom diminished a lot; I was much more wide awake in the daytime. Most welcome was the abrupt and complete absence of respiratory infections from early September until July. By the way, my fifty-year-old wart has shrunk almost to nothing, as was casually predicted. Most impressive of all to the Western-trained physician was reading Recalled by Life by Anthony J. Sattilaro, M.D. and Recovery by Elaine Nussbaum which describe how two people close to death from advanced cancer were able to halt their cancers and then recover robust health with macrobiotics.


Mary was the first to receive barefoot shiatsu massage, from Shizuko Yamamoto the originator of the technique and Patrick McCarty her associate, because she has always loved and benefited from massage. I had always shied away from it because of my New England uneasiness about self-indulgence and I had had no limb or back pain for many years. But Mary wanted to practice shiatsu on me and I gradually came to accept it-even enjoy it-on this family basis.


So I was thereby prepared to appreciate and enjoy and benefit from the expert shiatsu of Shizuko Yamamoto when she offered it. I was amazed by her strength and delighted with her considerateness. Another occasion when I received whole health shiatsu therapy was when we were staying in the same house with Shizuko and Patrick and he offered me shiatsu mainly because my bad cold was hanging on and I now seemed to have overcome my resistance to receiving treatment thanks to Mary. Patrick added three days of acupuncture and my bronchitis responded dramatically to the two-pronged therapy.


As for my giving shiatsu to Mary Morgan, my 110 pound, 5 foot 2 inch wife, it took me longer to get up the courage. I was afraid of crushing her with my 190 pounds, but she gradually reassured me.


You may have been puzzled-or irritated-by my references to the skepticism of the Western physician. It is not just that the methods of macrobiotics, and shiatsu, and the implication that they can prevent, arrest, or even reverse such dread disease as cancer and coronary heart disease, in at least some cases, sounds impossible to the Western physician on first acquaintance. Even harder to believe are the macrobiotic explanations of how diseases originate and how they can be cured. There is no obvious connection between anatomy as taught in our medical schools and the "channels" between well defined areas on the surface of the body and the internal organs, which are utilized in shiatsu massage. And macrobiotic leaders point out the marked philosophical contrast between Western physiology and medicine which seems obsessed with dividing, sub-dividing, and analyzing the processes of the body, and Eastern medicine, Chinese and Japanese, which strongly leans toward broad generalizations such as the contrast or balance between yin and yang (expansion versus contraction) which is at the center of the explanations of macrobiotics.


So I am pointing out that most Western physicians have an enormous wall of skepticism to surmount in order to accept macrobiotic and shiatsu concepts. The fact that gradually increasing numbers are succeeding is to me a good sign. The increasing numbers will make it easier, even compulsory for Western physicians to open their minds and to study macrobiotic concepts. If Western medicine and macrobiotics both have validity (and it is hard to see how they could not) the interconnections should become apparent-for the benefit of humanity.

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