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Excess Salt

May 6, 2010

When young and growing up I ate too much salt. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back at my early childhood, my teens, and even my twenties and thirties I can see how I and my family were eating way too salty. I believe this excessive salt consumption partially contributed to the early deaths of my sister and mother. What saved me from a similar fate is the drinking of beer and sake (rice wine). My father also saved himself by drinking several cups of coffee and eating sugar pastries in the morning and throughout the day, although this later caught up to him in the form of a tumor in his colon.

When I was young I loved umeboshi plums and would wrap two or three of them in a paper towel and stuff it in my pocket to eat later as a snack. I enjoyed salty soba noodles in broth and many other foods garnished with shoyu (soy sauce).

The taking of too much salt was common in the early days of the Boston macrobiotic community. I believe that this habit began as an extension of transplanted Japanese eating habits and an emphasis of the benefits of salt by George Ohsawa.

Japanese people consume a great amount of salt in their diet, but they counteract this by taking hot baths everyday and by drinking large quantities of alcohol and eating sugar. It is customary for the average working Japanese to go out drinking every evening after work. It is ritual that allows them to cope with eating large quantities of salt.

Ohsawa believed in the curative nature of salt and often recommended eating on the salty side. Yes, salt does have this property but in excess it can be very harmful, especially over long periods of time.

The remedy for excessive salt eating and for eating a generally overly yang diet (too much animal food and too much baked goods) for long periods of time is actually to go on a raw foods diet which is extremely popular now. People compare raw foods versus macrobiotics and think that eating raw is not macrobiotics, but this is not true. Macrobiotics is not a specific diet but is about life and how to manage it. There are times when we need to eat salt, cooked foods and animals foods and there are times when we need to eat more raw foods. Everything changes including ourselves and we must compensate accordingly.

The effects of my eating too salty has caused my hair to gray prematurely. It may have also caused teeth problems. I am sure that it effected my thinking as well as other behavioral problems.

I remedied my years of excessive salt talking with excessive beer and sake drinking. Now, after abstaining from all alcoholic beverages for six months I am beginning to realize the extremities of taking too much salt in my youth. I can also see now how the lives of many people, including many macrobiotic teachers have been negatively effected by the over-consumption of salt. For a more comprehensive list of the negative effects of eating too much salt feel free to contact me.

Aahhh…life is interesting!

30 Comments leave one →
  1. macroron permalink
    May 6, 2010 1:05 pm


    Thank You.

    I have come to the same conclusion.

    I would be very interested in a more comprehensive list of the negative effects of eating too much salt.


  2. Dottie Roseboom permalink
    May 6, 2010 1:09 pm

    Thanks, Phiya, for addressing salt usage. Several years ago, I began to realize that I was enjoying too much salt & too many baked foods & now, I’m quite careful to limit portions … Although it’s difficult to do when eating outside the home. BTW, umeboshi plum snacks were a favorite with me too 🙂

    Please send me the comprehensive list of negative effects. Thanks.

  3. Peter Doggen permalink
    May 6, 2010 1:55 pm

    At the summercamp in Amherst in 1990 I met a Japanese gentleman, who was, if I recall well, the president of the Osaka macrobiotic centre. He showed me a little bottle of umeboshi PICKLED IN SHOYU! Every morning, he said, he ate one. Although he seemed to be young, his hair was grey.

  4. Edward Schreiber permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:09 pm

    There was also a dominant view then, that yang was better. It translated into a kind of sexism, often the male macrobiotic teachers reflected. It was quite sad, actually, to see the level of distortion that enveloped and developed, often ruminating into the stated and often unstated politics of the macrobiotic community. Then came folks like David Brosco, who called it to question, seeking a saner balance. The emotional health of the community was a question, a closed heartedness at times that was engendered, as judgment. I am glad we have matured.

  5. claire fitzgerald pound daring permalink
    May 6, 2010 7:57 pm

    dear Phiya, I remember your father telling us about his parents, you seem to have quietly watched and meditated upon, this thing called life, God bless you for the courage you have, to see the simplicity of the interwoven energies, that we consume. this wonderful Macrobiotic, life we have led looking underneath the words to see the workings of our bodies, so simple yet so hard to do.To swim against the tide with your eyes open, missing the slings and arrows of our fellow travellers. change as your dad said, swing the body, swing the energy. Michio how do I heal my face, I asked him, and I remember you when I was living on rice just looking at me, and not saying a word, have never forgotton that look. mmm Phiya is trying to tell me something, and yes I have had to give up my beloved rice and it has led me a merry dance, so many adventures, but each one I discovered what my poor old face could handle and what it couldn’t, spleen pan stom, oh how I love the 9 star chi, and the meridians, stop people in a bus or whatever and ask them the year they are born, such fun life is good, and especially as at nearly 70 I am still alive, thankyou to you guys.

  6. Linda Langlois permalink
    May 6, 2010 9:41 pm

    Very interesting, Phiya. Illuminating and makes sense. I would like to know more as well, please.

    I would think that perhaps where Aveline and Lily were female, the excess salt would have been even more detrimental as it seems that women in general need to eat somewhat more yin that men do. Would you concur?


  7. May 7, 2010 7:39 am

    Hi Phiya,

    This is interesting and I’m sure will be helpful to many people.

    Personally over the past eleven years of eating macrobiotically I’ve always erred on the side of only a pinch of salt much to the chargrin of my husband who adds much more salt when he cooks (he runs or cycles hard every morning so this may be the balance). I get an instant headache if he adds more salt then usual.

    A lot of people teaching macrobiotics would say that this is because my kidneys are week (which just may have been so, kidney disease is prevalent in my mothers family, as is diet high in animal protein), but it appears in your case that excess salt is also cause for poor health, even on a macrobiotic diet.

    It is wonderful that we have been able to figure it out in this lifetime and do something about it. For that information and awareness I’m always amazed and grateful!

    So when I crave coffee I need to think fruit, lightness or maybe some type of raw food!

  8. May 21, 2010 4:19 pm

    Great article, Phyia, and a good assessment. I was also part of the Boston Macrobiotic scene, as you probably remember when you were a child. I too, experienced many of the same effects, including prematurely graying hair. I think the reason I was attracted to so much salt and Yang food was because I had been consuming too much Yin food, drink and recreational drugs during my 4 years at Boston University that preceded my involvement in Macrobiotics. Order of the Universe: Yin is attracted to Yang. I suppose it saved my life, but also affected my teeth and hair as you describe. After 5 years of Macrobiotics in Boston, I worked with Herman Aihara for another 7 years. Cornelia also served salty Macrobiotic meals. I craved them, so I must have still been on the Yin side. To counteract the saltiness, she always served lightly-pickled nappa (Chinese Cabbage). This I think must have allowed my body to neutralize the excess salt. At one point however, it became obvious that I had become too Yang, so I loosened up with more Yin foods and natural beverages. Recently I started drinking Kombucha, which is made from fermenting sugar-sweetened tea. I guess I needed a Yin form of fermentation. Now I am a lot more comfortable with a flexible approach, so I guess I have finally balanced out my system to some degree…

  9. Kathy Griffith permalink
    June 17, 2010 12:03 am

    After a life-time of excess salt, which I always craved (probably due to adrenal problems), I have recently stopped the salt. I would appreciate whatever information you can send me, about the negative effects of salt longterm, plus how the body can get rid of stored salt, and neutralize the effects.
    Thank you!

  10. alice fava permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:55 pm


  11. alice fava permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:56 pm

    HI Phyia,

    Once again, great article and very timely. Keep up the good work!


  12. dusty permalink
    July 18, 2010 7:14 pm

    are bodies are practically made of salt. white hair is a crown. i hope to Jesus that i can obtain this crown early through the use of salt. if one is too salty, take a hot bath. if hot bath is not available, drink vinegar. vinegar breaks down salt in the blood. macrobiotic teaching is to develop your intuition in the kitchen. how much is enough? don’t think, feel.

  13. Alice A. Oshiro permalink
    July 22, 2010 7:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing interesting and informative article. I am interested in obtaining a more comprehensive list of the negative effects of eating too much salt. Michio told me in a group consultation that my problem was too much salt! I am also trying to deal with this problem
    that has affected my teeth/gums, toenails and bones. I told my son to be careful of too much
    salt but he insists that he has to put enough salt for the food to taste good!

  14. susan beram permalink
    August 5, 2010 6:37 am

    I have very cold feet and Michio’s book says that can be from too much salt. I don’t use much now. What do you think?

  15. felicia unterkreuter permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:58 pm

    I am really stunned about this article! Thinking that maybe drinking lots of wine almost daily saved my life ….. Thanks Phiya for your openess!

  16. Patrick de Courcy Bennett permalink
    November 29, 2010 7:56 pm

    My dear Phiya, It was in May that I read your article on too much salt and it was a revelation to me. I had learnt macrobiotics in the early days of the Community Health Foundation in London and through the early books of George Oshawa.Consequentially I was a heavy consumer of salty foods; always Gomasio at 10-1 parts and I had a real taste for all the salty condiments Kombu in shoyu with ginger etc.Miso soup at a heaped teaspoon for breakfast and oat or rice cream.Nevertheless I was always in either very phsically active sports or work.
    Having come out of the Hippy lifestyle I was until the end of my teens a user of recreational drugs Hash,LSD & Psilocybin.Macrobiotics was my escape to a more healthy and spiritually directed lifestyle.Obviously my health improved tenfold as I was pretty messed up before both mentally and physically. I experienced many adventures and miraculous moments during my years and had actually intuitively reduced my salt intake as I recognised the heavy slow fug,as the sign of excess.I am now 58 and living in southern Spain,which is a pretty hot climate.I have continued to excercise dynamically Mountain biking Skating swimming walking and taking hot showers even in summer.Following your article 6 months ago I reduced my salt intake further to Homeopathic quantities just a few grains, no more than small teaspoon of miso or shoyu daily and raw food salads or steamed greens and fruit whenever I wanted.Bingo! ! My energy levels have increased enormously. I am no longer craving cakes or beers and my whole demeanour is more relaxed.Not so frenetic.Even my addiction to activity is reduced and I am truly feeling those same moments of wonder that I had at the begining of my wonderful journey through macrobiotics and life.I avidly follow your comments and am enourmously grateful to you.In Peace and Love Patrick.

    • Márcia Cordeiro Gama permalink
      December 1, 2010 4:10 pm

      I enjoyed very much Patrick’s comment. I will take care too. Thanks.

  17. Márcia Cordeiro Gama permalink
    November 30, 2010 8:30 pm

    I like the way you talk. Great article. I will think about it. You are so true. It’s nice.
    All my respect to you.


  18. Richard permalink
    December 5, 2010 10:20 pm

    I think the notion of ‘too much salt’ is mistaken. Since it’s all about balance, and that balance is maintained intuitively and taste-fully, there is never too much salt taken, but only lack of balance. If we had equal access to yin and yang foods and the intuitive freedom of a child, we would intuitively balance our meals no matter how much salt we took the meal. So I would say that you ate too much salt when young because you didn’t have access to enough yin or you were taught that yin was bad. I lived thru the 70s yang period in boston myself, and I learned that once a person loses touch with their natural intuitive taste balancing mechanism, they tend to continue the imbalance until they become sick. Only then can they re-establish a respectful relationship with their own intuitive senses.
    Sometimes we need a stronger yang/yin combination for the stronger polarity, and sometimes we need less of each for less polarity. Our senses should be respected in that regard, not ignored. Our intellect should complement our senses by guiding us to the highest quality substance that will satisfy our senses.

    • MarĂ­a permalink
      September 4, 2012 10:04 am


      Mr. Richard,

      I don´t think the notion of “too much salt” is mistaken. There is a physiological balance of the amount of sodium and other elements contained in salt, that can be taken without being harmful to a human body, then even when you can balance it, if you keep abusing of salt or salty products (every person will have a bit more or a bit less resistance, but it will affect all of us sooner or later) in high intakes of salt during long periods, the body will be affected in all senses, you have mentioned some of the physical consequences, but there is much more, hardness in the circulatory system, lack of flexibility, hiperactivity, short temper, lack of patience, closeness, at the begining, drying and after a while retention of liquids, high blood pressure, headaches, …this is some of the problems directly related to high intake of salt, but if you add to this the need of balancing the excess of salt, you have to add the problems caused by the excess intake of all the products that we will crave due to the first excess. Then much better to use salt in rational physiological amounts and ask ourselves when we have a crave, why is it? and try to balance the origen before can cause us a problem. With this I am talking about craves that can affect our health in long/short term.

      I agree in the fact that our most pure nature knows what is good for us at all moment and that can be watched easily in healthy children as you mentioned, but we have to remember that the nature of children is to experience too, the good of it is when they have learnt to reject instinctly(or learnt) what is bad for them, to try and reject after trying what is not so good and to look for and accept what is good for them.

      • MarĂ­a permalink
        September 4, 2012 10:05 am

        One thing more, your last three phrases I consider them excellent.

  19. MarĂ­a permalink
    September 4, 2012 10:16 am

    In more general terms, once again I thank you, Phiya and all the people that has commented here for bringing this topic to light.

    I would like to add the fact that we have five seasons and that each one of them has an emphasis on determined ways of cooking, or kind of food, or clothes, or activities, ….and to keep according with it, we should make use of the common sense and balance ourselves in the now to what is coming adapting ourselves to the moment and circumstances we are living. Life is full of variety, colours, sounds, smells, sights, …. and it changes every day in a subtle way and every, more or less, three months in a more deep way, we should be able to listen to the language of nature and make it ours, this way we will enjoy that longed intuitive freedom that shows our most pure nature that tune us to the way of joy and health.

  20. September 5, 2012 7:01 pm

    Having lived in the Brookline community in 1982-4, I remember being aware of this issue . Some of us back then did not follow the then prevelant idea of using this much salt. It is interesting that so many followed ‘party line ‘ macrobiotics without listening to their own body or recognizing such symptoms, even though they may have been studying Oriental diagnosis. So important that you, Phiya, continue to say repeatedly that macrobiotic is not a diet , but a way of life. Thank you

  21. John Mooter permalink
    September 5, 2012 11:20 pm

    I can appreciate the honesty of this article. Animal foods, however, are never necessary for balance. Recent studies show the superiority of a whole foods plant based diet. Ohsawa was not aware of this. In my view, Macro does not emphasize enough whole raw foods, especially greens. In the summer, I eat large green salads and smoothies made with greens and in season fruits. I have met many who eat mostly raw foods who are in optimal health, as well as those eating more according to Macrobiotics. Coffee, sugar, donuts, animal foods are not necessary for balance if one eats whole unprocessed foods primarily.

  22. Gilly permalink
    September 6, 2012 8:11 am

    I also appreciate Phiya’s honesty (& many of the comments about). Whilst macrobiotics is about finding a common sense balance within our selves, many people have not had the opportunity to develop their intuition (this is learned) before finding macrobiotics. In this respect, we need macrobiotic educators to stand up & say what constitutes a “light” diet in the context of eating in an energetically balanced way. From this point of view the raw diet can not be said to be “balanced”

  23. MarĂ­a permalink
    September 7, 2012 5:31 am

    “The Book of Macrobiotics” written by Michio Kushi in 1977 is a treasure where we can find many explanations and answers.

    In the chapters two and three where the subjects studied are the human nature and the dietary principles. Many of the questions here about raw food/fire, energetic balance, omnivourism,……are answered there.

    From a very personal view, I respect all the ways chosen by everyone, knowing that everyone of us has a unique constitution that will guide us to choose one path or other one, and that in a point our body will let us know if our condition has changed enough to affect our constitution and then, we may change/adapt the path or not.

    I love green salads in summer too and slow cooking vegetable stews in winter.

  24. Patricia Restrepo Botero permalink
    May 19, 2013 1:31 pm

    Awareness changes everything
    not raw or salted, balance is everything.!!
    Herman Aihara, wisely said, FOOD is only 5%,
    although 5%
    more important.
    and what about the other 95%.??
    If we have given 100% to the food, and as of course is not the whole,
    two things can happen:
    abandon our 5% which is really important, because we do not get results.
    or sick because we cling only to food.
    True transformation is needed, decoding of old patterns that cause suffering.
    But not only know the theory, you have to dive in practice to clean mental toxins that are worse that the exes meat or salt or sugar.
    Fear, handling others, victimization, dependency, jealousy, frustracion.are highly dangerous toxins.
    Know or read, or think about this, is not enough

  25. October 28, 2015 7:28 pm

    Hi Phya ,
    Sorry to disturb you :
    I am French , living in Montpellier / France and I studied with your father MICHIO in Becket all the levels in the years 90 , even I lived some time in your home in Boston
    I , try to help people with this wonderful philosophy that I learn from your father .
    Each time I contact Becket , it is always through ” programs ” the only contact , my question , Phya ( I call you by your given name I am more than 80 yo , so , my question is : ” may I can contact you through your email , please ? It could be wonderful for me , trying to ” not disturb you ” I have sometimes question to ask or informations to exchange
    Thanks In advance

    My best regards to Edward,Wendy , Alex, Gale ,Christine …

    Thanks Phya


  26. Thorrent permalink
    June 1, 2016 12:12 pm

    Hi Phyia KUSHI

    french From Montpellier France , I studied in KI in 1990 and got the three levels , now I am 81 yo
    and got ( gonarthrose = knee arthritis ) , having all father’s bonks and seminars , recently I helped people with different problems ( multiple sclerosis , constipation for many years ) with success and recently I read your article , above , about salt…
    Too much salt , yang make us yin , at the end ( yang produce yin ) but , how to come back to balance … (?) very delicate condition …
    In France , macrobiotics is unchanging / sclerotic /
    French people stays in the low jugement and do not believe the relation between dairy food , animal food , saying ” you are probably right ” but they do nothing …
    Coming back to me , for two months ,since mai ,I fast 20 days ( every year I fast 20 to 30 days ) , then , I tried to eat more than 80 % organic brown rice from Italy ( rice from Camargue : the RhĂ´ne waters
    go through several nuclear pants , so … ) but even I eat brown rice , mixed with few other cereals millet ,barley , my condition did not change : my knee bones still cracking / breaking a lot of noĂŻse , no real pain / I think it is osteoporosis because I have no real pain , it happens in the back of the body , but no real progress, even chewing ( I eat many times brown rice gruel ) I eat seaweed too , vegetables ( no solanacae from last year ) ,and , since my fasting I have a lot of lot , a lot , of mucus , meaning that I discharge 81 years of dairy food , flour products , been vegetarian for 50 years and , curious thing , when I became vegetarian , a lot of hair come out of my ears , still there , and I think that my animal proteins are still in my kindneys , but Phyia , which food can produce the ” cartilage “, please … : I need to stop the dramatic noise of my bone’s knees I I AND I AM VERY VERY MUCH ASHAME !!! I think it is is too much salt because the problem comes in the lower part of my body .
    I tried to find help through case histories of my problem ,in KI , macrobiotics, but I did not find any help , except Jane Quincannon-Stanchich , but without details , knowing since almost one and a half year that this problem was coming , knee arthritis , will happens …
    I tried for longtime to save money , in order to by from RAKUTEN JAPAN the same machine you have in BECKET : rice hulling machine in order to get ” fresh hulled brown rice ” I still have the OHSAWA CAMP SEMINAR 1957 ( I got 9 years of G.OHSAWA CAMPS , where G.O said the that ” paddy rice freshly hulled, is 10 times powerful than the rice which stays months in the shop ” , may be it will be helpful for me and the others too…

    Sorry Phyia to disturb you with my problem , knowing that you are busy , I am not in a hurry , continuing gruel brown rice must only help me to solve the problem and I will be grateful if you answer to me .

    michel thorrent

  27. Steven Zabinsky permalink
    October 25, 2020 10:11 am

    Thanks for your discussion of salt. For about two years when I was in my twenties, I ate no salt at all (believing the MD’s who thought added salt was bad.) Doing my own cooking, not eating out or eating prepared food, I was on a very low salt diet. By the end of this time I was feeling pretty sick, no energy, etc., and felt MUCH better when I started eating salt again.

    A few years later, I discovered macrobiotics. I am mostly self taught, with a few workshops with the Aiharas. Whenever I made a macrobiotic meal from various cookbooks, I always wanted ice cream afterwards. And the food at the Aihara workshops had the same effect. I never did figure it out.

    I still eat a lot of salt; I’m physically active and live in a hot dry climate, so I sweat a lot. But I’m starting to cut back, gomasio with a teaspoon of salt per cup of sesame instead of a tablespoon, more fruit, less salt. My current measure is if I want ice cream after dinner! If so, dinner was too yang.

    Thanks again,
    Steve Zabinsky

    (PS Using a food processor instead of a suribachi makes a beautifully light and fluffy gomasio.)

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