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Macrobiotics for Breast Cancer

by Faye Baxter(more info)

listed in cancer, originally published in issue 83 - December 2002

Introduction

Two and a half years ago in March 2000, my health took a serious downward spiral when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I left the specialist’s consulting room. I had always thought that I had a good diet and lifestyle. I was shocked that this had happened to me.

Outside, I considered the news. I looked up and some thoughts came to me, something that I had not thought about for over 25 years. I saw a picture of a bag of brown rice. This triggered memories of a philosophy called Macrobiotics, a way of eating, which I remembered could be very beneficial in preventing illness and strengthening your health. I also remembered my father, who had died some years previously after having suffered ill health for a number of years. He had taken numerous pills and medication, which although initially had helped, had also caused serious side effects. I wondered whether there might be some alternative ways to help.

Nacrobiotics image

At the hospital I had undergone a scan and a biopsy. The results had shown a malignant invasive tumour. The specialist had advized that I should go into hospital to have an operation within six weeks, followed by chemo and radiotherapy. As the operation would be at least six weeks away, I decided to trust my intuition, change my way of eating, find a Macrobiotics Consultant and read some books.

It sounds easy, but Macrobiotics Consultants are thin on the ground. On the internet, I discovered the UK Macrobiotics Society. I joined and also enrolled on a one day course ‘Introduction to Macrobiotics’ with Bob Lloyd and Jon Sandifer. This was a course on the art of Macrobiotic cooking and the philosophy of Macrobiotics. This one day proved very helpful, as it helped me learn a little about the basics of the cooking techniques and it confirmed to me that I felt I was on the right track. It was also here that I found the names of two recommended Macrobiotic Consultants, one in Devon, the other in High Wycombe. As High Wycombe is nearer to where I live, I made an appointment to see Daphne Watson.

Macrobiotics and My Diet

The term ‘Macrobiotics’, which comes from Greek, “macro” meaning large or long, and ‘bios’ meaning life, was first used by Hippocrates, the father of western medicine. Georges Ohsawa first introduced Macrobiotics to the west from Japan in the 50s. Michio Kushi has consolidated and further developed this area. It is about the study and application of universal principles and spiritual development. By studying the interactions between the food we eat, our lifestyles and the environment in which we live, we can enhance our health and longevity. It is about understanding the energetics of food and how it affects the individual. It helps you understand how to eat in a balanced way to maintain a healthy life.

Until then, I had considered I ate well. It was a fairly standard western diet. I ate fish, dairy produce (large quantities of cheese), vegetables, fruit, convenience foods and snacks. I drank copious cups of tea and coffee and some alcohol. I was not making a connection between the food I consumed and my health.

I went to the Macrobiotic consultation in April 2000. It lasted approximately three hours. The consultation is based on Macrobiotic Diagnosis. The Consultant uses traditional holistic methods of diagnosis including facial characteristics, skin tone, body structure, pulse taking, tongue diagnosis and possible health tendencies due to prior lifestyle and diet.

I was then put on a strict way of eating consisting mainly of whole grains (brown rice, millet and barley), vegetables, seaweed, miso and various fermented based soya products and other special dietary requirements specific for my condition. The percentage ratio for me between the different types of foods was mainly 50% whole grains, 30% vegetables, 10% pulses, 5% sea vegetables and 5% soups. I was also told to drink fresh carrot and vegetable juice on a regular basis. Oil, bread, fish and fruit were also off the menu for the first few months. Beverages were predominantly low caffeine Japanese tea. Raw food was not recommended and therefore any salad was pressed or blanched. It goes without saying that sugar and convenience foods were non-negotiable.

Miso (fermented soya beans) is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Sea vegetables are also very rich in calcium and minerals.

Although strict, it was also very varied and introduced me to new foods and a variety of new cooking methods. The quality and variety of the food facilitates the elimination of toxins, as they are very high in vitamins and minerals. The body gets a huge boost.

I was also recommended to exercise regularly

I went back home with this new method of cooking and eating. To practise and maintain it meant turning my previous life upside down. Nothing was pre-cooked; you have to cook everything. During the first two weeks, it must have taken me three hours to prepare my evening meal and it seemed like forever. I had to get up early, to prepare breakfast and take something to work to eat at lunchtime. I could no longer buy sandwiches, coffee was out. Dairy produce was off the agenda, so was drinking alcohol. It was a serious culture shock, which demanded focus and perseverance.

My world was turned upside down, but I was determined to practise it and give it my best shot.

As I went forward with the new menu, over the next few weeks, a strange thing happened, I started to feel better. My health improved and I started to regain energy. Aches and pains disappeared. I started to sleep soundly, something I had not done for many months. Another remarkable thing occurred, I had suffered from asthma since I was a child, and had always taken medication daily. This ailment started to decrease and after two months I ceased to take any medication. I have remained asthma free since then. After 40 years taking medication to manage asthma attacks, this is an additional huge benefit and freedom. I now breath more deeply and more easily.

When I returned to the medical Consultant after eight weeks in May 2000 to discuss the operation and course of medication they had advised, I told them that I had decided not to proceed with the operation or medication. The Consultant disagreed with my decision; however I believed in my decision and felt my health improving. I do believe however, that you need to take medical advice, listen carefully and keep in contact with the doctor. A good way forward is to work in tandem with both the Macrobiotic Consultant and doctor. What is right for one person may not be appropriate for another. You need to understand what is going on inside your body and decide what is appropriate. Above all, whatever action you take, mainstream, alternative or both, believe in it and have positive thoughts and focus on a successful outcome.

The reasons for my decision to continue with Macrobiotics was simple. I felt much better. My complete change of eating and lifestyle has helped me start to regain my health. I have continued to eat in a Macrobiotic way for the last two and a half years and have returned to see the Macrobiotic counsellor from time to time to review the diet and make changes in accordance with the changes in health. My health and energy levels have improved dramatically, I feel a different person to the person I was two years ago. I also exercise on a regular basis.

Conclusions

I have reflected on the events in my life during the past 30 months and I think now there are many ways to maintain and improve health and this will be different for every individual. This has worked for me. In my opinion, main areas to help maintain health are to eat a healthy diet, understand the effect on you of the food that you eat, maintain a healthy lifestyle and to think and act positively. Above all, believe in yourself and in what you do. Maintain a positive commitment to a successful outcome i.e. your own good health.

I note government health policy recommendations are to eat five portions of fresh vegetables and fruit on a daily basis help to maintain and improve your health. However, our western diet is heavily dependent on meat, dairy produce and sugar. These are all foods which if eaten in excessive quantities can have a detrimental effect on our health.

As I mentioned previously, Macrobiotics is a philosophy about the energetics of food, understanding the balance between Yin and Yang and eating in a balanced way for the individual. It is considered that health can start to deteriorate when we create imbalances and toxicity in our bodies by eating certain foods in excess and while ignoring other foods. We also need to consider our thought patterns. If we think in a negative or positive pattern this can lead to negative or positive outcomes.

Depending on the health of the individual a balance of foods needs to be maintained. Nothing is excluded. All people change and depending on the environment, lifestyle, age and health of the individual, we need to adapt and change our eating and dietary requirements accordingly.

It is a huge change from our western way of eating and thinking. However, keep an open mind. What Macrobiotics can do for you is to detoxify your system and regenerate your cells and metabolism. It makes you consider that what you eat has an effect on you, both positive and negative. As with our thoughts, both positive and negative, thoughts will affect your outlook.

The diet does need to be followed strictly if you are unwell and it is necessary to go to a recommended Macrobiotics Consultant for advice.

This period has transformed my life. Illness has helped me see the environment and my relationship with food in a new way.

Other factors which have proved beneficial and which I have practised regularly for the past 18 months are a variety of NLP techniques, acupuncture and Tuina. All these are beneficial and help to promote change, focus, balance and good health.

One of the reasons why I have written this article is to describe what has helped me regain my health. Initially I did not tell people why I had decided to eat differently. I did not want concern over the path I had decided to take; after all, it is not recommended medical advice. Now I think it is best for information to be available. Some people may agree and some may not, however it was right for me and good for my health.

Bibliography

1.    Kushi Michio and Esko Edward. The Macrobiotic Approach to Cancer. Avery Publishing Group Inc. 1991.
2.    Sandifer Jon and Lloyd Bob. Macrobiotics for Beginners. Judy Pratkus (Publishers) Limited. 2000.
3.    Kushi Michio and Jack Alex. The Cancer Prevention Diet. St Martins Press. 1993.
4.    Kushi Aveline and Jack Alex. Complete Guide to Macrobiotic Cooking. Warner Books. 1985.
5.    Kushi Michio. How to See Your Health: Book of Oriental Diagnosis. Japan Publications Inc. 1980.
6.    Dobic Mina. My Beautiful Life. Findhorn Press. 2000.
7.    Chopra Deepak. Quantum Healing. Bantam Books. 1990.
8.    Lawley James and Tomkins Penny. Metaphors in Mind. The Developing Press. 2000.
9.    O’Connor Joseph and McDermott Ian. Principles of NLP. Thorsons. 1996.
10.    Reichstein Gail. Wood becomes Water – Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life. Kodansha International. 1998.

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