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Macrobiotics Diets

By Shihan Mary Bolz
Licensed Acupuncturist
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctoral Fellow, FBU
Master Martial Arts Instructor

The standard macrobiotic diet as developed by George Oshawa of Japan is one of these diets based on the traditional Oriental medicine theories and upon Japan’s own traditional diet. This consists of 50-60% grain, being rice, and specifically unrefined rice, which is brown rice. The rest being mostly vegetable foods, including sea vegetables in abundance not only land vegetables. Meat eating has traditionally been very rare, as far as mammals and birds, but Japanese people have been eating fish for a long time. Taking the vegetables and the fish from the sea as food would seem very reasonable of an archipelago nation.

In Traditional Oriental Medicine, it is understood that there is a deep and specific relationship between nutrition and diseases. Cancer develops from chronic degeneration of the blood and lymph fluid. Once we realize that cancer is the result of a general body-wide deterioration, we can better appreciate the body’s attempt to concentrate the cancerous cells in a particular location to prevent the organism as a whole from being poisoned. The location of this concentration depends upon which type of food is primarily responsible for the formation of the cancerous cells. At the core of Traditional Oriental Medicine, is the theory of yin and yang. The various internal organs are divided this way, as well as the entire universe. Likewise, we can divide two types of cancer according to cause, dividing into yin and yang. The first results from excess yang foods such as eggs, meat, fish, and some types of dairy food. The second is caused by excessive intake of yin, such as soft drinks, sugar, milk, citrus, stimulants, chemicals, refined food and grain products, and spices and alcohol. In general, if the cancer appears in the more deep parts of the body, or if it involves the more yang, compacted organs, it is caused by the over consumption of yang foods. Yin-caused cancers usually develop at the periphery of the body, or in the more yins, hollow organs. This classification is not absolute, however. Although cancer arises as the result of a predominance of one factor, the opposite factor is also involved, even though to a lesser degree. For example, cancers which result from the over consumption of yang foods also require an intake of yin, since this provides the stimulus for tumor growth. Thus, cancer was unknown among the Eskimos until sugar and other products of civilization were introduced. The inclusion of these extremely yin items provided the necessary stimulus for their normally very yang diet to lead to the formation of a variety of cancers.

Oriental medicine diagnosis looks at the base constitution and the imbalance in each person and is individualized and personalized in nature. The foods chosen in therapy match closely the individual’s condition and constitution. Each person has a different condition even though they all have the Western diagnosis of cancer. In addition, certain foods are emphasized because of their specific anticancer properties in the Chinese systems. In addition, many Chinese herbs have anticancer properties while at the same time they promote the natural healing ability of the body’s own cells and tissues, and the entire human organism. Natural medicine (natural herbs and plants) never kill the organisms own cells or weaken the organism’s natural immune system even though they are good at destroying the cancer or making it difficult for the cancer cells to proliferate.

The radical treatment therapies of Western medicine are best utilized on the strong person with excess signs (robust constitution, ruddy complexion, strong pulses, and active, outward personality), whose cancer is growing rapidly. X-rays, chemotherapy and surgery further weaken the organism and those with excess conditions can better afford this.

The traditional oriental approach is to build up the system so that it can naturally overcome the cancer. However, because many Americans are overly built-up already, with layer upon layers of excess, extreme therapies that tear down the organism in general at the same time that they destroy the heart of the excess–the cancerous growth–are sometimes successful. Certainly, the fruit-and-vegetable-juice therapies have a reducing effect as well. When oxygenation therapies and purgative herbs are added, the net result is a nontoxic type of chemotherapy that destroys the cancer in stages by gradually reabsorbing it into the blood (parenteral digestion). Tumors in the digestive tract may simply break up and be excreted. Thus, cancer therapies should not only be seen in terms of dualities such as “natural” versus “unnatural.” A more accurate view is a continuum of therapies, starting with the gentlest and progressing to the most drastically purging.

The same type of diet and foods cannot be applied to everyone. There is no “cancer diet.” It is important that the individual’s constitution, condition, and underlying pattern imbalance between the organs and the Five Elemental systems be understood first and then the proper dietary recommendations can be made. The same principles hold true to acupuncture. After understanding each individual’s pattern, then the proper acupoint prescription can be given, which varies between individuals, even though they have the same cancer. Then, also, there are reducing and supplementing techniques with the needling, depending on which points need to be supplemented or reduced in the particular individual.

Likewise, the herbal formula prescriptions are well organized, some herbs supplement the normal Qi, some herbs reduce the excess, different herbs have affinity for different organs, they can heat up, cool down, promote blood flow, stop bleeding, cleanse, etc. It is quite a complicated science and art, and one so well organized and with so many centuries of success continuing through this day, it is truly admirable. What is an added benefit is that there are no dangerous side effects when used appropriately by experienced practitioners. There is not the level of toxicity of modern pharmaceutical drugs. They are safe and effective.

There are different dietary approaches depending on the type of cancer. For excess types, the type of eating is more for gently reducing the toxic excesses that feed the cancer; pathogenic organisms, and degenerative diseases in those who are weak, frail, anemic, cold or otherwise deficient. This type of diet is primarily grains, vegetables, seaweeds, legumes, sprouts, herbs, micro algae, omega-3 and GLA foods and oils, and small amount of spices. This diet includes some raw vegetables or sprouts if desired by the patient, but most food is cooked, either moderately for those with signs of severe coldness or deficiency, or lightly cooked for all others. Recommended herbs are mildly cleansing, yet tonifying and immunity enhancing. Seaweeds are taken unless there is diarrhea. Whole fruits (not their juices) are taken in moderation; they can be stewed in cases of extreme weakness, and should be avoided if they exacerbate Candida symptoms or cause loose stools. Some supplementation with fish or other animal food may be necessary. Proportions of foods in the daily diet are: 45% grains, 35% vegetables, 10% fruit, 5% beans and other legumes; 5% of other recommended foods.

Another way of eating eliminates disease-producing toxins more quickly and is appropriate for those who show strength, strong pulses, and have neither loose stools nor signs of coldness (chills, aversion to cold, pallor, and great attraction to warmth). This diet consists of fruits and vegetables and their juices, wheat-grass juice, seaweeds, and the sprouts of seeds, grains, and legumes; also includes omega-3 GLA foods and oils, and appropriate micro-algae, spices and herbs that eliminate toxins and enhance immunity. Cooked grain is eaten once a day, and lightly cooked vegetables and sprouts as well as raw vegetable-sprout salads are on the daily fare. Proportions of foods in the daily diet are: 35% sprouted grains, legumes, and seeds, 45% vegetables and fruits and their juices, 10% other recommended foods.

A third type of dietary regime reduces excess and toxins very rapidly and is most appropriate for the often-constipated, relatively strong individual who exhibits excess signs such as thick tongue coating, loud voice, strong pulses, extroverted personality, and who also may have signs of heat–aversion to heat, red face, great thirst, deep red tongue, and/or yellow tongue coating. The diet is the same basically, as the previous one except for a daily vegetable soup, purgative, highly cleansing herbs and frequent enemas are given. Juice dosage is up to 10 cups of fruit and vegetable juices daily. Wheat grass is 2 ounces of juice three times a day or two heaping teaspoons of wheat- or barley-grass powder three times a day.

The above three types are generalized ways of eating. There are many other factors to consider and other treatments combined with them. When choosing the diet type correctly, it is important that the person does not self-diagnose their type. An experienced Oriental medicine practitioner is required for the correct diagnosis of the body type and condition, and can then give dietary regimen, herbs. and acupuncture appropriately. You cannot just take any herbs because you have heard they have anticancer properties. It is much more complicated than that. Thus, you need to seek professional guidance from a well-trained practitioner.

There are also external treatments in the form of compresses that can help reduce cancerous tumors and draw out toxic substances through the skin. For example, depending on the type of cancer, a compress/plaster made of the taro root is excellent at drawing out the toxin and can be applied daily until the tumor (s) shrinks. There are also sophisticated, well-thought-out external herbal compresses that are prescribed by Traditional Oriental Medicine practitioners that are very useful in accomplishing this.

While a person needs guidance in how to do this, after the practitioner makes up the correct prescription, the person can apply these external plasters and compresses at home. It is important to be proactive and decide to be well, besides getting the correct treatment on a physical level.

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