There are incredible stories circulating about people who have used the macrobiotic diet to overcome incurable, end-stage cancer.
Unsurprisingly, people dealing with cancer typically find these stories incredibly compelling. One of the things that make a cancer diagnosis so overwhelming is the feeling of helplessness that it often brings both patients and loved ones.
While your cancer is outside of your control; diet and nutrition is something you can take control of.
Keep reading to find out:
- What is the macrobiotic diet?
- The benefits of eating this way
- What results have other cancer patients had?
- What does science say?
What is the Macrobiotic Diet?
Let’s start with the word – macrobiotic.
It’s a combination of two ancient Greek words macro; which means large or long, and bio; the Greek word that means life.
The macrobiotic diet is plant-based and was originally conceived by a Japanese philosopher called George Ohsawa in the 1920s. He concluded that we could live in greater harmony with nature by eating a simple, healthy diet.
According to Ohsawa; whole, living food possesses abundant energy and where it was grown and how it was prepared, among various other factors – affects how that food energy will flow.
So, when you eat, this energy is transferred to your body, influencing the way you feel and affecting your health.
He was also firmly convinced that a macrobiotic diet would also cure cancer and other serious illnesses.
Macrobiotic diets became trendy in the U.S. during the 1960s as a “counter-culture” eating approach that encouraged:
- Living with greater harmony,
- Adopting a positive mindset
- Viewing food as more than merely fuel
The aim of the macrobiotic diet is to avoid any foods that contain toxins.
Many people on a macrobiotic diet limit themselves to an entirely vegan diet (no dairy products or meats). But others follow a diet to that includes limited amounts of organically sourced fish and meat.
There are many different varieties of the macrobiotic diet being followed around the world, but most have the following things in common:
Complex carbohydrates; such as barley, brown rice, oats, millet, and corn make up a large part of the food eaten, totaling roughly 30% to 40% of daily calorie consumption.
Sea vegetables are a staple component of most macrobiotic diets. Sea vegetables are usually about 5% to 10% of total calories.
50% to 80% of calories on a macrobiotic diet will come from complex carbohydrates, composed of:
- 15% to 30% of healthy fats
- 10% to 20% of proteins
Even though carbohydrates are eaten in relatively high amounts – refined carbs like processed grains and pure sugar are typically avoided.
The Benefits of Eating this Way
Particular studies have discovered substantial evidence that macrobiotic-style diets support cardiovascular health, including by lowering your serum lipid levels and reducing blood pressure levels.
This conclusion isn’t surprising when you consider the broad range of both high-antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods that are eaten in a macrobiotic diet.
The macrobiotic diet is rich in dietary fiber because it includes all kinds of high-fiber foods, such as vegetables, beans, and ancient grains. Eating lots of fiber has been shown to mitigate cardiovascular disease risk factors by multiple mechanisms, including:
- Lipid reduction,
- Body weight regulation
- Improved glucose metabolism
- Blood pressure control
- Reduction of chronic inflammation
Similar to other whole food-based diets that get rid of junk foods, packaged food products, processed drinks, and fried and fast foods; the macrobiotic diet is extremely low in refined sugar, fats, and artificial ingredients.
This makes for a highly nutrient-dense diet that’s high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C, and fiber while remaining low in overall calories.
The diet can have potential benefits for people with food allergies because it eliminates many allergens that may cause indigestion, such as; dairy, virtually all wheat gluten and nightshade plants (such as tomatoes).
One major drawback is that macrobiotic diets will tend to include high quantities of high-sodium foods, consisting mostly of things like soy sauce, fermented soy products, and those sea vegetables mentioned earlier.
The Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer
While diet is only one component in a complex puzzle when it comes to cancer prevention, and results will vary from one person to another; research strongly suggests that eating a macrobiotic diet may help to lower your risk of developing cancer in part by supplying extraordinarily high levels of antioxidants and phytoestrogens.
A 2011 paper published in the Journal of Nutrition states that,
“On the basis of available evidence and its similarity to dietary recommendations for chronic disease prevention, the macrobiotic diet probably carries a reduced cancer risk.”
Women who consume a macrobiotic diet will tend to have slightly lower circulating estrogen levels – which has been tied to significantly lowering your risk for breast cancer.
The various macrobiotic diets may do this by providing large amounts of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens) from foods like sesame seeds and fermented soy products.
These foods might help regulate the production of natural estrogen by binding to the estrogen receptor sites in your body.
While excess estrogen can come with certain health risks; in the case of women older than 50 who are experiencing a natural decrease in estrogen levels during menopause – the extra estrogen from this diet could help reduce their cancer risk, along with the other health benefits of following a plant-based diet.
What does science say?
The macrobiotic diet is one of the most popular dietary approaches to treating many chronic diseases, including cancer, but few studies have proven any effectiveness in either preventing disease or managing it.
More research needs to be done before we can draw any reliable conclusions about this diet’s potential healing benefits.
Concerns about the Macrobiotic Diet and Cancer
There are serious concerns regarding the treatment of cancer using a dietary approach, including:
- Life-threatening delays of medical treatments or doctor visits
- Hindered immune function from nutritional deficiencies, such as too little protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B, and vitamin D
- Eating too few calories, which may cause fatigue and muscle loss
Many people also find that following a macrobiotic diet can create social limitations due to strictly adhering to the diet that makes it hard to maintain.
Furthermore, macrobiotic foods can be hard to find, while salt intake on this diet plan is too high according to some medical professionals.
And, for obvious reasons – there’s substantial disagreement about the requirement that dieters eliminate almost all fruits.
If You Have an Existing Condition
These are all valid concerns about using the macrobiotic diet.
And anyone considering following a macrobiotic diet should weigh them against
- Personal preferences
- State of your overall health
But, if you have an existing condition, like heart disease or cancer, or if you take medications, you should ask your doctor before you start any new way of eating to avoid risking your health or experiencing any signs or symptoms of poor health.
A Final Word
Evidence shows that a plant-based, macrobiotic diet can be a significantly effective way to improve your overall health by:
- Helping to reduce your blood pressure
- Lessen the risk of developing diabetes
- Help you maintain a healthy body weight
- Reduce inflammation
The increased anti-oxidant and phytoestrogen of a macrobiotic intake may also act to prevent the development of certain cancers.
But, so far, there is no scientific evidence that shows that following a macrobiotic diet will help treat or cure anyone currently fighting cancer.