"We ain't getting' healthier
Think about this for a moment.
In 1960, 1 out of 4 people had cancer. Today it is 1 out of 3. Estimates
reason that this could grow to 1 out of 2 within the next 15 years.
This means that over half the population will have some form of
pre-cancer or developed cancer.
Since President Nixon declared a "war on cancer" over
35 years ago the incidence of cancer has increased to a mind-boggling
40%. Last year, well over 1,250,000 Americans were diagnosed with
The real economics of cancer treatment are absurdly exorbitant:
Cancer treatment expenditures, for treatment and research, are close
to $100 billion annually ($100,000,000,000). The chemotherapy part
of that figure, in 1995, was approximately, $8.5 billion.
Cancer deaths are not widely advertised, but are definitely increasing;
despite some fluctuations that prompt media outlets to claim cancer
is in decline. Cancer has overtaken heart disease as America's #
1 killer. In spite of the best therapy that conventional medicine
has to offer, this year, over 650,000 Americans will suffer and
die from cancer.
Greed We Trust.
Here's some corporate irony: the Bristol Myers company owns patents
on twelve of the nearly forty "FDA-approved" chemotherapeutic
drugs. The president, past president, chairman of the board, and
a couple of the directors of Bristol Myers all hold, or have held,
chief positions on the board at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Some Back Story
-"You have a large mass
in your chest, Mr. Varona
"I'm sorry, you'll have to repeat that. I swear I heard you
say, 'mass' "
-"You heard correctly. I can only assume that this has been
growing for a while and that it has already spread. If it is lymphoma,
as we suspect, without chemotherapy, you may have no longer than
10 months to live. And, if so, I would suggest that you get your
affairs in order."
The echo of those words from
an oncologist reading my CT scan lingered heavily in the emergency
medical room air around me. This had to be a very bad dream. It
had all the surreal markings of a dream; a strong sense of present
moment, diffused background that seemed like a blur and a sense
that I was watching it all on a big screen. But, it wasn't.
Nor was the pain that I felt
in the middle of my chest as I surfed the channels of a southwest
hotel television that evening after a long day of radio and television
appearances to promote my book, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods."
I drove myself to the ER, asked for an x-ray and presumed that my
pain had something to do with inflammation. Minor stuff I figured.
& My Shadow
The x-ray technician told
me that I had a "shadow" on my chest x-ray and would require
a CT scan. I had to really think about this recommendation, especially
knowing that one CT scan can be the equivalent to over 133 regular
lung x-rays. With panic as my co-pilot, I gave the go-ahead.
I had some heart pressure, zero appetite and the fatigue I recently
noticed was increasing. I needed to know what the diagnostics would
reveal. Because my "mass of 7 centimeters," was centralized
near my aortic archway, a center of the lymph network, the oncologist
suggested, in very confident terms, that I had "probable lymphoma."
Now, to me, this was clearly,
impossible! I had been macrobiotic for almost 30 years-how could
this be? I returned to LA and immediately got three other medical
opinions. All the same: "Probable lymphoma with a life expectancy
of 8 to 12 months, if left untreated." If treated, "perhaps
15 to 18 months, with potential side effects from the chemo...."
I took matters into my own
hands, refused a biopsy and left what felt like the unhealthiest
place in the country-Los Angeles. I moved, of all places, to Omaha,
Nebraska. I had some good friends there and a special friend that
generously offered caring support and encouragement.
Stress, for the first time in years, became non-existent. I meditated,
did daily visualizations, took morning walks in the woods, and watched
plentiful deer and wild turkeys freely roam the rural property I'd
I ate small volumes of medicinal macrobiotic fare, chewed each mouthful
a gazillion times and did some serious self-reflection on the life
that I'd been living and the changes I wanted to make. I reconnected
with a number of forgotten friends, asked forgiveness from others,
gave forgiveness where it was warranted and read everything I could
on alternative treatments.
I found it ironic that I was the author of a book on Cancer and
diet, and here I was, barely three months after its national print
release, fighting my own "cancer." I lost a great deal
of weight from my strict low-fat regime, but reminded myself that
vanity had to take a backseat to healing.
Within only a week of my strict
regime I began to feel radiant, more positive, energetic and hopeful.
After three months of this, I had another scan to check how much
this mass had reduced. I was certain that it was now, at least,
half the size. But, diagnostics proved me wrong. It had actually
Now, it was 11 centimeters-and growing! It seemed that no matter
what I attempted to offset, slow or reverse this condition, it had
a mind of its own and was determined to grow. My oncologist feared
the worst. Suddenly, despite a usually positive disposition, I was
dismal at the probability of an early death.
A week later I entered the
hospital for a two-day stay and had the long avoided biopsy. Afterward,
the surgeon appeared at my bedside and I remember thinking, while
still in a drug groggy state, that the worst news was imminent.
I braced myself and once again, everything suddenly seemed dream-like
as the surgeon's voice monotone began echoing through my head.
"Mr. Varona, you're going
to be all right. You don't have cancer. As a matter of fact, you
didn't even have a tumor. Had we done an MRI of the lungs, which
is not all that common because it's moving tissue, we would have
known. But, the CT scan made it appear as a solid mass. You actually
had a fluid cyst, that's all-and we think it was congenital. We
drained it, pulled it out by its root and your surrounding tissue
looks very healthy. You're gonna be fine. Have a nice weekend."
And with that, he smiled,
waved like the Lone Ranger and galloped out of the room. I was preparing
to die, but suddenly, I was in a different movie. I spent about
5 months dealing with this and going through the stages that most
cancer patients typically go through- the tears, anger, denial,
fear, sadness, remorse, etc. What I heard from the surgeon's lips
in that little hospital room was every cancer patient's dream: "You
don't have cancer
This experience had a profound
effect on my character, my view of sickness, of modern medicine,
and of how I was trained to look at cancer through a very conceptual
macrobiotic prism. In this article I want to share how I now view
cancer through a redefined macrobiotic perspective. The opinions
that follow, are my own and not of any party line, group consciousness
or commercial interest. However, I have an amazing new super everything
supplement, and if you know just 20 people
Back to the Top
Know-It-All& His Time-Line Diagnosis
First of all, I believe that
physicians, oncologists or surgeons have absolutely no right to
give patients a timeline of death. It's presumptuous, arrogant and
more often than not, inaccurate. The negative psychological power
of such a prediction often does more harm than good. People are
If everyone who is immediately diagnosed with cancer returns home,
suffers from post-diagnostic anxiety, continues to eat the same
poor food and maintain the identical unhealthy lifestyle, that they
had in the past, in that case, perhaps then they might fit within
a statistical disease category.
People are unique individuals
with amazing potential for transformation on every level, including
cellular. For those who are adventurous enough to change multiple
aspects of their lives, beginning with foundational ones such as
food and lifestyle, the possibility of exceptional healing is
a possibility. Expect a miracle, I always say.
However, the real work is
to expect a miracle without the psychological attachment of thinking
that a miracle must happen. It's the attachment that often generates
low-level, constant stress. What will be, will be. You give it your
best shot, pray and keep focused on what you want.
I once asked a 4th stage cancer
client how he related to all his failed attempts at alternative
healing. He thought for a moment and said: "It's been said
that, 'The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get
for it, but what they become by it,' - I never understood that until
'The highest reward for a person's toil is not what
they get for it, but what they become by it
We need an expanded mindset
to comprehend the possibilities of why someone develops a cellular
mutiny such as cancer. I do not believe that a client's dietary
slip of cookies, some baked goods or flour snacks qualify as the
primary reason for their cancer spreading.
This flies in the face of so many factors that we know contribute
to a growing cancer. In fact, considering all that
we now know about cancer, such reasoning is intellectually insulting.
We know that for some cancers
a genetic history has its influence, as does: environmental toxins,
building construction toxins, pesticides, x-rays and gamma rays,
cosmetic contaminants, emotional factors, tobacco excess, BBQ fats,
daily life stress, excess animal protein and fat consumption, simple
sugar intake, etc- the list seems endless.
Recently, the FDA found significant traces of 60-80 pesticides in
the average American food-shopping basket. Yet, to this date, no
further research, or product banning has been authorized.
But, it's rarely one simple
reason. A number of factors conspire to weaken our immunity, making
us more susceptible to cancer's growth. Apparently, we all have
some degree of cancerous cells floating around our blood stream.
It is the susceptibility of a damaged cellular DNA and a weakened
immune system no longer effectively combative that gives cancer
cells a green light to progress.
Back to the Top
Your Body Heals
That said, we should examine
the role that food plays in restoring our health. Food, as a substance
that becomes part of our blood chemistry and influences our entire
physiology, helps our body prevent and overcome disease in four
Food's nutritional matrix fortifies our blood and cellular activity-The
reduced acid residue from a diet of whole plant foods such as whole
grain, vegetable, sea vegetable, beans, with smaller quantities
of animal protein, oils and fruit provides our bodies with absorbable
In some cases, more concentrated nutrients from herbs, medicinal
mushrooms, enzymes, a variety of fibrous foods, a wide range of
phytochemicals from green, yellow and orange vegetables, reduced
food volumes and low acid-residue foods all contribute to creating
a stronger nutritional profile that fortifies our resistance to
Balanced food and a healthy lifestyle also enhances our
immune system-Most health books are always recommending immunity
nutraceuticals, such as Maitake, Essiac, Red Clover/Poke root teas,
Chlorella, Burdock and a variety of standardized Beta-Glucans. While
these products have merit and some research to support a positive
influence on immunity, the first line of defense is to simply not
weaken our immunity. Simple sugar consumption, poor sleep and emotional
stress are toxic influences for the health of natural killer (NK)
In some studies that go back
to 1975, just 100 grams of sugar (from orange juice, in this particular
study) depressed immune function for 4 to 6 hours. Alcohol and caffeine
also take their toll on immunity. This may be inconsequential for
those in good health, but for someone with cancer these foods and
substances can only hinder healing.
Consistent emotional suppression and depression equally wear on
our immunity, as does lack of sleep, poor quality sleep and consistent
late nights that throw off our biological clocks and alter the release
of critical natural body chemicals such as melatonin and cortical
hormone. I am convinced from personal experience, client follow-ups,
hundreds of interviews with cancer survivors and current nutritional
research, that this is how we heal: we strengthen our immunity in
order to halt further progression of cancer.
Real healing is not about
"super-nutrients," special "cancer-fighting foods"
(apologies to the title department at my publisher) or any one wonder,
Amazon, miracle herb or exotic, berry juice. They may all contribute
to enhancing our ability to heal, but in the end, it all seems to
relate to making sure that we are first not doing things to weaken
our immunity, instead of always thinking of ways to bolster immunity.
Regulating Your Blood Sugar - In the last 10 years we've
learned much about
blood sugar metabolism and the role that irregular blood sugar contributes
to inflammation and tumor growth. The best strategy is to eat in
a wholesome natural way that promotes a consistent and regulated
blood sugar. Eating whole grains (whole and not flour products which
are particles and can negatively influence blood sugar), vegetables,
beans and sea vegetables with small amounts of fruit and animal
protein helps maintain an even blood sugar. One of the worst culprits
for making blood sugar dance all over the place is irregular eating
The longer you wait between meals the more likely you'll end up
with a lower blood sugar, which invariably stimulates strong, hard-to-resist
cravings for sweets or overeating. Often, missing afternoon meals
and waiting until dinner to fill up fosters late night eating habits,
which in turn, hinders sleep and immune function. All of these factors
conspire with each other.
Strengthening Your Detox Ability - The balance of your
carbohydrate, fat and protein ratios, as well as your food quality,
dramatically influence our body's ability to naturally detoxify.
Eating a whole food diet, as suggested within this article strengthens
the organs of elimination (kidneys, liver, intestines, lymph and
skin), as it promotes better circulation to make the natural process
of daily detoxing more efficient.
Research has shown that the outer phosphorous covering of whole
grains bond to toxins and can also reduce high estrogen levels associate
with a high fat diet. Miso, as a source of alkalized fermentation
can enhance intestinal bacteria to promote better absorption and
a cleaner gut. Many simple whole foods can stimulate our body to
This process can be also be
helped by daily exercise, infrared saunas, skin brushing and reduced
meal volumes. I believe it's only our sense of the dramatic that
wants to do a detox purge to "clean out" our body.
In many cases, extreme detox therapies such as mono-eating, fasting,
folk medicine compresses and fomentations can actually burden the
body with released toxins that overwhelm the filtering organs. Better
to change the diet, regulate daily activity and eat reduced volumes
for at least one month before attempting any detoxing therapies.
This will make your detox experience less toxic and burdensome to
Back to the Top
Real Skinny on Chemotherapy
The underlying principle of
chemotherapy is to kill cancer by administering chemicals that interfere
with the process of cell division. Chemotherapy accomplishes this
either by damaging the proteins involved, or by damaging the DNA
itself. This causes the damaged cells to commit suicide (by apoptosis-cell
Often, you'll hear about some
celebrity or noted individual who is diagnosed with some form of
cancer, then undergoes heavy chemotherapy and suddenly within several
months, announces to media that, "I'm cancer-free-the tumors
are gone!" The print media will relentlessly talk about this
person's "courageous battle with cancer." Personally,
I can't see it as courageous.
Perhaps, misinformed is a more appropriate term. It seems suicidal
to pour concentrations of toxins into your system and hope you can
survive the onslaught. Or maybe it's just blatant gullibility. Those
guys in the white coats can be very convincing. Most oncologists,
if you can engage them in an honest conversation, will confide that
based on what they've seen, they'd never even entertain undergoing
chemotherapy if they were diagnosed.
In many cases of a cancer
"cure" with chemotherapy, within a period of 6 months
to a year afterward, the cancer frequently "returns",
and with a vengeance. In most cases, it never left. The chemo might
have reduced or made primary tumors disappear, but its toxicity
ends up weakening the individuals natural immunity to a point where
the body can no longer marshal enough immune function to keep the
cancer from progressing. Technically, you're not considered "cured"
until you've been cancer-free for five years. However, this has
not stopped people in the news from making misleading cure claims.
That tumor disappeared, but sadly, the patent expired..."
In a very small percentage
of cases, short-term chemo has proved promising, allowing the individual
to buy time from a tumor that might be structurally threatening
nerve or organ function, but all too frequently it destroys too
many healthy cells to justify depending on it as a therapy.
If you've been diagnosed with cancer and your physician tells you
that with chemo you have a "good chance", ask him if he's
talking about "tumor response rate," or "tumor shrinkage,"
vs survival rate. All too often, the concern is for the tumor disappearing,
but not in the patient's long-term survival. "Yes! That tumor
disappeared, but sadly
the patent expired."
This is a distinction that
is often misleading and prompts people to undergo chemotherapy with
false hope-and typically incapacitating side effects. Like the famous
tramp clown, Emmett Kelly, who used to wield a giant sledge hammer
to crack open a tiny peanut shell, chemotherapy represents this
identical act. It is, literally, overkill.
Dr. Ralph Moss,author of eight
books relating to cancer,pens the Cancer Chronicles newsletter and
is a well-respected researcher and alternative medicine advocate.
Ross wrote Questioning Chemotherapy and cited that according to
his charted research, chemotherapy may only be effective in the
short term for the following conditions: Acute Iymphocytic leukemia,
Hodgkin's disease, and Nonseminomatous Testicular Cancer, as well
as for a few rare forms of cancer, such as Choriocarcinoma, Wilm's
tumor, and Retinoblastoma.
But all of these cancers account for only 3% to 6% of all cancers
occurring in the United States. This leaves some 94% to 97% of other
cancers, in which chemotherapy cannot eliminate the disease.
The vast majority of common cancers, such as breast, colon, and
lung cancer are hardly affected by chemotherapy. Another category,
recently added, where chemotherapy has a relatively minor "successful"
effect is Stage 3 ovarian cancer, where it appears to extend life
by an average of eighteen months, as well as small-cell lung cancer
in which treatment offers an additional six months.
'Good to Go' After 28 Days?
The legitimacy of a national organization designed to protect the
public can only be questioned when the battle focuses on definitions
that seem to be politically motivated in favor of "Big Pharma.",
case in point: The FDA defines an "effective" cancer drug
as one that achieves a 50% or more reduction in tumor size for at
least 28 days. But, in the vast majority of cases there is absolutely
no correlation between shrinking tumors for 28 days and the cure
of the cancer, or the extension of life.
It's delusional to think that you can drug a body into wellness.
Cancer is a systemic disorder, which means it involves the entire
human organism. You have to nourish not only the body, but the mind
and spirit. The cancer may reveal itself in a particular organ or
site, but it's the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The affected site
is suspected to be one's genetic weak link.
Approximately, 96% of all
cancer survivors of chemotherapy have a relapse after 5 years. Cancer
is an anaerobic organism (without oxygen), which thrives in an acidic,
low oxygen, dark, moist environment. Cancer feeds on glucose and
secretes lactic acid as a by-product. The liver then converts this
lactic acid back into glucose, so you end up with a viscous cycle
of the cancer literally feeding itself.
One of the factors in healing is to create greater systemic alkalinity
by reducing common acidic foods, which can provide higher levels
of oxygen to the tissues and reduce, or cut off, the supply of glucose
to the tumor.
Back to the Top
Ideals Compete with Reality -
The Macrobiotic Irrelevance Of Classifying Cancers According to
"Yin and Yang"
I recently took a telephone
call from a prospective client who complained, "I'm so confused
about this macrobiotic theory--- not sure if I have a yin or yang
cancer. Now, lemme get this stuff straight: if I have a yin cancer,
then I can eat some meat, because meat is more yang, correct?"
incorrect. And, thoroughly confusing. Let me offer another perspective:
George Ohsawa, one of the
early synthesizers of the cultural, philosophical and dietary template
for which he borrowed the name of "macrobiotics," initially
looked at cancer in terms of it's nature. Based on the fact that
cancer cells multiply, an act of expanding force, he classified
it as a "yin" condition. Ohsawa suggested that the dietary
basis of healing cancer should include avoiding yin foods and to
move toward a more yang approach in food selection and cooking techniques.
Michio Kushi, a student of
Mr. Ohaswa during the late 1940s developed another theory in the
late early 70s suggesting there were yin cancers and yang types
of cancer. That is to say, certain cancers were due to an abundance
of yin food, while others were instigated from the over-consumption
of yang foods. This distinction also separated them into specific
areas of the body, organ involvement and rate of growth.
It's the author's opinion
that using the terms, Yin and Yang---with all due respect to the
general brilliance of Mr. Kushi---is archaic, unnecessary and consistently
confusing to many. They are easily misunderstood terms and foreign
to our lexicon. Using classical Chinese terminology of Yin and Yang
as a reference can be alienating to many, particularly if they're
not familiar with the nuances of Asian philosophy.
What is difficult to comprehend, even by many macrobiotic students
themselves, is the dynamic nature of these opposites and how they
exist in combination with one another as opposed to sole entities.
It is not a linear philosophy where you simply say something is
yin, or something is yang. This is one of the biggest novice mistakes
made by macrobiotic people in conversation; "That's very yin,"
or, "I feel yang
" The layers of combination cannot
be conveyed in such pat observations.
I suspect that one of the
reasons Mr. Kushi made this distinction in classifying cancers by
yin and yang categories was to show how specific extremes predispose
one to different cancers; animal protein excess often manifests
itself in the lower body (as in prostate), while sugar excess revealed
itself in to the upper body (such as breast, throat and brain).
From this perspective, it's helpful to understand which dietary
excess might be one of the causes or instigators of a particular
cancer, but in reality, both extremes always contribute to systemic
degeneration, the weakening immune function, increasing anaerobic
bacteria and diminishing nutritional profiles.
And, the dietary prescription
will always be the same: Initially, varying percentages of whole
grains, vegetables, sea vegetables, and beans. Small volumes of
fish, oils and fruit are recommended according to individual cravings,
to maintain one's weight, and as possible supplementary fare, but
not as principle food.
I've heard macrobiotic people
with cancer talk self-righteously about the evils of including fruit
in their cancer protocol, yet sit there with a giant plate of food
and stuff their guts until they couldn't move. It may be wise to
remember Ohsawa's dictum that, "quantity changes quality."
A lot of good food is counter-productive to healing. We need smaller
volumes eaten more frequently so that our bodies will find an easier
time to digest and process. In some cases, a small piece of fruit
may satisfy the person's sweet craving and avoid taxing the liver
and digestive system with an onslaught of food.
Up Our Own Chinese
To make matters even more
complicated, Ohsawa, in an ambitious effort to simplify this classification
system, reversed some of the definitions of yin and yang that Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM) had been using and writing about in their
classical medical texts for thousands of years.
So now you have a group of
modern people who are using an ancient Chinese system of classifying
phenomena, but have made their own rules based on their own philosophical
reasoning. For TCM practitioners this has always devalued macrobiotic
medical theories and for the general public it has proved confusing
and questionable. I fail to see any practicality in this.
Observing life with an unprejudiced view will confirm that all phenomena
appear in degrees of opposition; hot and cold, light and dark, inflammation
and constriction, back and front, centrifugal and centripetal, aerobic
and anaerobic, strong and weak, acid and alkaline, etc. Physically,
as well as magnetically, there are natural laws that govern these
extremes; like repels like, and opposites attract, etc.
There is no doubt that extremes exist and have natural laws that
govern them. However, we might better relate to these extremes in
a plain language that describes their tendencies, such as expansion
and contraction, acid and alkaline, or inflammation and constriction-any
English term denoting such tendencies will do.
While we are a melting pot culture, we should maintain clear definitions
and in one language that is familiar. Most languages contain foreign
phrases, but using important classification phrases that have varied
definitions from another language has not proven user-friendly.
vs. Physical "Reality,"
Energetics vs. Physical "Reality,"
is the ongoing conflict between alternative medicine, particularly
macrobiotic theory, and western medicine. Many macrobiotic theories
are based on the science of energetics, while modern medicine prides
itself on what can be observed physically.
There are still many scientists
that question acupuncture because they cannot accept that 5,000
years ago the ancient Chinese mapped out invisible pathways (meridians)
of energy that run throughout the body, relate to different organ
systems and can be either stimulated or sedated via meridian points
with needles, heat or touch. We know it often works, but, from a
physical perspective, we still wonder why.
When you look at a lot of
macrobiotic theory, you see numerous energetic references, many
of which were constructed by concept and philosophical assumption.
This rarely flies for a pragmatic scientific audience or the governing
body of medical professionals who, generally, are not in touch with
what you cannot see, or quantitatively measure. Both sides need
to give a bit.
If macrobiotic practitioners want to be taken seriously by the general
public and the medical establishment, and God knows they vitally
need this information, we have to find ways to easily illustration
this information without resorting to philosophical assumption,
relying on anecdotal testimony or making sweeping statements that
seriously undermine our credibility.
Back to the Top
Low -Fat, Low-Protein & The Weight-Loss Dilemma
With Killer Appetites
Now, if such detailed theoretics
is giving you a headache over your right eye, allow me to simplify
further: From a dietary basis, the little that we know about cancers
is that simple sugar (strong acid-forming foods) fuels cancer development.
Cancer cells are the first to take up blood glucose. This is the
basis of a medical PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography. See:
Because malignant cells grow
at a rapid rate, they end up metabolizing more sugar than normal
cells. Diagnostically, this gives your physician a glimpse into
how aggressive a tumor might be, or how its growth can be slowed
by conventional treatment therapies. At the same time, excessive
animal protein and fat has been implicated in a number of male cancers,
including colon cancer.
In essence, both extremes contribute to this condition. In fact,
basic nutrition teaches that protein breaks down into amino acids,
which are absorbed through the small intestine's lining to enter
the bloodstream. However, excess amino acids are actually converted
to fats and sugars.
Unknown to many is the hormonal
havoc that concentrated and refined sugar plays with our system.
And, our addiction is only growing. You can hardly buy a bag of
cookies from a natural food market that do not contain simple sugar.
They put a tuxedo on sugar by calling it "Evaporated Cane Sugar,"
or, "Organic Raw," but 'a rose by any other name would
still smell as sweet.' Don't be duped. They put simple sugars in
packaged salmon, tomato sauce, beans, rice cakes, even rice and
soy milks---and more, all to entice consumer dollars by catering
to our national sweet-tooth. Sugar, in more secretive clothing,
has crept back into the natural food market by now being advertised
An Extra Helping of Beans!"
One of our esteemed Japanese
macrobiotic teachers used to recommend a diet drastically low in
protein. His contention was that protein breakdown by-products have
been noted to promote cancer growth, so his diet limited concentrated
proteins (beans, tempeh, tofu, etc.) to once or twice weekly.
While many people visiting his center did well initially, they were
not able to maintain such a drastic approach. While visiting there
as a guest lecturer, I listened to many people tell me that they
were constantly hungry, found the food unsatisfying and were constantly
craving protein and oil.
Many were compensating by
overeating, yet were still losing weight. What they achieved by
overeating was not weight gain, but the unexpected result of more
frequent bowel movements. Very few continued their regime when they
returned home. When people with cancer come to macrobiotics and
experience dramatic weight loss, emotionally, their body image suffers.
Initially, many are ecstatic about losing weight that they've carried
for years, but at a certain point, it becomes depressing.
In the back of their mind, they equate, as most physicians do, weight
loss with cancer progression, regardless of the degree of their
health consciousness. They'd look in he mirror, see wrinkled, sagging
flesh and suddenly feel hopeless. "I'm a shadow of myself
one man complained. His voice was the personification of defeat.
It's vanity,s revenge and for many, something difficult to overcome.
However, it's not just a vanity
issue; loss of hope can lead to doubts about mortality, mood swings
and depression. Dietarily, in an effort to compensate for a lack
of meal satiation, those eating a macrobiotic diet for cancer sometimes
resort to eating greater volumes of food. Often, this can lead to
bouts of fatigue, gas, bloating and poor sleep.
The biggest problem with this
severe deprival approach seems to be consistency. People were stressing
about the foods they missed, dreaming about food, planning their
"binge meal" and generally talking about it nostalgically,
if not incessantly. This growing obsession with food or general
dissatisfaction was contrary to healing, and obviously stressful.
Bread to Prevent Homicidal Tendencies?
I have found that the addition
of digestive enzymes, particularly for older individuals, made a
positive difference in their absorption and appetites. Additionally,
eating more frequently, maybe four smaller meals, as opposed to
three during the day usually worked well. I recommend a concentrated
protein source (beans, bean products or small amounts of animal
protein) sometimes twice daily, but in small portions, as this makes
the meals more satisfying along with 1 to 2 tsp of olive or sesame
oil prepared at low temperatures in their daily cooking.
Miso is a strong healing agent and intestinal restorative. Don't
limit yourself to ordinary miso soup. There are a number of good
cookbooks with suggestions for miso, as well as Shurtleff's "Book
of Miso" where he has scores of miso recipes that will keep
you inspired and hearty. Variety helps avert boredom.
I remember once walking into
a rural macrobiotic retreat kitchen and spying an older man rummaging
through every cabinet, draw and fridge. After a moment, I asked,
"Can I help you?" He turned to me with a half-crazed look
in his eye and muttered, "Somebody had some bread at lunch
time. I saw it. If I don't get a piece of bread soon, I'm gonna
kill somebody-I know it sounds crazy, but that's how I feel. I got
brown rice coming out of my ears
Making sure that you have
a variety of textures and tastes in your diet will also help you
remain food-inspired. Textures, such as bland, creamy, chewy, dry,
etc., and Tastes, such as, bitter, salty, sweet, sour and pungent
can be an important part of meal preparation.
Look at the common western diet-it's full of textures! If you're
having a bowl of steamed dark leafy greens (bitter taste), mixing
equal proportions of lemon juice (sour taste) and natural soy sauce
(salty taste)-diluted with a bit of water, can be used as a "sprinkle"
over the greens to make such fare more appealing and satisfying.
Back to the Top
Cancer in the Macrobiotic Community
In the last ten years there
have been numerous deaths in the macrobiotic community, particularly
of teachers. Often, I will get this question from seminar audiences.
Why should this happen if they were macrobiotic? The presumption
is that adopting a macrobiotic lifestyle should make one completely
immune to sickness and disease. This is partially the fault of many
writings that has positioned macrobiotics as quick cure for a myriad
I believe that a macrobiotic
lifestyle, awareness of its principles and its dietary template
can enhance our innate sensitivity to be more aware of our body's
distress signals. In my personal experience and as a 30 years counselor,
I've seen people dramatically transform their health.
Unfortunately, the macrobiotic emphasis in the last 25 years has
centered around food as a main healing tool, minimizing the role
of emotional expression, exercise, a sense of daily life passion
and a need for making our time purposeful. These factors have a
strong influence that no individual committed to personal growth
or core healing can afford to ignore.
I took a good look at my own
history and lifestyle after I was told I had cancer, which fortunately
turned out to be a fluid cyst that I had had , presumably, since
birth. But what factors caused it to grow in my later years? Retrospectively,
I believe the gradual widening of my diet, to include caffeine,
more oils, more saturated fats, generous amounts of flour (which
influence blood sugar and the culminating in a massive wake-up call
whose message still echoes in my head. For me the lessons came slow,
in fact, they're still coming
but that's the work I realized
I needed to do.
Others, sadly, were not as
fortunate and succumbed to the very condition that they were advising
people how to avoid. I don't think it serves anyone to glibly pin
it on any one factor ("Death by wheat toast"), but consider
viewing it as a large puzzle with many pieces, each offering a more
complete view of what we call life.
Back to the Top
A "Macro" Perspective- 10 Self-Healing
The healing path is composed
of many roads all leading to the same destination: the place where
body, mind and spirit are resurrected. The road, or roads we choose
to adventure on should be based on fulfilling the incomplete areas
of our lives; areas we've neglected, that beg for greater self-nurturance
These roads may be named Faith,
Purpose, Nutrition, Love, Honesty, Compassion, Immunity, Passion,
Spirit, Forgiveness and Gratitude.
In the relatively young field of allopathic medicine-the kind that's
practiced by most conventional medical doctors today-we've only
recently recognized that healing efforts must not only be personalized
for the patients special needs, but must offer some semblance of
control, encouraging the patient to make informed choices instead
of being hi-pressured by "experts"into believing that
there are no other options available.
is Macro-biotics, not Micro-biotics.
And, that's a good thing. Macro means large and reminds us to consider
all the factors that entail living a large life. Clinical research,
as well as scores of anecdotal testimony, has repeatedly shown that
the people who survive cancer often do so with the support of the
following ten traits:
1. Life Purpose
2. Positive Attitude
3. Good Nourishment
4. Healthy Lifestyle
5. Manageable Stress
6. Sense of Humor
7. Love and Social Support
8. Emotional Expression
9. Physical Exercise
10. Strong Faith
These ten traits can have
a vital healing influence. In seminars, where I speak about these
self-healing characteristics, participants are asked to consider
the areas they need to emphasize for more comprehensive healing.
Hopefully, an inner dialogue is inspired that begins to redefine
and question everything about the way we live, love and care for
The beginning of whole healing occurs when we commit ourselves to
examining and integrating those missing ingredients, which are essential
for a more healthy, passionate and resilient life that can only
be savored by living each moment fully for the present.
"Today is the tomorrow I was so worried about, yesterday."
Back to the Top
General Cancer Prevention & Treatment Suggestions
Below is a lengthy list of
suggestions organized categorically for your good health, or recovery.
Do what you can and continue to add as they become a part of your
1. Find a physician that
will help monitor your progress and be a supportive member of
your healing team.
2. Eat whole food. That means, whole grains, vegetables, beans,
bean products, and sea vegetables as principle fare. Select small
quantities of fruit and (optional) animal protein as a dietary
supplement. Use good quality sea salt that is cooked into your
food. Introduce some traditional fermented foods from other cultures
such as sauerkraut, umeboshi, miso and lightly salted vegetable
pickles. Enjoy a variety of non-caffeinated teas.
3. Speak with your alternative health practitioner about recommended
Western and Chinese forms of adjunctive healing such as: Acupuncture,
Qi Gong, Herbs, Immunity Nutraceuticals, Enzymes, Food-Based Supplements,
Algae Products, etc.
4. Enjoy relaxed mealtimes, chew well, but not laboriously and
give thanks for your nourishment.
5. Buy organic items whenever possible.
6. Avoid tap water. Use recently checked well water, natural spring
water or if these choices are not available use reverse osmosis.
Consider the investment of a water ionizer that makes your drinking
water more alkaline.
7. Do not store your water in plastic containers. Use glass.
8. Get shower filters so that you are not breathing chlorine fumes
during hot showers or baths.
9. Eat more in frequency, less in volume. Better to eat 4 or 5
smaller meals, than 2 or 3 big meals. Avoid late night eating
by giving yourself at least 3 hours from dinner to bed. Sleep
is for rest, not digestion.
1. Engage in daily creative
expression. Anytime you're really engrossed in something you're
passionate about, you are in the moment. That moment usually contains
minimal stress and great fulfillment. It is a wonderful place
for healing and we all need more time in what philosopher, Ken
Wilbur calls, "Timeless Moments."
2. Make your home a sanctuary of comfort and retreat. Scale down,
bulk up, create a new space for your new direction. Make it yours,
make it comfortable.
3. Study - Take a class, correspondence course or an e-course.
Challenge your mind and continue to grow.
4. Make a list of things you want to do, places you want to visit,
pictures you want to take and people you want to meet.
5. Get psychological support. The value of another helping you
to look at core issues cannot be underestimated. Read about Byron
Katie and "The Work."
6. Read the writings of Thich Nhat Han. Han has become the messenger
of "mindfulness." See: http://www.plumvillage.org
1. Get bodywork whenever
you can. Shiatsu, Jin Shin, Tai Massage, Swedish, Deep Tissue,
Rolfing, Reiki, Polarity, etc.
2. Practice Yoga. Yoga exercises were based on animal postures
and finding ways to duplicate those positions with the human form.
It influences respiration, all acupuncture meridians and muscle
groups. Practice, if only 2 to 4 postures nightly, at least, try
3. Infrared Therapies. This low volume but penetrating Sauna heat
penetrates deep into tissue and helps restore cellular heath as
it detoxes. Infrared heat treatment can also be done with hand
wands that are applied to different areas of the body, both a
diagnostic and treatment aid. See: http://www.gaiahh.com/farinfrared.html
4. Get to bed early, get up early. Rest during the late afternoon,
if possible. In the acupuncture cycle of energy clock resting
at this time benefits the kidneys--our vitality organs, as well
as the adrenal glands situated on top of each kidney. The adrenal
glands exert a strong influence on how we respond to stress, as
well as the quality of our sleep.
5. Enjoy physical movement each day. Walk, hike, bike, swim, light
jog, row, but get those muscles and lungs active.
1. Make peace with unresolved
relationship issues. If the people you want to heal with have
passed on, forgive, talk to them and let it go. Holding on never
really serves you. Mark Twain said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance
that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." Something
to think about.
2. Love those that you are close to, or give through volunteer
3. Keep a daily or weekly journal of your insights, feelings and
thoughts. You don't have to write War & Peace, just brief
entries to give an overview or express yourself.
4. Say good-bye to negative people who are self-absorbed and drain
5. Avoid isolating yourself. Reach out via support groups and
6. Make time for friends and family, primary or extended. Don't
just do things, talk, laugh, create something together. Find the
1. Engage in some form of
spiritual practice daily.
2. Meditate! Put aside 20 minutes daily to meditate or visualize
your health goals. Get some support to do this. Read: Simonton's:
"Getting Well, Again" and other books on visualizations
or simple meditation.
3. Spend time in Nature. Find some grass, trees, a field, a lake,
a park and lose yourself. Ohsawa called Nature, our "vegetal
mother." It nourishes your energetic body.
"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full
of the overcoming of it."
Verne Varona, a frequent contributor
to The Macrobiotic Guide, is a senior macrobiotic teacher and author
of, "Nature's Cancer-Fighting Foods," now in a twelfth
printing. He is currently directing a feature-length documentary
about how people heal using a medical team and volunteers. He can
be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: November 2007