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Cancer In The Family: How and why it happened (Part Two)

March 17, 2010

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Presenting Macrobiotics to the National Cancer Institute

Origin Of The Best Case Series For Macrobiotics and Cancer

In 1993, my brother, Larry (Haruo) Kushi, an epidemiologist, obtained a modest grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to put together a Best Case Cancer Series study for macrobiotics.  Thanks to the thousands of personal counseling files that my father had conducted over the years, such a study was possible.  The study involved going through all these files and filtering them out using the following criteria:

1.  There had to be an accurate and reliable medical diagnosis for cancer
2.  Aside from conventional medical treatment, macrobiotics was the only therapy they used
3. There had to be reliable medical diagnosis that the cancer was in remission
4. The patients survival was beyond what was statistically expected.

Sorting Through The Data

Five thousand cancer cases were selected out of my father’s counseling files and those clients were sent a preliminary questionnaire. From the responses, 275 cases met the criteria and were then sent additional questions.  Out of these 75 cases were chosen to present as Best Case Series to the NCI at the time.  This process had taken two years and used up the all the funding that was given.  What was left to do next was to obtain all the medical records of each of the 75 cases, compile them and organize them into easily presentable format in order to be reviewed by the Government Panel.  Without any additional funds, the study came to a standstill in 1995.

Priority One: Getting It Done

In 1997 I became Director of the Kushi Institute.  I had heard about the study and made it a priority to complete, especially in light of my sister’s cancer death in 1995.  With Lily’s death, the question of macrobiotics and cancer become even more pressing an issue.  On the one hand there were hundreds of cancer recoveries through macrobiotics, while on the other significant cancer deaths happened  in the community.   How do we reconcile these two facts? Can macrobiotics really prevent and possibly cure cancer or not?  My mother’s death in 2001 further added to this  discrepancy and so I doggedly pursued my brother and my father to work with me to seek out ways in which the study could be completed.

We needed additional funding  to obtain the medical records of the 75 cases and so I suggested to pursue a collaborative effort with Harvard University’s Office of Complementary and Integrative Medicine.  They had invited my father to become regular guest speaker for their doctoral  program and so it seemed to be a natural fit. It took awhile to get a reply back from them but they said that they were simply too busy with other things to get involved with us.

The US Government Pushes For More Research For Alternative Medicine

Meanwhile their offices published a landmark article in the New England Journal of Medicine that would make it easier for us to complete the study. In 1998 they wrote an article that showed the astonishing popularity of complementary and alternative medicine and compared it to how much the Government spent to research it.  Their conclusion was that more than 50% of the US population used some form of alternative medicine which was paid out of pocket, while the Government was devoting only less than 1% of all research funds to study it.  The discrepancy was significant and helped to promote our cause with the Government.

The Clinton Administration and Congress pushed for more research for complementary and alternative medicine. An important result of this effort for us was the increased interest in the medical community for complementary and integrative medicine. In 1999 from Dr. George Yu, a prominent physician from Washington D.C. who had been researching alternative methods came to visit the Kushi Institute.  He had visited various popular alternative health care modalities across the country when someone suggested that he visit the Kushi Institute.  I sat down with him and explained our situation.  He was astounded to learn that we had already been proceeding with a Best Case series.  Among all the places he visited none had anywhere near the amount of data, the background and the prominent institutional connections that we had.  None had any significant recovery stories either.  He offered to help us immediately.

Dr. George Yu and Christine Akbar Finish the Job

In the next three years, Dr. Yu and my father’s personal assistant, Christine Akbar, took on the daunting task of obtaining and cataloging the complete medical records of six of my father’s cancer patients pre-screened from my brother’s initial efforts.   The six cases were pancreatic cancer, metastatic lung cancer, malignant melanoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, uterine cancer and inflammatory breast cancer.  Much of the difficulty lay in tracking down the medical records of these patients which dated back some 10 to 15 years.  In that time record were moved, hospitals were sold and other things had happened that hampered the efforts.  But they persevered and finally by the beginning of 2002 we were ready to make the presentation.

We Make Our Case February of 2002

In February of 2002 a group of us descended upon Washington, D.C., to make our presentation to the Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAPCAM) for the Office of Cancer and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) of the National Cancer Institute.  The Panel comprised of a dozen or more Doctors and other health professionals with specific background and interest in cancer and alternative therapies. Our meeting was held in a hotel not far from the NCI offices.  As the originator of the study my brother spoke first outlining the details and procedures of the study.  He was then followed by Dr. Yu and Christine Akbar who presented the medical records of each of the six cases in full detail and, just in case, we also brought along the actual persons themselves, two of whom could not quite make it, due to scheduling conflicts.  At the end, I was to present the macrobiotic rationale behind these cases and field questions from the panel.  My father was not available and was not present and for a second time I felt the burden of the entire macrobiotic movement upon my shoulders.  Any wrong or confusing words from me could have been disastrous for the entire macrobiotic movement.  Fortunately, this did not happen.  What follows is my presentation to CAPCAM.

The Macrobiotic Approach To Cancer Presentation to CAPCAM

The macrobiotic approach to cancer is based on the premise that dietary factors are the primary cause of many diseases including cancer. It uses yin/yang principles to assess, correlate and adjust diet and lifestyle with corresponding yin/yang attributes of diseases.

Yang attributes are generally classified as follows:

1.  Contractive
2.  Downward
3.  Inward
4.  Active

Yin attributes are generally classified as follows:

1.  Expansive
2.  Upward
3.  Outward
4.  Passive

Yang food classifications are as follows:

1.  Animal Source
2.  Downward and inward growing (roots)
3.  More cooked
4.  More dry

Yin food classifications are as follows:

1.  Vegetable Source
2.  Upward and outward growing (leafy greens)
3.  Less cooked
4.  More watery

General Yin/Yang Cancer classifications:

Yang Cancers:  Interior and Lower (examples:  pancreas, prostate, colon, cervix)

Mixed Cancers: Upper & Interior, Lower & Exterior (examples: lung, uterus, bladder)

Yin Cancers: Upper and Outer (examples: skin, brain, breast, hematologic )

Yin/Yang Food and Cancer Causes:

Yang: Excessive intake of yang foods such as:

  • Red meat, eggs, chicken
  • Heavier dairy foods like cheese
  • Overly salted and baked foods

Yin: Excessive intake of yin foods such as:

  • Sugar, chocolate, ice cream, sweets
  • Lighter dairy products such as milk, cream

Simplified Dietary Adjustments For Cancers:

Follow general macrobiotic dietary guidelines plus:

For Yang Cancers: Temporarily reduce salt, baked foods, heavy greasy foods and other yang type foods

For Yin Cancers: Temporarily reduce some fruits, oily foods, raw foods and other yin type foods

The success of the Best Cases relied on three fundamental things:

  1. They carefully followed the dietary and lifestyle advice of their counselors
  2. They created a supportive social environment of family and friends
  3. They maintained regular check-up with Medical and Macrobiotic Experts

After a brief summary presentation of Kushi Institute activities and declaration by me of our interest to resolve the question “Does macrobiotics work?” for cancer treatment and recovery I ended our presentation.  The CAPCAM Panel then asked the following six questions which were promptly answered by me:

1.   You are presenting the “Best Cases”. What about those that did not make it?

We have found that most people fail due to compliance issues.  For whatever reasons they simply do not follow their counselors advice.

2.  How long does it normally take for patients to notice any physical changes?

As long as patients are in compliance with their counselors recommendations significant physical changes will occur within the first four months.

3.  Are organic quality foods necessary for the macrobiotic approach?

No. They are recommend for obvious environmental reasons and for possible enhanced nutritional value but they are not absolutely necessary.

4.  Do you tell your patients not to use conventional treatment?

Treatment choice is up to the patient.  We will modify dietary recommendations according to the treatments of their choice.

5.  There seems to be a Japanese influence in macrobiotics.  Why is that?

While the philosophical base of Yin and Yang has ancient Chinese origins, whole grain based diets are common to all traditional cultures.

6.   There are many so-called “macrobiotic” counselors operating across the country.  How do you handle continuity?

While we are unable to guarantee or police “macrobiotic” counselors, we can assure that the quality of the recommendations at the Kushi Institute are consistent with Michio’s direction.

(Note: This was true back in 2002.  It is no longer true today. My father is no longer involved with Counseling Oversight at the Kushi Institute and present counselors there have openly admitted to not following Michio’s ways and instead often recommend a program that include supplementation based on nutritional theory instead of macrobiotic principles.  For Macrobiotic Counseling services that are consistent with my father’s methods please refer to the resources section of this post.)

These were all the questions that CAPCAM put forward to me.
The Results, Conclusions and Recommendations of CAPCAM

After their deliberations the Panel unanimously approved future funding to research macrobiotics and cancer.  Several things surprised them concerning our Macrobiotic presentation including the fact that never before in the history of the Panel were cases presented where the patients were still alive and available to talk to.  It was unheard of for them.

Each of the cases impressed the panel but two stood out above the others.  One was the lung cancer patient whose medical records contained astonishing regular x-rays showing the progress of cancer remission while the patient followed macrobiotics alone.  The other was the case involving malignant melanoma.  It turned out that the Physician who made the original diagnosis fifteen years prior of this patient had later become the NCI’s expert for malignant melanoma.  He clearly remembered his diagnosis and was certain that the patient only had three months to live.  Yet here he was, reviewing his own diagnosis of fifteen years prior which he could not deny. The evidence presented in these two cases were irrefutable and solidified macrobiotics as a viable alternative worthy enough for further study.  The results could not have been any better.

Funding for prospective studies and clinical trials for Macrobiotic Cancer research is still available from the NCI based on CAPCAM recommendations.  The most important question to be identified is: What is “the macrobiotics” to be tested?  Macrobiotics is not a specific diet but is a dietary and lifestyle approach base on the principles of yin and yang.  In other words, it is insufficient to just test the efficacy of brown rice for, say, tumor reduction.  Instead the study is about the yin/yang methodology of macrobiotics as it applies to cancer.  A valid study of this nature has yet to be approved for funding.

Michio Gets Colon Cancer

For family members and the many students and friends who have spent an extended amount of time with my father it did not come as much of a surprise when we heard that he had a tumor in his colon in 2004.  In fact, what surprised us more was that he did not get ill sooner. The reason for this was that because as long as anyone could remember my father went to local diners every morning, drank coffee, ate regular toast or muffins and smoked cigarettes.  In the evening he would often eat out late at night after his lectures, sometimes going to the local International House of Pancakes (IHOP), ordering buckwheat pancakes and an occasional omelet. He did this for years. The surprise to us all was that he did not get sick sooner.  He seemed to have a iron stomach and never seemed to display any health issue except for his trademark cough that always came in threes and was loud enough to be heard across the room and cause anyone to skip a heartbeat.  In spite of his sometimes  serious, sometimes humorous justification of  his poor eating habits they finally caught up to him.  Yes, even Michio Kushi was a stubborn mortal  who could get cancer and his Doctors even told him that he should be following his own advice. By the end of the year my father had successful dealt with his cancer.  He attended the Kushi Institute’s 2004-2005 New Year’s Eve Celebration and there began recounting his troubles.

He started by saying that, over a year ago in 2003, he felt a tightness or hardness in his abdomen that would come and go. The hardness became much worse the previous summer during the Macrobiotic summer gathering in Japan and then later in the United States in August at the Kushi Institute Summer Conference in 2004. He lost his appetite and his weight dropped to 90lbs.  With constant pain and finding it difficult to continue his normal schedule, he decided to have an objective medical exam at the end of September. After several tests the Doctors discovered a tumor that was blocking his transverse colon nearly 100% and urged my father to have immediate surgery. He spent a day to reflect upon this decision and surmised that, according to traditional oriental medicine, the small intestines correlated with the heart and if the small intestines failed due to the blockage he could be in danger of a heart attack. He decided to have the surgery.

Recalling his time in the hospital, when my father awoke from the anesthetic, he looked at the clock and it appeared to him that not much time had passed so he asked the attending nurse when his surgery would take place at which time the nurse replied, to his great surprise, that it was done and finished. His surgery involved removing his ascending colon, his appendix, and a portion of the transverse colon and reattaching the small intestines to the remaining part of the colon. They also removed a portion of his gall bladder as it appeared that it too, may have been affected. However, tests later revealed the surgery to be a complete success with no traces of any cancer left in his body.

My father then went on to further explain to the New Year’s Eve crowd why he felt he became ill and pointed to the following three factors:

1. Living an unnatural life.

Constantly traveling and working non-stop, my father would often find himself awake past 1am or 2am most nights with each day having a completely different schedule. This erratic schedule did not allow his body to stay fit.

2. Not consistently eating macrobiotically,

Again, due to his travels, and since the passing of my mother, his travel companion and guardian of good food, my father often found himself without any quality nourishing food. Eating out, and attending many social functions, he could not consistently eat proper healthy, nourishing macrobiotic food.

3. Too much salt

In order to counteract unhealthy foods, he got into the habit of salting the food that was available to him including items such as dry toast. The cumulative effect of this habit, combined with the other two points help to create his health problem.

Wiser now, my father promised to continue to monitor his schedule and his eating patterns much more closely and pledged to remain active for at least twenty more years. That was New Year’s Eve of 2005.  Now in 2010, my father is alive and well and lives a semi-retired life in Boston.

Does Macrobiotics Work?

On the surface, the question “Does macrobiotics work?” may seem like it is asking whether or not food makes a difference for one’s health.  Asking whether a change in diet makes a difference seems a bit irrelevant in today’s climate of food awareness.  Nowadays there is no question that diet and lifestyle are primary causes of many diseases from heart disease, many cancers, diabetes, obesity and many more. The evidence is overwhelming and all major health organizations currently recommend eating a plant-based macrobiotic type diet consisting of whole cereal grains, legumes, fresh vegetables and fruits.  Yet, when Nixon declared “War On Cancer” in 1971 interest in causes from diet and lifestyle was not well known.  Instead, popularized cancer causes were things like the sun, radiation, viruses and smoking.  Undeniably, the educational efforts led by my parents over the years brought attention to the importance and influence of diet and lifestyle on one’s health.

But the macrobiotics in question here is much more complex and involved then just a dietary shift from a meat centered diet to a plant-based one.  This macrobiotics is about a new way of looking at the universe and was conceived and introduced to the world by my father’s teacher, George Ohsawa. Ohsawa combined Western concepts of dialectics with ancient Chinese yin/yang philosophy and Western ideas of macrobiotics with Far Eastern teachings of daily living into a grand vision and paradigm that he called the “Unifying Principle” or the “Unique Principle” through which he believed could accurately describe the nature of all phenomena in the universe.  Whereas the medical view of the world is more like that of a mechanic or engineer who sees and interprets phenomena like machines, the view that Ohsawa defined is more like that of a climatologist or historian who sees phenomena as a dynamic system that is in constant transition and  an integral part of a  much larger system.

Furthermore, in keeping with both the ancient Eastern and Western macrobiotic principle of  Hippocrates’s “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” (or in Japanese tradition, “Food and Medicine are One”), Ohsawa re-introduced macrobiotics to include a dialectical approach of food therapy as a means to recover one’s health. Food as therapy was used by Ohsawa’s own teacher, Dr. Sagen Ishizuka, who helped cure Ohsawa of tuberculosis by switching him to a traditional Japanese diet of brown rice, miso soup and daikon from the more popular Western diet of meat, white bread and sugar at the time.

My father further expanded on Ohsawa’s work and developed an entire system of health guidance including visual health assessment procedures to personalized dietary and lifestyle recommendations with specified food-based remedies and traditional applications.  This complex food based therapy is the “macrobiotics” in the question: “Does macrobiotics work?” and is the one that has been approved for further study by the National Cancer Institute’s panel of cancer experts.

Can a clinical or prospective research study be designed that will answer the question: “Does macrobiotics work?”.  I honestly don’t know.  To me it is like asking if we can study the weather in a laboratory or if we can isolate and study specific social events like stock market rises and recreate then in a lab.  Macrobiotic as a cancer therapy involves the use of food as a transformative agent which must be continually monitored and adjusted in accordance with constantly changing situation of a patient.  It is highly individualized because the nature of the disease itself is also very individualized.  Can this process be formulated into a clinical study?  I leave this question to those more suited to answer it.

The Personal Nature Of Cancer

Yet even if we are able to clinically prove the effectiveness of a macrobiotic food based approach for cancer the ultimate cause and recovery of the disease, as seen in the cancers in my family and in the  recoveries of thousands of individuals with macrobiotics (or a combination of  medicine with macrobiotics) involve much broader concerns beyond those addressed by applied dialectical food therapy.  It involves incorporating the larger macrobiotic view of a dynamic system in constant flux that is integral part of and cannot be isolated from its  environment. Disease occurrence and recovery is individual in nature and involves dealing with psychological, social, cultural, economic, political and environmental influences in addition to addressing our diet and lifestyle. It requires having the will to live, being selfish by putting one’s own health needs before others, an willingness to adapt and change, a recognition of our own arrogance and finding humility and gratitude, and an ability to be honest with one’s self – things that are so personal and subjective and can’t be measured objectively.  Ultimately, the question that we must all face is not one about health or sickness but is about finding our purpose in life.  I have outlined and summarized these requirements into the following seven points that I believe need addressing in order to transform sickness into health.

7 Requirements to Change Sickness Into Health

1.  Cultivate your will and desire to live

Having the will and desire to live is primary and essential to avoiding premature death, be it by accident, sickness or any other method.  The desired life that I am talking about here is not the normal day to day living that most people do.  I am talking about living an extraordinary life full of passion such that you look forward to and are happy to wake up to every single morning.

Many are unhappy with their lives yet instead of doing something about it they settle for a life of stagnant resignation. As a result, they get what they settle for and create their own demise one way or another.  Those whom I have seen reverse their sickness cultivated their will to live and became hungry for life.  Their illness was a wake-up call and they believe it was one of the best things that could have ever happened to them.  They accepted and took full responsibility for their situations, and from that moment on they became alive.  They became greedy and egocentric in a positive sense.  They became hungry and famished for life and because of this they were able to transform their situation and avoid premature death by illness.  If you want to become healthy, you must first and foremost cultivate the will and desire to live life in a way that you have never done so before.  It will not always be easy.  It will not always be comfortable and it will not always look the way you imagined.  But that is the nature of life itself.

In the future you might eventually satisfy this hunger for life and become full again.  At that time you may again become sick and you may die. That will be up to you.

2.  Be flexible and willing to change anything and everything in your life, if necessary

Many would rather die then change their life and that is exactly what happens to them.  But those who avoid an early death and live longer are those who are willing to change anything in their life including the food they eat, where they live, the relationships they are in, and the beliefs that they hold.

Life and aliveness can be defined in many ways and one them is the ability to respond and adapt to the environment, in other words, be flexible.  If you lose that flexibility then you are doomed.

3.  Develop your sensitivity and respect for the environment. Be aware how you respond to it.

The natural environment creates your food and you.  Pay attention to it, accept it fully, take care of it and nurture it.  If you don’t, it will destroy you. What you eat, drink and otherwise take into your body is how you interact with the environment.  What happens to you when you eat one type of food versus another?  What if you changed the water you drink? What if you changed where you live? How does your body respond?  Only you can know this for certain, not your doctor or other professional.  Not even those close to you. By becoming aware and begin paying attention to this you will know when to make the necessary changes in your life that lead you to either sickness or health.

On a larger scale, because of humanity’s insensitivity and lack of concern for the environment, our agriculture and our food, we have made the Earth toxic and many plant and animal species are becoming extinct and we have made countless others, including ourselves, sick.  If we continue in this way and do not develop our sensitivity and respond, adapt and take care of our environment then we will naturally perish.

4.  Be willing to eat anything and be willing to prepare your own food

Sickness is not an enemy but is only the bodies natural attempt to discharge excess and regain a dynamic harmony with the environment.  In other words, if you didn’t get sick you would already be dead.  Our food, everything we ingest,(and expel) is how we interact and create harmony with the environment. The principal way most people get sick is by over exercising their freedom; abusing their bodies through eating, drinking and doing other things excessively. Some may be able to get rid of symptoms through medical treatments but unless the source is addressed, which is what they have been eating, drinking and doing, then they will never get rid of their problems. In general, most people in developed nations eat too much animal food and therefore feel better when they switch to a plant based diet.  But there are no specific rules.  Some, who may have avoided eating meat their whole life, may need to eat some to feel better, while those who ate meat everyday may need to stop it completely for the rest of their lives.  It depends on the individual, which is why you, who are sick and wish to get well, must be willing to eat anything.

You also must be willing to prepare and be responsible for your own food.  Ultimately, only you know what you need most. No one will be able to figure that out for you.  If they did then you would owe them your life.  The wealthy, who rely solely on the best chefs and best restaurants in the world, become slaves of their own doing and will never find true health and freedom.  Likewise, the poor who subsist solely on processed precooked  foods, like junk foods and soda, and inexpensive take-out meals also become slaves to the food industry and prisoners of their own doing.  Essentially, what must be done is to establish or re-establish a direct connection to your food and to minimize your reliance upon others for this. Study food, learn as much as you can and experiment until you master it. Become a master of your own food and you will become a master of your own destiny. Until then, you will remain a slave to those who control your food.

5.  Be honest with yourself and everyone else, all the time.  Constantly review and monitor your own situation.

If you ignore your bodies warning signals and pretend they don’t exist, then you will not get better. If you aren’t honest with yourself and don’t confront and deal with your own issues, then there is no hope. If you don’t listen to your loved ones and address their concerns then there is no purpose to your life.  If you aren’t honest with and don’t serve humanity then your life has no value.  Being truthful, no matter how painful, with ourselves, our world and reality, allows us to know ourselves and monitor our progress through life.  Knowing who we are, where we are and what progress we have made is critical to exercising our freedom to transform our health.  A useful way to gauge one’s level of honesty is to look at how large our sense of humor is and if we are able laugh at our own folly.

6.  Be grateful to all, especially your difficulties

Without sickness we would not know health.  Without the possibility of a premature death we could not appreciate life.  Without our health we could not abuse it and become sick and so on.  Whether we feel sick or feel healthy the experience of life is a gift to be cherished and be grateful for.  This gratitude is not mandatory but is a choice for each of us to make.  We can choose to be grateful and to appreciate every moment in life, or we can choose to be ungrateful, feel victimized and blame everyone and everything for our problems.  Choosing gratitude makes us responsible which, in turn, give us the freedom to change our destiny.  You can be grateful, or you can be ungrateful. It is your choice.  If you choose not to be grateful then you are also choosing to give up your freedom.  So choose wisely.

7.  Choose and actively pursue a goal and dream that benefits everyone

What is your life about? What do you dream of being and doing? What do you wish to accomplish in this life? What do you wish to do this year,  tomorrow, or even in the next moment?  Regardless of the state of our bodies and our health, life is about dreams and having the passion to make them come true.  The most important aspect of becoming and staying healthy is to know why you are doing so.  What you dream and wish to accomplish is the “why”.  You can choose to do anything you want. If you wish to be a mean and hateful person and make people unhappy then you will be miserable and your life will be cut short, if not by yourself then by others.  If you choose to serve others and make them happy then you will be happy regardless of the state your body.  Everyone who recovered from a terminal illness with macrobiotics, had a dream and vision for what they wanted to do with their lives.  They all lived long enough to achieve those dreams.  The greater your dream is then the more your body becomes only a vehicle to achieve that dream.  If your dream is great then it will continue long after your body has died.  That is true health.

Select Cancer Recovery Stories Through Macrobiotics

There are thousands of recovery cases from cancer and other terminal diseases from macrobiotics.  The following are a links to a handful cancer recovery stories on the internet:

1.  Jill Schneider, Cervical Cancer

2.  Meg Wolff, Breast Cancer

3.  Marlene McKenna, Malignant Melanoma

4.  Ken Walles, Prostate Cancer

5.  Christina Pirello, Leukemia

6.  Judy MacKenny, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma

7.  Janet Vitt, RN, Metastatic Lung Cancer

8.  Norman Arnold, Pancreatic Cancer

The Future Of Macrobiotics And Cancer Care

Macrobiotics as a therapy and health care system independent of medicine as it is today was formally created by my father, Michio Kushi, and his associates in the 1970s.  Tools were created to help people including the “Standard Macrobiotic Dietary Guidelines”, counseling procedures and a variety of educational materials and services from pamphlets and books to programs, seminars and cooking courses. This effort allowed many to learn about macrobiotics and apply it and recover from their illnesses including stage IV cancers. The successful recoveries gave a misleading notion that the medical approach was ineffective while the macrobiotic approach was when in fact, most who adopted a macrobiotic approach did so in conjunction with conventional medical treatment or, at least, after medicine offered no more options.

The future of cancer health care in general is one that will combine both approaches.  Members of both medical and macrobiotic science have erred in the past believing that their view alone can exclusively solve the problem of cancer.  Medical science is best suited to handle critical care situations while a larger macrobiotic view seeks to address the underlying causes of disease including not only personal dietary and lifestyle concerns but also larger global food industry and environmental issues.

Modern civilization is the disease and cancer is the cure, but it doesn’t have to be this way.  An integrative approach that embraces both a dialectical and a mechanical view can create a modern civilization that is healing and nurturing to us all.

For Further Reading

Ralph Moss’s Cancer Decisions Newsletter from February 2002

Macrobiotic Diet In Cancer report in Journal Of Nutrition in 2001

Macrobiotic Resources Around The World

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Majida permalink
    March 17, 2010 2:00 pm

    So rich and useful.

  2. March 17, 2010 5:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing this useful information. Macrobiotics works for cancer, no doubt. Diagnosed with Stage III, cells at stage IV, gastric cancer, six months prognosis. It has been 9 years, and feel better than ever. When I don’t do my homework, I can feel the influence of unnatural lifestyle and nutrition. Keeping it macro up to the limits means health 100%. Thanks for the Macrobitotic influence in the Western civilization. Thanks Mr Michio Kushi for your guide nine years ago, when standard medicine gave me no hope. I have able to raise my daughter and live life at full.

  3. March 17, 2010 8:43 pm

    This is good. After so many years…this could be the new beginning for macrobiotic in the main-stream. Maybe the real meeting of the East and the West is the meeting of the old and the new. The Tao meets the MRI.

  4. Alice Fava permalink
    March 22, 2010 1:30 pm

    hi phiya,

    Thanks for your great website.

    Most informative!


  5. March 30, 2010 1:57 am

    i like your posting


  6. Susie Richardson-Greene permalink
    April 17, 2010 12:55 am

    So well written, Phiya. Thank you for the depth and honesty.
    I very much appreciate the contribution of you and your family to my life. Macrobiotics has
    provided for me the philosophy with which I experience my Life in a ways that continue to be expansive and humbling.
    When I visit my “old” macrobiotic friends, there is this understanding that we come from a similar take on the world, on life, and the way things are. What fun it is to have this connection! I am ever so grateful.

    Susie Richardson-Greene
    Boston 1985 Kushi Institute Graduate

  7. Roger Windsor, Jr. permalink
    November 3, 2010 2:15 pm

    Enjoyed reading the blog . . . but I feel it’s necessary to comment on some aspects of macrobiotics that people should be aware of . . . .

    While the theory of yin and yang is sound, the practical application of it in macrobiotic healing is not. For example:

    The colon is considered a yang organ in its structure, compared to the liver, which is considered yin stucturally (Book of Macrobiotics).
    Yet, in the same book, yang structure is described as thicker, smaller, shorter, more compacted and more condensed.

    Anyone with a basic knowledge of anatomy knows that the liver is thicker, smaller, more compacted and more condensed . . . compared to the colon which is hollow, thinner and longer. Therefore, by these characteristics the liver is a yang organ structurally.

    Ask a macrobiotic teacher about this apparent contradiction, and they will tell you, “Well, the colon is also lower in the body and active (muscle contractions), which is yang, compared to the liver, which is higher up and is passive.”

    While that is also true, the problem here is that that everything in life has multiple characteristics that fit both yin and yang characteristics. How is one supposed to know the relative strength of these various characteristics when assigning the thing in question to either the yin or yang category? Does compactness of the liver contribute more “yangness” than the colon’s being located lower in the body? How do you create any objective criteria of the yin/yang classification to put the theory to practical use?

    Another problem with macrobiotics is that it promotes itself as a traditional diet, thereby justifying its healing qualities. However, if you actually study traditional diets, they all included frequent use of animal foods. The Macrobiotic Standard Diet, which includes only minute amounts of optional fish, is really more akin to the diet of impoverished Japanese farmers than that of traditional people around the world.

    Macrobiotics contains a lot of value, but it also has a few flaws that can be devastating when put into practice. Personally, I follow a blend of macrobiotics and the Weston Price diet . . . macrobiotics plus meat.

  8. María permalink
    June 15, 2012 10:34 am


    Thank you very much for sharing and opening your Heart the way you have done and congratulations for the great work done carrying the torch your parents passed on you.

  9. September 12, 2012 10:12 pm

    Phiya, “the 7 requirements” is one of the most motivating and centering things I have read all day. Thank you.

  10. March 30, 2013 5:30 am

    Thank you for this article! It is an inspiration, like your father and mother work. I feel blessed for have the opportunity to practice the macrobiotic philosofy. ❤

  11. Wes Pritchett permalink
    July 29, 2013 5:14 pm

    I lived in your fathers Macrobiotic house in West Hollywood for a year in 1970-71. Your Dad saved my life when i became very ill after just moving into the house. I called him in Boston and the next night he flew to LA and came and gave me a raw egg, some tamari, and some oil he called his secret sauce. He told me that in the morning I would feel better and we would go to the local drug store dinner on Sunset and eat everything we wanted. We did!
    I was also friends with your sister Lilly. She was always trying to get me to go smoke with her. She was a wonderful girl. We all loved her and your Mom.

  12. August 28, 2013 5:35 am

    My compliments on your candidness, Phiya!
    Great macrobiotic compendium.

  13. January 2, 2014 3:34 pm

    There is no evidence here that Michio Kushi’s cancer was caused by his not following the macrobiotic program. Moreover, the cancers of his wife and daughter suggest that macrobiotics is not a certain protection against serious illness, although followers continue to believe it is. Thirdly, one should notice that Mr. Kushi did not hesitate to opt for surgery to cure his cancer, while his philosophy discourages others from doing the same thing. Although Kushi has not said in the past that no one should ever choose surgery, nevertheless the constant, and not so subtle, promotion of stories of people cured only by following a macrobiotic lifestyle convinces many to ignore traditional Western approaches to cancer. Finally, the shocking revelation that Kushi did not keep a macrobiotic diet himself is made even worse by the transparent attempts by his family to make excuses for Kushi’s failures……he was too busy to eat well…..for years. Is macrobiotics only for people who don’t have stressful and busy lives?

    The Kushi family would probably argue here that they don’t disagree with some of the statements I’ve made, but watch for the self-protective spin they will put on it.

    If you have a serious illness, try to keep an open mind about what approach or combination of approaches make sense to you. It helps to have a supportive, common sense friend on the journey. The answer is probably not in a narrow “ism.” My best wishes to you.

    • Andrew harding permalink
      October 16, 2014 9:02 am

      You are so right,

    • Phiya Kushi permalink*
      September 29, 2017 5:49 am

      Having an open mind is the basis of a macrobiotic approach. Arrogance is our downfall. The Kushi Family agrees with you that humility is key.

  14. May 17, 2014 8:17 am

    George Oshawa was my teacher. Remember, after healing intuition: Eat and drink anything with great joy and pleasure. I loved Georges good thinking. Michio is good spiritual son of Georges. So today May 17th 2014 I got an angel thought to inquire about Michio. How good to know today is his 88th birthday. Happy Birthday Michio! One little book, black cover, red sun and our spiritual father Georges changed our lives and changed the world in beautiful ripple effect.
    Ps. Jack and Mitie was a fun read, Georges the early blogger before computer. Love!

  15. Phil Hargreaves permalink
    July 21, 2014 3:24 pm

    ” as long as anyone could remember my father went to local diners every morning, drank coffee, ate regular toast or muffins and smoked cigarettes. In the evening he would often eat out late at night after his lectures, sometimes going to the local International House of Pancakes (IHOP), ordering buckwheat pancakes and an occasional omelet. He did this for years. The surprise to us all was that he did not get sick sooner”

    That’s very honest of you to report Phiya, but isn’t it so very ironic…

    I got interested in Macrobiotics in the 1970’s, and I remember feeling such a failure when I slipped from the then strict interpretation of the diet. Why did I find it so difficult to eat the recommended macro diet every day!! I was so disappointed in myself. It never ever occurred to me that the teachers didn’t really bother eating that way, just advised others to.

  16. Clint permalink
    December 29, 2014 2:38 pm


    You write SO well.. this a great article…. thank you so much for telling us your story !


  17. Anon permalink
    October 26, 2015 3:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing the background story of cancer in your family. Cancer is a multi-factorial disease. Even if one eats a strictly “pure” diet, we live in a world saturated with endocrine disruptors in our food and water and other non-food items (entering through the respiratory system or the skin). All of these chemicals must impact our health, even a good diet may not be enough to counteract the negative effects. Diet improvements may have been enough to cure illness in the past, but today diet is just one element of health.

    You say that both parents had radiation treatments for their cancer. Radiation treatments are immunosuppressive. Fighting a disease like cancer requires a strong immune system, not a suppressed immune system. Some doctors have opined that allopathic cancer treatments kill cancer patients at a higher rate than the disease itself. Macrobiotics alone may not be enough to heal an immune system damaged by cancer treatments, powerful nutritional supplements may be necessary, especially in the elderly.

    A typical dietary deficiency in the U.S. is iodine. The traditional Japanese diet includes a lot of iodine from seaweed products. Studies have shown that Japanese people who move to the U.S. and adopt a more American diet develop cancer at rates much higher than those in the Japan-based population. Iodine is necessary for thyroid health, and suboptimal thyroid function is correlated with many types of cancer.

    When I saw the mention of your mother and sisters’ fondness for crackers and baked goods, I thought about the dough conditioner potassium bromate, which was banned 20 years in Europe and Canada but not the U.S. California now requires a warning label on food products with this ingredient. Potassium iodate used to be the dough conditioner of choice (which provided dietary iodine) but that was replaced with bromate sometime in the 1980s. Less of a good thing (iodine), more of a bad thing (bromate).

    Your parents’ dietary teachings had a very positive influence on so many people, even a partial macrobiotic diet is better than what most people eat in the standard American diet. I also have been very favorably influenced by your father’s book on Do-In. The breathing methods and exercises are powerful health boosters.

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