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Macrobiotic Diet and Breast Cancer

A Part Of Complementary Therapy For Breast Cancer


Updated February 25, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

The macrobiotic diet is more than a diet plan -- it's a lifestyle. As a diet, macrobiotics consists of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while steering away from meat, dairy products, and oily foods. When practiced in a balanced way, it may provide many health benefits and proper nutrition. A macrobiotic diet can lower your risk for many diseases, but scientists cannot yet prove that it will prevent cancer. If you're looking for a diet to help you recover from cancer treatments, macrobiotics may be very helpful in restoring your health. Let's look at macrobiotics and breast cancer.

Macrobiotics: A Part Of Complementary Therapy

There are many ways to practice macrobiotics -- from a strict, limited regimen centered on brown rice to a low-fat, high-fiber vegetarian diet of whole foods that sometimes adds a serving of healthy fish. Macrobiotics prescribes organically grown produce, locally grown where possible, with the addition of many Japanese condiments and pickles. Meals are cooked in a peaceful setting with little oil and no sugar. Each bite of food is chewed thoroughly to aid digestion. Macrobiotic dietary guidelines can be adjusted to each person's needs and health conditions, including specific types of cancer.

Breast Cancer, Heart Health, and Macrobiotics

Women who adhere to a macrobiotic diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen, a hormone that fuels the majority of breast tumors. On a macrobiotic diet, women eliminated estrogen and estradiol in their urine and stool at higher rates than women who had a typical Western diet. This diet is a high phytoestrogen diet that includes whole grains, soy products, foods that include lignans, and seaweed products. In lab studies on rats, a component of brown seaweed -- sulfated polysaccharide fucoidan -- appeared to delay the onset and growth of breast tumors. This diet is low-cholesterol, heart-healthy and may lower the risk of colon, ovarian, and many other cancers.

Macrobiotics For Life, Not Cancer Treatment

Many people have written personal stories of using the macrobiotic approach to help them recover from cancer or prevent the recurrence of cancer. A testimonial is valuable in that it shows how a person may feel when using the macrobiotic diet. Health may improve, stress levels may subside, and a sense of well-being may be achieved with macrobiotics. But medical research has yet to objectively prove the benefits of this diet in preventing cancer. Macrobiotics is not a breast cancer treatment, and should not be used instead of conventional cancer therapies, but it can be used alongside chemotherapy and radiation, with proper guidelines. Care must be taken to balance all components of this diet, in order to avoid malnutrition and unplanned weight loss, especially during cancer treatment.


Macrobiotic Diet. American Cancer Society. Last Revised: 11/01/2008.

The Macrobiotic Diet in Cancer. Lawrence H. Kushi, Joan E. Cunningham, James R. Hebert, Robert H. Lerman, Elisa V. Bandera and Jane Teas. J. Nutr. November 1, 2001 vol. 131 no. 11 3056S-3064S.

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