“People seem amazed when I tell them that cancer was the best thing to ever happen to me. Without that trial, I would never have met my wonderful husband to whom I owe my very life. I would never have learned what true responsibility can mean, nor discovered the way of life and peace.” Christina Pirello
Christina Pirello heals from acute myelocytic leukemia with a macrobiotic diet
At the age of 26, Christina Pirello was diagnosed with terminal leukemia and given only months to live. By the time her illness was identified, the cancer had already advanced to an acute stage. A co-worker introduced her to a young man named Robert Pirello, who was a whole foods advocate, who helped her adapt her lifestyle and diet based on whole, unprocessed food. After just two months of eating beans, grains and vegetables cooked following macrobiotic principles, her doctors noticed a significant improvement in her condition. In only fourteen months, her cancer was gone. This is her testimonial.
Christina’s mother was diagnosed with cancer in 1982 and died in 1984, at the young age of 49. She says that her life was rocked to its core with the passing of her mother and that the conventional treatments that her mother received only seemed to hasten her deterioration. Christina says that she knew at that time that she would never use conventional treatments if she were ever diagnosed with cancer.
She reports that many members of her mother’s side of the family had suffered with numerous health problems such as diabetes, cancer, and anemia, so it was no surprise that she was diagnosed with anemia too, saying that “every female member of her family was plagued with this disease.” At the age of fourteen she decided to become a vegetarian, yet she continued to eat lots of dairy, sugar, and refined foods. She reports that her body seemed to have a hard time healing from cuts and scratches, and that she had bruises that appeared out of nowhere. Her stamina was low and her menstrual cycle was irregular, for this she was prescribed hormone treatments over the next fifteen years.
Following the death of her mother she said that her fatigue worsened. She assumed that this fatigue was due to the time and energy spent caring for her mother, but her condition continued to decline even as after months had passed. She finally went to the doctor and was referred to see a hemotologist/oncologist, where she was put through a battery of testing that confirmed a diagnosis of Acute myelocytic leukemia. She says, “With a lymphocyte count as high as mine, they really did not see a sunny future for me. However, they did want to propose experimental chemotherapy and a possible bone marrow transplant. When I questioned them as to a time frame, their response was not encouraging – 3 months to live with no treatment and 6 months to a year with treatment. It seemed that the only guarantee I could get from them was that I would lose my hair and feel lousy for the time I had left. All I could think of was what my mother went through. I said I needed a few days to digest all of this. I knew I would never go back there.”
She says that she walked around in a daze for about a week, and then finally confided in a co-worker who suggested that she meet with his friend Bob, who was a practitioner of macrobiotics which was said to have the ability to heal cancer. She met with Bob that same weekend and he agreed to help her. The next day they went shopping together and she watched as Bob loaded up the cart with unfamiliar foods, and then they went back to her apartment and cleaned out her cupboards, throwing away all the old foods and replacing it with this new healthy food. As Bob left, he handed her a copy of Michio Kushi’s The Cancer Prevention Diet, Revised and Updated Edition: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer, telling her to “read and cook.” She says that she read all night.
They met for lunch every day and Bob brought her leftovers from his own dinner and she continued to read and learn. After a few weeks, she had lost weight and said that she had more energy but that her blood test showed that her lymphocycte count had worsened. She began to get scared, but Bob encouraged her to continue on with the diet for another month.
Very soon a toxic discharge began, which included weeks of diarrhea, followed by 8 weeks of break outs that left her itching all over. This was followed by menstrual problems that included the development of an ovarian cyst. She says she found relief with hip baths (sitz style bath) and by drinking Bancha Leaf Tea.
Though she says that the severe detoxing symptoms were nearly unbearable, she knew that her health was improving and every blood test continued to confirm that her white blood-cell counts were getting better. Her doctors were amazed. They called it “spontaneous regression” and said it was very rare but that it could reverse at any time. She explained to them that she was following a macrobiotic diet, but the doctors did not believe that any kind of diet could have played a role in her healing….but Christina says that she knew differently.
Fourteen months after the beginning the macrobiotic diet Christina’s white cell count was declared within normal range and it has remained there ever since.
She later married Bob and says that “he was my teacher and my support system through the darkest time.” She has published 6 cookbooks, has her own cooking show and has started a public health initiative to change the way we eat in America.
Christina shares details of her diagnosis
Macrobiotic Dietary Principles
In 2002, the Kushi Institute, the world’s leading macrobiotic educational center, located in Becket, Massachusetts, presented five cases of healing cancer to the Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAPCAM) at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A panel of 15 physicians and scientists reviewed all the evidence presented and unanimously recommended that the Kushi Institute receive government funding for a clinical study on macrobiotics for those diagnosed with breast or melanoma skin cancers.
George Yu, a clinical professor of urology at George Washington University Medical Center, and the person who presented the cases on behalf of the Kushi Institute, offers one explanation of why macrobiotics might help. He says that the diet’s reliance on fermented foods like miso have good bacteria, which produce many enzymes. He explains. “Those enzymes may have some way of keeping the body in balance, breaking food down, preventing inflammation, and decreasing toxic accumulation.” The simplicity of the diet also improves the elimination process, which contributes to its detoxing effect. Yu says approximately one-third of people who adopt a macrobiotic way of life recover from their illness after three to six months on the diet. “Why it doesn’t work for the other two-thirds, I don’t know,” he admits.
Macrobiotics is much more than just a diet; it is also a way of living your life in balance. Exercise along with rest; socializing along with solitude; adopting sensible sleep habits and keeping a tidy home are all considered aspects of leading a macrobiotic life. Most people associate macrobiotics with the nutritional regimen that was developed by Japanese writer-philosopher George Ohsawa in the early 20th century. This diet was later popularized in America by Michio Kushi in the sixties and seventies. Macrobiotics has an emphasis on eating whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and beans, along with restricting your intake of meat, dairy products, refined sugars, and processed foods. Macrobiotics aims to provide the body with essential nutrients while limiting the accumulation of toxins within the body. The diet is based on the Eastern concepts of yin and yang, which are the two contrasting universal energies believed to be present in all things, including food. By consuming foods with the least pronounced yin and yang qualities (like whole grains and vegetables), one can supposedly achieve a more balanced condition and initiate a healing process. It’s thought that the standard American diet, with its emphasis on red meat (overly yang) and sugary foods (overly yin), can throw the body out of balance and lead to disease.
Approximately 40 – 60% of the diet. Traditionally grains are the base of various cultures throughout the world.
- From brown rice to oats to millet and spelt, there are many different varieties of grains available.
- Grains are soaked overnight to neutralize enzyme inhibitors and to increase the absorption of nutrients when consumed.
- How to soak grains, nuts and seeds.
- How to soak brown rice and other recipes
Approximately 20 – 30% of diet
- A variety of leafy vegetables, root and sea vegetables are an important supplement to every meal because they are rich in calcium, beta carotene and many other vital nutrients. Some include: bok choy, carrot tops, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon greens, dandelion greens, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, spring onions, turnip greens, watercress, acorn squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buttercup squash, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, hokkaido pumpkin, onion, pumpkin, red cabbage, and turnips.
- Okay to eat these occasionally: celery, chives, cucumber, endive, green beans, green peas, iceberg lettuce, Jerusalem artichokes, romaine lettuce, snap beans snow peas, and sprouts.
- Eat plenty of roots vegetables: burdock, carrots, daikon, dandelion roots, lotus root, parsnip, radish.
- sea vegetables are also a mainstay of this diet are a great source of iodine and minerals.
- There are also certain vegetables that should be avoided or used sparingly, they include members of the nightshade variety: potato, tomatoes, peppers of all kinds except for black pepper.
Approximately 5 – 10% of diet
- Although all organically grown dried beans are featured prominently in macrobiotic recipes, author Michio Kushi recommends you eat the smaller sized beans such as lentils, chickpeas, black soybeans and azuki beans more frequently than navy beans, lima beans or other large varieties, which contain more oil and fat.
- beans are washed and then soaked for 8 hours or overnight in filtered water to make them more digestible.
- organic tofu, tempeh and natto are eaten daily.
- Soups made with vegetables, grains, or beans, with a variety of seasonings.
- Miso is a common base for these soups because it is rich in nutrients and enzymes. Miso is stirred in at the end of cooking so that the enzymes remain intact.
- Asian seasonings, sea salt, rice malt and the sea vegetable kombu are used to add flavor to foods.
- Garnishes may include Asian pickles, freshly grated ginger root or horseradish, fresh scallions or onions.
Foods to avoid:
- Refined sugars, white flour and white rice should be avoided when following a macrobiotic diet.
- This means no cookies, muffins, chips, popcorn, or bread products.
- Dairy and meat products also should be avoided when following a macrobiotic meal plan.
- Fish is allowed for occasional use.
- The food has not been genetically altered and is organically grown when possible
- Beverages are non-stimulating (non-caffeinated)
- Water should be spring or filtered for drinking and cooking
- Video demonstrations of various cooking methods that are used for the macrobiotic diet
- Website of the Kushi Institute for more information on their hands-on healing program