ASK SARAH: are you still following the macrobiotic diet?

question:  

hello sarah, i was just wondering if you still follow a macrobiotic diet? or are you more on the vegan program? i was curious how long you followed it and how it effected you? it seems so strict, but i have a digestive disorder and i have heard it’s a pretty helpful diet to follow. i’d love to hear your insight. thanks!

answer after the jump!

answer:

this is a question i’ve been asked a few times and i’m really looking forward to answering (i’ll also be posting this in the crohn’s section so that as time passes it doesn’t disappear into the archives!) let me preface my answer by saying that i am not a trained health professional and my advice is just coming from personal experience.  i do recommend seeing a macrobiotic counselor, a holistic health care provider, a naturopath, and/or  our physician before making any changes. 

i love the macrobiotic diet (learn more about it here) as it’s truly such an incredibly healthy way to eat. when i was recovering from this i tried to eat as macro as i could.  i never fully grasped the whole yin/yang thing which is a major part, but found that just the basic principles and using the food pyramid helped me understand what i should be eating and what i should be avoiding.  so this meant i ate a lot of whole grains, vegetables, beans, soups and small amounts of fruit.  i added all kinds of new foods to my life and started a love affair with vegetables.  i avoided dairy, meat, fish, eggs, sugar, flour and almost all processed foods.  i made sure that my seasonings were mild- no excess in either salt or sweet.  i chewed my food until it was liquid (amazingly helpful for your digestion!) and i tried to eat mostly local, seasonal produce.  it was incredibly good for my system at the time and helped me get back to health so quickly.  for this reason i swear by it for anyone looking to heal their body-from anything!

macrobiotics is a lifestyle, not just a diet, which is another part of what i think is brilliant about it.  i believe that stress is a huge contributing factor in modern health and illness.  i have to make sure that i manage my stress levels or i see my health deteriorate.  i’ve learned from experience- if my diet is poor and my stress levels are high i am pretty much guaranteed to start having pain in my stomach.  if i continued down that path i would no doubt end up with a full blown crohn’s flare up.  for me it’s always a great reminder that my life is out of balance and i go immediately back to clean eating and take time to do the things that reduce stress (exercise, transcendental meditation, sunbathing, movie dates with my husband, bike rides, etc).

as time passed and my health improved i started to trust myself a little more and began being a little less restrictive in my diet.  this means that if i’m out with friends and everyone is sharing dessert- i’m the first to pick up my spoon and the last to set it down.  when we vacationed in greece i tried all the local fish dishes and ate my weight in feta cheese. i would have been fine had i come home and immediately transitioned back into my clean eating but instead i continued to have “treats” until i started to feel it and was reminded that i really have to eat a certain way to feel healthy.  

my dietary focus now is eating healthy 95% of the time.  this means that 95% of the time i’m eating lots of (ORGANIC!) veggies and fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, and some macrobiotic favorites (miso soup & sea vegetables).  i avoid animal products, refined sugar and processed foods. lately i’ve been trying to eat more raw foods as they offer the most nutrition and i’ve been starting each day with a glass of warm lemon water and this juice.  i’ve also found that giving my digestive system breaks (through juice cleanses) has been incredible.  i feel my very best when i’m eating very light (ie: smaller, raw meals) and drinking lots of fresh juices.  i’ve been teaching myself how to cook and have so much fun playing in the kitchen.  i don’t feel at all deprived, instead i feel like there’s a whole world of foods that i’ve become aware of since starting to eat this way.  the 5% of the time is when i’m traveling or socializing and i still try to eat healthy but will also have some of the things i normally avoid.  especially sweets, i love a sugary treat.

i know it sounds crazy but i feel so fortunate to have gotten sick.  i feel better now than i ever have, and i attribute that entirely to my change of diet and lifestyle. if you’re reading this and you’re completely healthy- there is nothing better than preventative medicine! i consider every green juice i drink a little bit of preventative medicine and feel confident that this way of life will keep me healthy for the long haul. autoimmune diseases like crohn’s are on the rise in this country and women are the most likely to get sick (statistics here if you’re interested- the numbers are staggering).  i believe that we can prevent and treat most (if not all) autoimmune disease with dietary/lifestyle changes.    

here are two cookbooks that played a major role in my recovery:  the kind dietthe hip chick’s guide to macrobiotics.  both books offer insight into macrobiotics and recipes that aren’t overwhelming.  the recipes that i post are most often things that are a part of my regular diet, but i also post the occasional treat.  it’s all about balance! wishing you all the best, health and happiness!  xx- sarah

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Reader Comments

  1. sarah yates|

    thanks so much @aw! that video was great and definitely reaffirms everything i've found for myself and believe in. but it's more than just a lack of animal products that keeps you healthy i think… i was a vegan when i got sick with crohn's disease! i just wasn't eating very well- too much processed foods and not enough fruits, veggies and whole grains.

    @tori- thank you! yes, i think it's so important to spread the word about this! not only for auto immune disorders but for all health issues- we really need to be focusing more on healthy food as preventative medicine. i think so much disease can be prevented! thanks again!

    Reply
  2. Sherry|

    (I posted this to the wrong place, so this is a repost)

    This may seem like a very unpopular idea, but I'm going to post it anway, just try to be open-minded. ;)

    Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) – I started on this at the end of January 2013 and find myself to be feeling better than I can ever really remember.

    I don't have Crohn's, but I had been suffering from a myriad of other problems such as acid reflux, joint pain (I thought I had arthritis at the age of 45!), excessively dry skin, borderline high colesterol, and even with medication, my high blood pressure was wildly out of control.

    I had a health check around the same time I changed my eating habits, and again just a few weeks ago.

    Blood Pressure
    Then: 175/90 Now: 124/70 (I don't think it's ever been this good!)

    Colesterol
    Then: 6.47 Now: 5.1

    Weight
    Then: 94kg Now: 81kg

    Resting Pulse
    Then: (N/A) Now: I was so relaxed in her office that it was only 58 lol

    My skin problems are clearing up, my reflux is under control and getting better.

    Do a little research and just see what you think. My favorite source of information is: htt://www.dietdoctor.com

    Also, here's an article regarding lchf and Chron's, as well as other problems.

    http://www.drjaywortman.com/blog/wordpress/2012/03/12/its-not-just-about-weight-loss/

    Reply
  3. aw|

    Hi Sarah,

    Great blog. I came to your blog via Clare Vivier on Facebook. I don't know much about Crohn's except that it is an inflammatory bowel disease. I am a vegan and do know this much … that eating meats and other animals, animal by-products causes low-grade inflammation in the human body.

    Just leaving link to this 3:42 minute video for you to see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/achieving-remission-of-crohns-disease/

    Do see NutritionFacts.org site… and click around great resource of science and research behind the data. Have a great day!

    Reply
  4. Tori|

    Love to see people bringing awareness to the fact that dietary changes can improve our health much more drastically than popping pills. I've heard lots of good things about dealing with Crohn's with both macrobiotic and the Whole9 (paleolithic) program. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply
  5. Mere|

    This is SUCH a great post. I have Crohn's Disease (diagnosed about 4 years ago), and it's a pretty terrible thing to deal with on a daily basis (mostly because it's a silent disease, no one really knows what you're struggling with). I totally believe that diet and lifestyle help a lot – I do yoga, eat mostly organic and no preservatives, and I truly think that improves my condition. I wish more people would look towards diet and lifestyle, rather than medications (though they are definitely sometimes necessary). Love the blog – keep up the good work!

    Reply
  6. Todd|

    Dieting is very much needed for our health. Proper dieting gives us an attractive figure. Proper food materials helping us to have good dieting. We have to take good foods in required amount. We need to avoid fast foods and junk foods.

    Reply
  7. Frederika Maria|

    You go girl. I do believe stress and poor diet is the cause of my Crohn's. I follow Low Fat Raw Vegan and it sure fixed me. I know that when i don't follow it and go stressed out it comes back. I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I wish someone would have shown me the way back then. Doctors in Quebec were absolutely stunned and unhappy I made the change believing it was a placebo effect. One thing I learned was to challenge your doctors, they are taught a certain way at med school and tend to be very close minded. Do what you believe and what makes sense to you.

    Reply
  8. Ella's Mom|

    My 8 year old (6 at the time her Crohn's reared it's ugly head), really benefits from similar dietary changes. I would recommend to anyone with crohn's to seriously give a gluten free diet a go (in addition to above listed diets)! It takes a bit for the body to detoxify but, it's so worth it (for everyone really)! Expect to be gluten free for 1-2 months before you're feeling your best again!

    Reply
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  10. Camilla|

    Hi Sarah, I found your blog via Hither and Thither. I’m so pleased that you have shared your experience. I have MS and I follow a similar diet (it’s low saturated fat, so no dairy and no meat). Anecdotally, many people have had success with it – it’s based on research done by a Professor Swank, and his results with it were quite extraordinary. The particular program that I follow is by an Australian (George Jelinek) and it incorporates diet and lifestyle changes (meditation etc). So, I do agree with you that this approach has benefits for many other types of autoimmune conditions other than Crohn’s. I’ve only been on the diet for about 6 months…but so far so good. My father also happens to be a Gastroenterologist and has many patients with Crohn’s Disease. Whilst he’s absolutely focused on western medicine (as he is a very traditional doctor in that sense), he has observed over 30 years of practice that stress (particularly emotional stress) leads to relapses in his patients, so he’s quite focused on yoga and meditation being included in my treatment program. And whilst he’s a great doctor, he never received any training on nutrition or food as part of his medical training, so I do believe there is a real gap there, and we shouldn’t assume that our doctors are informed when it comes to diet.

    Reply
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