Reply To: Moving on to stage two!

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(what follows is extremely Japan-specific advice; everyone who doesn’t live/aim to live there can ignore)

Hi Javizy, nice to meet you.

I sometimes eat 100% soba noodles, but I’ve found buckwheat groats (玄そば, otherwise known as そばの実) to be way more convenient, since you can cook them in a rice cooker and eat them as a rice substitute. Same with millet, so I tend to stick to those two.

As far as prices go… for the moment I’m trying to buy my vegetables organic or “reduced chemicals” and my meat hormone/antibiotic-free. Salmon I buy wild, but other low-mercury seafood I get at a normal store. The eggs vary, but are always at least hormone/antibiotic-free. I got desperate one day and bought conventional eggs and had a reaction, so I’m trying to stay reasonably organic for now (the buckwheat/millet is usually conventional).

What you need to know about food prices in Japanese groceries is that they vary tremendously depending on store and product. If you’re staying in Tokyo, I’d recommend taking a venture out to a large grocery store in one of the more suburb-like parts of the 23 wards… if you are going to be in Shinjuku, then there are several in Higashi-Nakano within a few minutes of the station that will give you a good idea of “normal” conventional food prices (bring a notepad and take notes!). Another option is small produce stores along shopping arcades; there’s a really good one leading from Asagaya Station to Shin-Asagaya Station. However, these tend to be best for fruit, which we can’t eat (they do carry some veggies too, though). Try to avoid smaller grocery stores like Meidiya that carry more specialized items, as they tend to be expensive. Same goes for department stores, and many groceries near expensive developments (e.g. Roppongi Hills). 24-hour stores also tend to be a tad more expensive. Food prices also vary according to seasonality, of course, as well as origin (imported foods are usually cheaper than domestically produced foods), and don’t forget about sales!

However, the above advice is only for conventional food. I’m not living in Tokyo at the moment, so I’m not sure how to advise you on getting organic/hormone-free food there. Where I am at the moment, examples of the prices for organic food are like so:

bag of salad greens (spinach, mizuna, etc.): 200-250 yen (a decent-sized salad requires 1.5-2 bags)
one very slender cucumber: 60 yen
one egg: 29-57 yen (depends on degree of organic-ness)
two slices wild salmon: 450 yen
chicken: 100-130 yen per 100g
ground pork: 200 yen per 100g
ground beef: 300 yen per 100g

And these are the best prices I’ve found. I’ve seen way way worse (500 yen for a single organic avocado, anyone?) Dried food stuffs like the buckwheat are best purchased online (Rakuten is your friend). Don’t forget that in addition to having to buy organic, you’ll also need to start buying more. Volume-wise, I eat at least double what I used to, since proper grains and starches are all off-limits. This means that while one slice of fish, a small salad, a bowl of rice, and some kind of dessert used to count as a meal, I’m now eating a huge salad, a small bowl of buckwheat groats, two fish slices, and 3-4 eggs as “dessert.” Basically, all my discretionary income goes to food nowadays. And all my spare time goes to cooking.

I did buy some vitamin C here, but most of my supplements were shipped to be from the States (my mom was worried and gathered some up for me). Honestly, I don’t take them that often, and they haven’t been a crucial part of my healing process, but then again I don’t think I had a very bad case of overgrowth. It was too damn complicated to try and figure out which ones here were any good, when I knew exactly what all the good brands were back home (and can actually read the labels without having to whip out a dictionary).

As far as restaurants go… because I’m trying to stay organic eating out is pretty much impossible. Even if you ignore the organic side of things, there are way too many no-no ingredients that could be added. Soy sauce, vinegar, table salt, canola oil, a dash of flour… even something as simple as grilled fish is likely to include some or all of the above. Also, restaurants usually only offer a small daikon or cabbage salad or maybe some pickles in terms of vegetables, if that, and expect you to rely on white rice to fill up. The only foods I can open the package and eat on the spot from a grocery store are dried seaweed, sashimi, and that’s basically it (if you get desperate while on the go you can make an almost-meal out of these two). Everything else requires rinsing off (vegetables) or cooking (meats and buckwheat/millet).

Fortunately I’m not working at a Japanese company at the moment; I quit my job to go back to school so I’m a student now (if I had tried to do this diet a year ago, I wouldn’t have lasted a week simply because I didn’t have the spare 2-4 hours a day to cook and grocery shop, not to mention the prolonged die-off symptoms I experienced would have eventually gotten me fired; as is, I’ve had to skip a lot of classes and suffer nasty quiz scores < -- brain fog). Personally, I wouldn’t do anything out of the ordinary such as working abroad while on this diet (I’ve been living in Japan for almost two years now and have my own apartment and everything, so this is home for me), if for no other reason than what are you going to eat between when you leave your house (in the UK, right?) and when you get established with a kitchen and groceries in Japan? Ultimately the decision is up to you, of course, but I wouldn’t ruin a perfectly good Japan trip with this 面倒くさい diet. Although… I don’t know what kind of work you were planning on doing, but if you do WWOOFing and pick just the right farm (and right time of year), you’ll have a decent amount of spare time for cooking and access to free organic produce.

Anyway, let me know if you have any other Japan-related questions. And no worries; I plan on easing back into a more normal diet fairly slowly; no 飲み放題 at any 居酒屋 for me anytime soon I’m afraid.