Food is medicine. If you have never believed this, you owe your body and your health the opportunity to have nutrition prove its healing benefits.
When I under went chemotherapy, I became extremely intentional about what I ate, drank and put on my body. I knew all too well that the chemotherapy would do more than kill cancer cells…it would also attack my healthy cells resulting in me feeling weak, exhausted, sick and depleted. I have been studying nutrition since my dad was diagnosed with cancer eight years ago. I decided to incorporate all that I have learned and develop a regimen to make my body as strong as possible to battle the side effects of chemotherapy. The result…no one would have ever known I was going through chemotherapy…no one. I felt better in some ways than I felt before my diagnosis. I maintained my luscious locks, my skin coloring, and a healthy amount of energy. What I ate kept me strong, vibrant and in control. What I ate allowed me to be fearless.
What’s in my kitchen?
- Organic and non-GMO vegetables – collard greens, rainbow chard, kale, burdock root, cucumbers, celery, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, delicata squash, broccoli, peppers and carrots
- Organic and non-GMO fruits – apples, lemons, limes, avocados, blueberries, raspberries, dates and figs
- High quality, free-range, organic – eggs and chicken
- High quality, wild, fresh – fish
- High quality, organic, home-made beef bone broths
- Organic olive oil and coconut oils
- Organic herbs – cilantro, basil, dill, rosemary and thyme
- Himalayan salt, organic black pepper and various high quality spices
- Raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, and quinoa
- Dried lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans
- High quality kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and apple cider vinegar
After my diagnosis it did not take long until I looked at everything I ate as either my enemy or my ally. Vegetables, herbs, and fruit became my allies whereas processed foods, sugar, alcohol and simple carbohydrates became my enemies. I did not want to eat anything that I believed could strengthen the cancer. Once it was removed, I didn’t want to eat anything that encouraged new growth. Food became my medicine.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I ate consciously. I watched my grandfather, father and sister both learn of their cancer diagnoses and drastically change the way they ate. I made a choice to eat health consciously from what they learned. My dad’s death inspired me to grow a huge garden. My sister, Jill and I eliminated sugar for months together. We also tried being vegan. In the end of Jill’s life we believed together that high quality whole foods-vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and lean proteins were the essentials. I still believe all of this to be true.
When I got diagnosed, I knew I had a few things I had to kick – my coffee, sugar and gluten addiction along with my habit of eating and drinking out. These things did not cause my cancer but were not halting its tracks. There are a lot of resources out there that have mixed messages of whether sugar feeds cancer, or if a PH balanced diet prevents cancer from growing. In the end, you will just have to have faith in your intuition of what is fact and what is fiction. I believe that an overly acidic diet, carcinogens, stress and sugar promote cancer. During chemotherapy, I made a decision to eat the majority of my meals from home that were only organic and non-GMO produce with grass fed and free range organic eggs and organic, grass fed lean meats….in other words, the highest quality I had available to me. Pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified organisms are carcinogens and have proven to cause cancer. Eating a salad out at a restaurant no longer seemed healthy as I learned that only a handful of restaurants in my city used organic produce. There are lots of resources stating that animal proteins cause cancer, however, I believe that poor quality animal proteins cause cancer. Additionally, I crave eggs, chicken and fish and believe that is my body telling me that I need some animal proteins to be strong.
- Coffee – I drank at least one Americano every day. I always enjoyed it and depended on it to start my day. When I read more about the basics for a PH balanced diet, I realized that many mornings my common Americano, Greek Yogurt and fresh raspberry breakfast was completely Acidic and was not balanced with any Alkaline foods to ensure a balanced PH in my body. Some days were busy and I may eat lunch late in the afternoon, resulting in nearly a fourth of my day my body being entirely Acidic. This may have even lasted all day if I didn’t incorporate a huge portion of vegetables in my diet for lunch or dinner. A simple trick of drinking lemon water with your coffee can balance your PH. Even better, eat vegetables and lots of them for every meal. I now eat an entire bunch of organic collard greens, rainbow chard or kale sauteed with olive oil and sometimes lemon, garlic and/or turmeric with a few scrambled eggs to start my day.
- Sugar – Sugar is in everything. As soon as you take the challenge to eliminate it from your diet, you will learn that it is in everything. I eliminated all sugar with the exception of fresh fruits and vegetables. I did a lot of research on sugar. I do not eat anything with corn syrup, cane sugar, artificial sweeteners but do eat whole foods with nutritional value that contain sugar including dates, figs, bananas, apples and carrots. I learned that sugar in the US is from genetically modified beets. As you can imagine, researchers are finding that genetically modified foods are causing cancer. On special occasion, I will indulge in high quality honey or maple syrup. What I ultimately learned is that our body’s blood sugar level may feed cancer more than sugar on its own. In other words, when indulging in a (ideally natural) sweet, incorporate some protein or fats to balance the blood sugar level of your body.
- Gluten – Breads and pastas as soon as they are eaten are quickly processed into sugars. Eating a cookie in some regards is just like eating a plate of pasta. However, the same holds true that if you eat protein or fats with your bread or pasta it could balance your blood sugar level. Yet, gluten is another acidic food which will mean you also need to incorporate lots of vegetables to balance the PH balance. I decided to eliminate gluten from my nutrition as I ultimately felt sluggish and tired after eating simple carbohydrates and decided chemotherapy was going to provide all the depletion I could handle.
- Eating Out – Only a handful of restaurants use organic and non-GMO produce in their recipes and ensure that they are purchasing the highest quality of meats. A meal ordered at a restaurant has an undetermined amount of butter, sugar, or even worse. Cooking your own food will ensure that you don’t order your favorite Thai entree just to learn that a cup of sugar was added to ensure it became your favorite dish.
- Drinking Out – Unfortunately, our livers are not able to process alcohol easily. My liver is being over worked processing the chemotherapy. As a result, I have chosen to drink very little and ironically my desire to drink a glass of red wine has diminished drastically.
I chose a 90/10 rule during chemotherapy, meaning that 90% of the time the food I ate would be prepared at home with high quality organic ingredients and the other 10% of the time I would be “normal”. One or two meals each week were my exceptions. I believe stress is cancer’s best friend. If the restraint from eating something ignites stress, you are not doing your body any good. If I felt stressed that I couldn’t have some homemade apple pie or a chocolate covered strawberry or a margarita – I decided it was better to indulge and thoroughly enjoy than permit stress to feed the enemy. However, food addictions are real and after thirty days of not eating sugar, coffee, and gluten…I no longer had an addiction. I also told myself that once chemotherapy was behind me, I would adjust to a 80/20 rule whereas 20% of my meals would not be cooked at home. However, if I feel this good while undergoing chemotherapy, I would love to maintain my habit of cooking and see how nutrition heals when poison isn’t being introduced every Friday (chemo day). I can’t remember the last time I felt a hunger pain.
- Always plan your next meal..as soon as you get hungry, its too late.
- Monitor your fridge daily to prevent wasting food. Put food in your freezer that you won’t eat in the next few days.
- Drink water constantly. I tried to drink my body weight in ounces of water every day.
- Learn to cook your favorite meals you like to order from restaurants.
The information contained on this website is educational in nature and is provided only as general information. None of the information or techniques represented on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. I am not a medical doctor or dietitian, these views expressed merely represent my own personal experience.