Diet for side effects and recovery from chemo, radiation, toxic tests, dyes, and treatments

Diet for recovery from side effects and the impact of chemotherapy, radiation, and toxicity from testing ie scans, dyes and chemical treatments ©

Cancer is one of the top three major illnesses in America—at least one in five people will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that this startling statistic is encouraging people to take better care of their health, and proper eating is a large part of it. In fact, eating a healthy and nutritious diet as presented on these pages can help lower your risk of getting cancer. Unlike in the past, when people waited for a diagnosis before paying much attention to their health, many people come to see us as a preventative measure. They want to pay attention to their health before anything serious develops. This is a new blessed way of the future.

If you already have cancer, a special diet of natural foods, as well as a regimen to support the body to heal, can play a big part in helping you to feel better and your body to recover more quickly. In many cases diet, herbs, and acupuncture can actually not only reduce but  prevent many of the side-effects  of chemotherapy and radiation. These therapies also help in the actual treatment of cancer.

As you are reading this, you may be one of the people experiencing the many side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation. These treatments are extremely hard on the body, depleting vital  nutrients and sometimes damaging the body’s organs, systems and functions. Often, a natural and supportive diet can give relief from many symptoms as well as build the immune system and strength of  the body encouraging it to recover from these very difficult, yet important, cancer treatments.

A diet for cancer patients should address the common problems that arise from treatment such as loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, sore mouth and tongue, dry mouth, taste changes, bowel problems, weight loss and exhaustion. Eat small meals throughout the day and don’t force yourself to eat more if you don’t feel like it. Have ready-to-go snacks that are high complex carbohydrates, high vegetable protein, low sugar, and low gluten. Some of these snacks can be organic  plain soy yogurt, whole grain or rice crackers low in sodium, granola bars that do not mix fruit and nuts or seeds, healthy  muffins (whole grains and that do not mix fruit, and nuts or seeds together), instant hot cereal, soups,  small meals. and  sandwiches on whole grain low gluten unyeasted bread. These will help you build or maintain your energy and address your appetite issues without overwhelming your body. Homemade tapioca (a root vegetable) pudding made with unsweetened organic soy milk (no eggs), honey, ginger, and non alcohol flavoring such as fruit flavors (orange) or vanilla is a great thing to have on hand in your fridge at home.  It is high in calories, and energy building with no gluten or wheat. You can take it along with your snacks in a lunch bag to have as a touch of sweet while you are at chemo or at a doctors visits.

We suggest always carrying food with you wherever you go. This way you are not dependent upon plastic food with little nutritous value. By carrying food in an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack, you have healthy great tasting food with you.   Nisan, Thermos and Builtwell are companies who make great stainless steel (regular and wide mouth) small thermos for carrying hot soup, mini meals, and hot water for tea or porridge.  By doing this, you have empowered yourself and are not dependent upon vending machines and packaged food that in the end, not only do not help, but can hurt you.

If you have nausea, eat foods that won’t upset your stomach. Bland soups and soothing foods such as white fishes (non oily), brown rice porridge, potatoes and crackers (healthy and organic) can help keep your stomach  calm. There is a product made from Umeboshi Plums that really helps nausea.  It is available in a paste, the whole plums, or as a pellet called Ume balls. You simply put a small amount in hot water and sip or put a pellet in your mouth.  Since Ume plums are extremely high in sodium, you need to monitor how much of it you are taking. If one of your problems is retention of fluid, then you should not take foods with high sodium.  However, a small amount (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) in hot water really works for nausea.

Eat the BRAT diet: bananas, white rice, applesauce and toast  to deal with vomiting and bowel issues like diarrhea but only for a short while.  As soon as you are able to go back on a wholesome diet, do. If you are constipated, talk to your doctor about natural laxatives. High fiber foods as well as prunes can help. Also there is a tea by Traditional Medicinals- Smooth Move that is very effective for constipation. You will find it at all health food stores and many major grocery stores as well.

One of the biggest diet problems a cancer patient can experience is changes in taste. Foods that tasted good before can taste awful during or after treatment.  Some of the more tart foods can be helpful, however, don’t overdo it.  Try things like lemon or lime squeezed on your food or as a drink in water. It could be just what you need to pep it up a little. However, if you have oral yeast(thrush) in your mouth or throat, or mouth sores, anything sour or fermented should be avoided. Some of these fermented foods are pickles, vinegar, ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut, soy sauce, salad dressomg. These things can all make the sores in you mouth or throat hurt more.  Sometimes people have a metallic taste in their mouth. It can be aggravated by certain meats,  and a lot of very spicy foods.

In general, foods that tend to make side effects worse while on drug treatments are: coffee, chocolate, nut-butters, acid foods, tomatoes, mangos, and cigarettes.  Eat other sources of protein, like beans and whole grains (see the Stay healthy with this cancer prevention diet  posted on this website), soy(only organic), fish, small quantities of organic turkey, lamb, or bison. Bear in mind that while nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein and nutrients, they also aggravate mouth sores, herpes, acidic conditions and the liver.

BLAND AND BORING IS BEAUTIFUL  is a motto we have suggested for years to our patients getting drug and/or radiation treatment, and as a general rule of thumb for everyone. Overstimulating foods can aggravate hidden problems such as fevers, viruses, inflammatory conditions, immune weakness, and blood disorders, only to mention a few.  Keep the food simple, nutritious, and gentle.  The body has enough to deal with. It does not need the additional pressure of processing strong foods.

WATCH SODIUM.  There are a multitude of diseases and conditons that can be aggravated, if not caused, by too much salt in your diet- heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, fluid retention, only to mention a few. Read labels checking for products high in sodium. This goes for supposed healthy products as well.  For example, Eden, Westbrae and Whole Foods are companies who offer organic beans with no salt, while Trader Joes beans contain salt. Trader Joes also have a lot of products high in sodium. 

ALWAYS SEPARATE SUGAR (all forms) AND PROTEIN (all forms). When we eat sweet and protein together, it creates havoc in our bodies. It really does not matter which sweet and which protein. The process is the same. Our diets are riddled with this disasterous combination. 

Sugar is assimilated quickly while protein takes more time to digest.   When you eat the two together the sugar bonds to the protein waiting for it to be digested. While it is waiting, the sugar ferments. That’s right, it rots in the gut. This is a big reason why  people have digestive problems, gas, bloating, etc.  Also, it is believed that by eating this bad food combination along with a high animal fat (including a lot of dairy) can contribute to polyps in the colon, weakness of the immune system, and what we call in Asian medicine impure blood which can lead to cancer. 

In fact, we begin every day by breaking this basic and important rule of health.   There are few exceptions to this habit in all Western countries. The typical Western breakfast (as opposed to Eastern) consists of juice or fruit, bacon or some cured meat, eggs, bread with jelly or some sweet spread, and perhaps peanut butter. Or it could be pancakes or waffles with some cured meat and maple syrup or some syrupy topping, or, toast with cream cheese and jam or peanut butter and jelly.  In France, every home has a cheese tray that gets passed around with a wonderful array of different cheeses to sample, perhaps some cured processed high sodium meats, along with fresh bread baked that morning (usually white flour), fruit and /or fruit juice, and coffee with cream and sugar.

What’s the solution you ask?

Separate sweets and proteins.  This is not easy, but very effective.  Once you try this for a while, you will notice a big difference in how you feel.  Have your sweet, fruit, dessert, etc. in the middle of the morning, afternoon, evening at least one to two hours from your other food.  It will be  strange to do at first, but you will feel so much better. 

 If you are undergoing treatment, it is best to inform your doctor before beginning any new diet, especially if you have cancer. While most Western trained physicians do not have many hours of  training in the field of nutrition, they will support their patients’ efforts to eat more nutritiously.  

Unlike eating a typical Western/American diet, if you eat consciously, reading labels, and keeping foods as whole, fresh and pure as possible, you are improving the likelihood of staying healthy longer and being more emotionally balanced and mentally alert. Many people feel the difference in as short a time as one month. 

Try to avoid eating foods you know are not good for you, or for that matter, anyone.  The temptation is always there, especially, when you have an event or a party to attend. Rarely will there be many good food choices. This same dilemma can come up when you go to eat in a restaurant. If you are with a person or people who have no food sense it can become difficult. You feel you are being tempted by the foods you know are terrible for you but taste so good. It can be very difficult to make sound food choices when others you are with are not.  Actually, some people go so far as to dissuade others from eating well.

I maintain that there will always be foods available in any of these circumstances that are healthy choices.  They may be few and far between but if you take the time to look, you’ll find something.  A tip I have suggested to people for years is that if they are going out to an event where there is no guarantee there will good, healthy food to eat, eat a little meal before you leave home or work. It is easier to be around junk food on a full or half full stomach.

Just the simple act of packing a lunch or a snack that you have given thought to before dashing out the door to a busy day/life, is a very grounding thing to do for yourself. Taking the time to think about foods that will keep you replenished as you expend energy, can offer stability to your day and life.

If you want to go the extra mile, go see a Natural Medicine Practitioner or Natural Foods Nutritionist to get tailored advice as to how to balance your diet for optimum health. Ultimately, keep it simple.  You do not need a regimen with hundreds of vitamin pills a week, you need to nourish yourself with dynamic food and less junk, salt,  and sugar. Sometimes it is a challenge to be true to ourselves. However, if we can’t be, who else will or can do it for us?  

There could be particular foods that may conflict directly with your cancer treatment. It is extremely important that you check in with your doctor. He or she may give you a list of foods to avoid which you can discuss with your Alternative or Natural Medicine practitioner or Natural Foods nutritionist.

There is no question that by eating more healthfully you will feel better,  less stressed, and help your body and mind to heal.