THE BLOG

Eating for Chemo and Radiation

02/24/2012 05:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 25, 2012

Three people I care about are going through chemo and radiation. Being treated for cancer is a consuming experience that can be draining, scary and lonely no matter how many caring people you have around you. It's not a time for people to shower you with advice. My M.O. is to keep my opinions to myself, unless asked. One of my friends is losing too much weight and asked me to help him with his diet. This is for my friends and anyone out there who needs a little help with their diet right now.

During chemo and radiation, your body is assaulted with free radicals, which damage DNA (cellular "blueprints" that contain vital instructions) and mitochondria (energy factories in your cells). Don't add to the destruction by eating factory-produced food products, which are dead of nutrition, contain synthetic nutrients added in arbitrary amounts and are adulterated with hormones, chemicals, GMO residues and other toxins. Instead eat real, whole living food to provide your immune system with the materials to both neutralize free radicals and inhibit the growth, invasion and metastasis of cancers that already exist.

Consume antioxidants in food to bulk up your arsenal of defense against free radical damage. (You can also get antioxidants from supplements, but we're going to stay focused on food here.) Veggies are antimugenic -- they help your body fight cancer mutation, and they contain antioxidants that ameliorate the free radical damage of the chemo and radiation. Try to drink three eight-ounce glasses of green vegetable juice every day. By juicing green veggies, you can consume A LOT more vegetables than if you had to chew them, and equally important, the nutrition in green veggies (locked behind hard cellular walls) is released when you liquefy them in a blender-type juicer.

I am always stunned when I hear people say that their doctors told them to eat cakes, cookies, pies and so on to keep their weight up during chemo and radiation. Sugar is well known to feed cancer cells. Insulin, which is secreted when you eat sugar, is also a growth factor for cancer cells. Moreover, the "weight" you gain from sugar will be stored fat, because sugar does not make lean body mass (muscle and bone).

To gain lean body mass, eat complex carbs along with fats and proteins in balanced meals and snacks. Eating balanced meals will build muscle and bone mass and bolster your endocrine and immune systems.

If you start losing weight even though you're eating, and/or you experience heartburn, you may have some absorption problems. Most people over the age of 40 have problems absorbing nutrients. Ask your nutritionist about taking Betaine Hydrochloride (HCL) with Pepsin with your meals. You also might want to take some papaya too to aid in digestion. If your GI tract shuts down, which happens a lot when taking prescription drugs or painkillers, take 500 milligrams of magnesium citrate, then inch up or down progressively to see what dose works for you. Avoid laxatives, as they are abrasive and contain all kinds of bad things. More than ever, you want to protect and pamper your GI tract because that is where all of your nutrition is absorbed. You can buy supplements at any health food store.

The basics of eating for chemo/radiation

  • Eat only real, whole, living food
  • Eat only organic food
  • Eat frequent, small, nutrient-dense meals. A few bites are better than going without for hours.
  • Switch from coffee to tea, or quit caffeine if you can
  • Green tea is preferable to black tea as it contains the anticancer flavonoid catechin
  • Stay hydrated by drinking only purified water
  • Drink three eight-ounce glasses of green vegetable juice every day

What to avoid completely

  • Processed or otherwise industrialized food
  • Alcohol
  • Any type of sugar (including honey). Stevia is allowed
  • Sodas, regular or diet
  • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, Splenda)
  • Soy (it contains fluoride and phytoestrogen -- see "protein" below)
  • Seared, flame-cooked or barbecued foods

Get started before you begin treatments

  • Purchase a juicer -- I use the Vitamix 5002 juicer -- online, or at a store such as Costco or Whole Foods (the prices are now competitive)
  • Purchase a portable water filter, order bottled water delivery, or have a filtration installed

Nonstarchy vegetables

  • Vegetables are best juiced to release nutrition, however you can them raw and cooked as well
  • Eat unlimited amounts of nonstarchy vegetables every day
  • Vary the types of vegetables you consume
  • Deeply colored vegetables have the greatest anticancer effectiveness

The vegetables that have the strongest antimugenic effects are in bold.



Arugula

Asparagus

Bean sprouts

Broadbeans

Broccoli

Brussels sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots (are non-starchy if raw)

Cauliflower

Celery

Chicory greens

Chives

Collard greens

Coriander

Crookneck squash

Cucumber

Dandelion greens

Eggplant

Endive

Fennel

Gardencress

Garlic

Ginger root

Green beans

Green Peppers

Horseradish

Jaicama

Jalapeno peppers

Kale

Lettuce

Mushrooms

Mustard greens

Onions

Parsley

Radicchio

Radishes

Red peppers

Rhubarb

Scallop squash

Scallop squash

Shallots

Snap beans

Snow peas

Spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash

Spinach

Summer squash

Swiss chard

Turnip greens

Watercress

Yellow peppers

Zucchini squash

Herbs and Spices

  • Herbs and spices contain antioxidants and many herbs have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.
  • Especially beneficial are rosemary, sage and turmeric, which are anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial flavonoid. It can be dissolved into a tablespoon of olive oil and taken as a supplement.

The spices that have strongest antimugenic effects are in bold.



Allspice

Anise seed

Basil

Bay leaf

Caraway seed

Cardamom

Cayenne pepper

Celery seed

Chervil

Chili powder

Cinnamon

Cloves

Coriander

Cumin seed

Curry powder

Dill seed/weed

Fennel seed

Fenugreek seed

Ginger

Lemon peel

Mace

Marjoram

Mustard seed

Nutmeg

Oregano

Paprika

Parsley

Pepper

Peppermint

Poppy seed

Rosemary

Saffron

Sage

Savory

Spearmint

Tarragon

Thyme

Turmeric (curcumin)



Fats to cook with and eat at room temperature

Extra virgin olive oil

Butter

Coconut oil

Therapeutic fats to keep in the refrigerator -- never heat these oils

  • DHA extracted from algae (supplemental form)
  • Gamma linolenic acid (GLA), in cod liver oil (buy the flavored brands)
  • Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), can be taken as a supplement, and is found in the eggs, meat and whole dairy from grass fed chickens and animals
  • Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) from coconut or red palm oils
  • Activator X (aka X Factor) is the butter from grass fed cows which contains Vitamin K, believed by some to be an anti-cancer agent

Protein

  • Eat smaller fish, as larger fish contain higher levels of mercury
  • Remove skin from poultry if it is not organic, free-range
  • Eat only fresh animal and fish proteins, two-day old protein in the refrigerator has already begun to oxidize and contains free radicals
  • There are those who believe in the anti-cancer properties of soy. There are many, myself included, who feel that the research demonstrates that soy actually promotes cancer. It's up to you to decide. It's my opinion that sticking with historically eaten food is the most prudent approach.
  • Chicken and the skin if organic
  • Eggs
  • Meat and the fat
  • Fish
  • Turkey
  • Whole organic dairy

Starchy Vegetables

The vegetables that have the strongest antimugenic effects are in bold.



Acorn squash

Artichokes

Beets (consume cooked as they are high sugar when juiced)

Butternut squash

Carrots

Corn

Green peas

Leeks

Lima beans

Okra

Parsnip

Potato

Rutabagas

Sweet potato or yam

Turnips



Legumes



Adzuki beans

Black beans

Garbanzo beans

Chickpeas

Blackeyed peas

French beans

Great Northern beans

Hominy

Kidney beans

Lentils

Mung beans

Navy beans

Pinto beans

Pumpkin

Split peas

White beans

Yellow beans

Grains

Barley

Brown rice

Buckwheat

Kasha

Tabbouleh

Corn bran

Corn grits

Couscous

Durum wheat

Millet

Oats

Polenta

Quinoa

Rye

Semolina

Whole grain wheat

Wheat bran

Wheat germ

Wild rice



Whole gain flour and meals to bake your own bread

Acorn flour

Almond meal

Brown rice flour

Buckwheat flour

Cornmeal

Oat bran flour

Potato flour

Rye flour

Semolina flour

Sesame flour

Whole wheat flour



Fruit

  • Eat only 1/2 cup of fruit per day (fruit is high in sugar)
  • The fruits that most protect DNA from damage are in bold
  • Deeply colored fruits have the greatest anticancer effectiveness.

The fruits that have the strongest antimugenic effects are in bold.

Apple (best: MacIntosh)

Applesauce

Apricots

Avocados

Bananas

Black & red currents

Blackberries

Blueberries

Boysenberries

Breadfruit

Cantaloupe

Casaba

Cherries

Crabapples

Cranberries

Dates

Elderberries

Figs

Gooseberries

Grapefruit

Grapes

Guavas

Honeydew

Kiwi

Kumquats

Lemons

Limes

Mangos

Nectarines

Oranges

Papayas

Peaches

Pears

Persimmons

Pineapple

Plantains

Plums

Pomegranates

Prickly pears

Quinces

Raspberries

Rhubarb

Strawberries

Sun-dried tomatoes

Tamarinds

Tangerines

Tomatillos

Tomatoes

Watermelon



Some ideas for muscle and bone building meals

Breakfast

  • Bacon and eggs with whole grain raisin toast, or whole grain pancakes lathered in butter
  • Eggs Benedict with lots of hollandaise
  • Chorizo scrambled eggs smothered in sour cream and quacomole, served with salsa with corn tortilla
  • Steak and eggs with breakfast potatoes sautéed in coconut oil
  • Steel cut oats with lots of cream and butter along with eggs scrambled with cream cheese, and parmesan cheese

Lunch and dinner

  • Cream soups
  • Chicken and tuna salad with mayo
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches lathered in butter and use tons of cheese
  • Steak with the fat, with baked potato, sour cream and butter
  • Mix in cheese, butter and sour cream whenever possible
  • Use lots of olive oil and coconut oil
Snacks

  • Nuts, especially almonds
  • Popcorn: Make in air popper (to avoid damaged fats), then drizzle on melted organic butter and sea salt
  • Berries with whipped cream made with stevia

Protein Smoothies

Drink protein smoothies between meals to keep the nutrition flowing in. But don't just drink protein drinks as your body needs whole solid food. Drink protein shakes to "supplement" your diet.

Peanut Butter Cocoa Smoothie

1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 ice cubes or 1 frozen banana (cut up)

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

3 to 4 tablespoons organic chocolate syrup or powdered cocoa

Stevia to taste

Blend in blender.

Coconut Cheesecake Smoothie

1 can whole coconut milk

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

2 tablespoons whole cream cheese

1 cup frozen pineapple

½ frozen banana

Squeeze of fresh lime

Stevia to taste

Blend in blender.

Apple Pie Smoothie

1 peeled MacIntosh apple, cubed

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons whole cream cheese

1 tablespoon vanilla

Dash of cinnamon

Stevia to taste

Blend in blender.

During chemo and radiation, your diet is more important than it's ever been in your life. Cancer treatments can kill your taste for food. You may get to the point where you don't have an appetite. If you stop eating, your brain will release opiates (pain killers) in response to the state of famine and you may feel a little "high," which reinforces not eating. It's crucial for you to be your own adult and use discipline and fortitude. Begin psyching yourself up before your treatments start.

For more by Nancy Deville, click here.

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For more on diet and nutrition, click here.