Living Well

Food & Cancer

The body can be impacted in so many different ways when you undergo treatment for cancer. Traditional methods of chemotherapy and radiation can take their tolls even on the healthiest bodies. That’s why it is so critical to supplement your treatment with healthy eating to help restore the nutrients that are being wiped from your body through foreign chemicals designed to save your life.

My digestive system took the brunt of all the harsh chemotherapy drugs and radiation I underwent for my leukemia treatment. I have always had a very slow digestive system. Having leukemia only compounded it. I would have to take digestive aids and my primary source of pain was stomach/digestive pain that would leave me wrenched over and clutching my stomach for hours. I had scan after scan on my stomach with no conclusive diagnosis. My doctors told  me that my digestive system was probably slowly repairing itself and I was feeling the effects of that. They suggested all sorts of over-the-counter medications and I even drank a specific tea each evening to make my bowels flow.

It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that things started to change. I decided to become a pescatarian (vegetarians who eat fish). It was the best decision I could’ve made.  The incorporation of fiber into my diet due to constant vegetarian meals with only a small piece of seafood incorporated made all the difference in the world. When I recently went for my 2-year check-up, my doctors were so impressed that I was having daily bowel movements without supplement assistance and my stomach pain had reduced from level 5 pain daily to virtually non-existent. It’s amazing what a diet change can do. When I attended nutrition classes at the Cancer Support Center, I learned about all the ways you can help or hinder your digestive system simply from food choices. Below are a few  tips if you are looking for some ways to improve your digestive system during treatment:

  • Incorporate ginger (ginger is a great digestive aid)
  • Start your day with the juice of one fresh lemon and warm water
  • Drink at least 60 oz of water/day (it sounds like a lot, but trust me it’s necessary)
  • Get at least 8 servings of vegetables per day
  • Eliminate fast food, processed foods and heavy starches such as potato chips
  • Sugar feeds cancer – partake sparingly!

If you are looking to make a lifestyle change, make it gradually so it will last. Start by eliminating things over the course of time. For instance, if you like fast food, start next month by eliminating one of them, then after that eliminate another one. It’s important that you meal plan and find go-to places that you can rely on when in a pinch. Poor planning forces us to revert to bad habits. Carry healthy snacks with you. Eliminate unhealthy foods from your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If you are trying to eliminate meat, try doing it gradually – one month eliminate beef, the next month, eliminate chicken and so forth and so on.

I have found that hospitals oftentimes do not have healthy choices, so you will probably have to bring your own food with you. My Nutribullet was a lifesaver throughout my journey and I still use it almost daily to incorporate greens into my daily meal plans. With all that being said, moderation is key. Remember, we are eating to live, not living to eat. Learn your body and how it reacts to certain foods. Your body will thank you for it.

MEL-STRONG

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