I’ve done a bunch of research into diet given my desire to help my body along during chemotherapy. To be honest, I’m still confused by all the contradictory information! I was especially keen to dive into detoxing while undergoing chemo, however after a great deal of investigation, I have found some interesting facts that offer a more realistic perspective a ‘miracle detox diets’. The bottom line is…… once you decide to go ahead with chemotherapy, alternative treatments – especially strict detox diets – can actually cause you a great deal of harm.
There’s no denying that some diseases and chronic health issues are avoidable and perhaps even curable with a good balanced diet, detox program, and exercise. Not to mention how much more energy and “clear thinking” you enjoy on a daily basis when your system is working at its optimum. During chemo, a healthy diet and exercise program may assist you greatly in managing some side effects. It will likely also help your body repair faster after treatment too. And when I say “healthy diet”, that means full of fresh fruit and vegetables, high in protein and fibre, devoid of processed foods. According to my dietician, the trick is to reach a healthy weight range and then maintain it. She tells me that is you become underweight, it can be really difficult to build your body back up again.
So what the news on detoxing while undergoing chemotherapy? Here’s some interesting things I discovered……..
Strict Detox Diets – A Cure for Cancer or Not?
A Realistic Approach To Your Chemotherapy Diet
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, many friends sent me information on the well renowned Gerson Diet. But Gerson himself doesn’t proclaim to be able to cure cancer (or any other disease for that matter) with his diet. Gerson admits that “There are many variables and factors involved in determining whether a person will successfully recover from chronic and serious diseases such as cancer. These factors can include: age, family history, occupational or environmental exposures, dietary and lifestyle habits, inherited traits or genetic weak links and pre-existing conditions. There are many factors influencing a cancer prognosis. For instance
- type and stage of the cancer,
- how much time has elapsed since the initial diagnosis,
- whether it is a recurrence, and
- previous chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.
In certain cases, patients may need a surgical intervention or other conventional therapy before starting, or while doing, the Gerson Therapy.
Gerson goes on to say .. “In some cases, the disease process is too far advanced and the immune system is too weakened to respond fully to the therapy. Some diseases are not treatable with the Gerson Therapy (see Contradications and Cautions for the Gerson Therapy). The Gerson Therapy isn’t to be used as the sole form of treatment. Ultimately, it isn’t possible to predict with 100% accuracy who will be able to reverse their condition using the Gerson Therapy. Successful recovery is on a case- by-case basis”.
Gerson Diet – Why you SHOULDN’T During Chemo
A Realistic Approach To Your Chemotherapy Diet
In Ian Gawler’s book, You Can Conquer Cancer, he heartily promotes Gerson’s juice diet regimes and use of coffee enema’s as a detox tool. However, Gerson states emphatically that if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy, you are under NO circumstances to do the coffee enema and must limit detox juices to 7 per day. The reason?
In most cases, chemotherapy works in direct conflict with a detoxifying therapy such as the Gerson Therapy. When a patient receives chemotherapy, a significant percentage of each dose remains lodged in the body. When the Gerson Therapy begins to work, it can very quickly dislodge toxins from the cells into the bloodstream. This includes chemotherapy residue. Patients with such a large amount of toxins being released into their bloodstream often cannot detoxify the body fast enough if they are using the standard intensive Gerson Therapy. The result is that they may be prone to liver failure. At the very least they can become very sick.
Tips From My Own Chemo Diet
A Realistic Approach To Your Chemotherapy Diet
First of all, I’m not an expert. This information is based on what worked for me (or didn’t work). I had stage 4 bowel cancer which spread to my ovaries. My stomach, lungs and liver were clear (although I did develop a fatty liver from chemo). What works for me may be very different for you depending on your condition. I recommend getting the advice of a dietician specialising in your specific cancer and/or you should talk to your oncologist about adding any supplements or alternative remedies to your diet. My own oncologists knows NOTHING about dietary matters so could not help me, but I did see a dietician who specialises in cancer.
I found that my regular daily diet was very good without needing to add anything “extra”. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lentils and fish, cheese and eggs etc. When I added extra supplements (out of fear that the chemo was robbing me of nutrients), my system actually suffered. So go carefully. At the end of the day, best advice is that you follow your gut instincts and listen to what your body tells you. Here’s a few simple tips from my own experience and research:
Protein – My dietician recommended supplementing my diet with protein powder to boost my nutrients because while not being strictly vegetarian, my intake of protein was poor, and on days when I had a strong metallic taste, I sometimes didn’t eat at all. Protein helps build muscle which can become severely depleted during chemo. She recommended AdVital, an Australian product which is high in proteins, vitamins and minerals. The best part of this product is that it’s tasteless and has no aroma, making it easy to sprinkle over food or add to casseroles and juices.
Spirulina – I had heard about the amazing health benefits of Hawaiian Spirulina so couldn’t wait to add it to my daily diet during chemo. For instance, it’s 60% protein and an excellent source of vitamins A, K1, K2, B12 and iron, manganese and chromium. A rich source of health-giving phytonutrients such as carotenoids, GLA, SOD and phycocyanin. 2800% more beta-carotene than carrots. 3900% more iron than spinach.
After my 6th chemo session I begun taking 1 tsp daily. Up until this point my bowels had been moving freely, but after 2 weeks taking Spirulina, I was suddenly chronically constipated for 2 days, then immediately suffered terrible diarrhoea for two days. It may be a coincidence, given that both conditions are a chemo side effect, but on instinct I decided to stop the Spirulina, and my bowels returned to normal immediately. I will also add that in my research, I found that many chemo clients were taking Spirulina without any harmful effects.
There is a belief among oncologists that chemotherapy can be rendered ineffective to varying degrees if the patient ingests antioxidants. They believe this because one of the ways chemotherapy works is by introducing free radicals into cancerous tissues to destroy them. After more research, it appears that Spirulina has four times the antioxidant ability of blueberries!!
If you’re going to try Spirulina, make sure you find Hawaiian Spirulina, as it’s the purest form.
Juicing – Livingstrong.com suggest focusing on using juice as a supplement to round out your diet, rather than to replace an entire food group. Indeed, I used juicing on days when I simply had no appetite or metallic taste was too strong so I at least felt like I was getting some nutrition, and remember, I added protein powder to the juice for an extra boost.
Try not to juice fruits. Fruit juice converts to sugar very quickly in the blood stream. Instead, eat fruit whole and juice your vegetables. A carrot or apple in the vegetable juice will sweeten it slightly. Green leafy vegetables are great juiced and you’ll find plenty of web sites with juicing recipes. I loved smoothies made of yoghurt, prunes and bananas which helped with my fibre intake, not to mention the health benefits of a good probiotic! Put this in a wine glass to ‘class it up’ and you’re good to go!
If you’re going to take up juicing to get your boost of nutrients, start your day with 1.5 cups fresh Celery Juice (that’s about 160z for non-Auzzies). Have this first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. Celery leaves are high in vitamin A. The stems are an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C with rich supplies of potassium, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and plenty essential amino acids. Additionally, nutrients in the fiber released during juicing aid bowel movements. (Please read the information in the start of my blogs with regards to the dangers of detoxing, and limit juices to 6 – 7 per day).
Bowel Movements – Juicers remove essential dietary fiber, so you still have to eat whole foods in order to meet daily recommendations for fiber. Fibre is vital for colon health. When I was relying on juicing alone, I took psyllium to help keep my bowels moving. Be sure to get 5 serves of fruit and vegetables per day to keep the bowels moving smoothly. Drinking plenty of water also helps to flush the colon. I start my morning with a full 500 ml of warm water and celery juice. If you feel constipated, boost your fibre with pure psyllium husks (or Metamucil, which is made from psyllium )…. 1-2 teaspoons in a class of water every day is easily digestible. But only take it if needed. Too much fibre in your diet can lead to constipation! If you’re contending with diarrhoea, eating white rice will help. Water is particularly important if you get diarrhea as you need to watch dehydration. This list will tell you the fibre content of most fruits Fruit Fibre Content
Water & Hydration – During chemo, it’s important to drink up to 2 litres of water/fluid per day. This is vital so that you don’t suffer from dehydration. Additionally, it will help flush some of the chemo toxin from your system. If your urine isn’t running “clear” in colour, then you aren’t drinking enough water! The darker the colour the more toxins are in your system. This advice relates to everyday living – not just chemo patients. Remember too that juices/shakes etc count towards your daily fluid intake, but nothing beats water for a true cleanse.
Metallic taste – Sadly there’s not a lot of relief here. When chemo started I had a slight metallic taste on day 5 only. By my 9th session, the metallic taste lasted from day 3 to day 6 and was all-consuming. Even water was unpalatable! By my 12th session, I could barely eat anything for 5 days! To combat weight loss, I ate as much as I could on good days, to make up for virtually eating nothing on chemo days. Still, in the last month my weight dropped from a stable 54kg to 52kg.
The best advice is that you don’t eat your favourite foods when you have a metallic taste in your mouth. Doing so may put you off ever desiring to eat your favourite food again! It’s a bit like being unable to eat prawns ever again after they gave you food poisoning! I have found that anything really sweet is all I can eat, so I make sure I keep it healthy with juicy fruit (especially oranges) eaten whole or juiced.
I also like the taste of “Extra” chewing gum while I’m coping with this assault on my taste buds. Keeping up the calories and protein was very challenging so I added Advital protein supplement to my juices/smoothies. I also made sure I over-ate on the good days to keep my weight from dropping because it was easy to turn off food completely with this taste so strong (be aware that I’m in a healthy weight range for my size and age, so this advice is dependent on your individual circumstances).
Advital can be purchased on-line or from some Amcal Chemists. Go to the web site to get a list of stockists close to you. It’s an Australian product which was recommended by my cancer dietician, and since it has no taste or smell its easy to take. To find this product go to AdVital
A Short Word on Exercise
In all honestly, I coped really well with my chemo sessions, so I like to believe it had something to do with not only my healthy diet, but also my exercise schedule. Many recent studies suggest that exercising every day not only increases your overall energy levels during chemo, but also helps to move the drug more efficiently through your system. It’s also great for your mental health at this time! If I didn’t exercise, I felt quite low emotionally by the end of the day.
I tried to exercise every day. If tired on chemo days, I at least walked 20mins. On other days, up to 1 hour, or my bike for 40 mins. I also attended yoga 3-4 times a week. While these routines kept me fit, they did nothing to build muscle strength, which is important during chemo to aid in strengthening internal organs after all the operations prior to chemo. Hence, my exercise physiologist gave me a full 15minute strength routine which I easily added to my daily schedule. I’m lucky to live near the waterfront, so I get all my exercise while looking over the ocean – makes it very enjoyable! On rare days when I didn’t want to exercise at all, I at least did the muscle strengthening exercises. In all honesty exercising made my body feel very strong, and gave me a sense of being the one in control of the cancer and the chemo, not the other way around! And I looked as healthy as I felt!
Medicare – Critical Disease Management Plan
Medicare has an initiative which allows you to seek 5 sessions with a healthcare professional who might not otherwise be rebatable through medicare. Your GP will write up a Critical Disease Management Plan for you based on your needs. This is how I accessed an Exercise Physiologist and Dietician. The service providers must be willing to see you under this plan. There is still an out-of-pocket expense, and the amount will depend on the fees charged by the service provider. You will need to research your desired specialist prior to seeing your GP so that they can write referrals for you as part of the management plan. To read more, visit Medicare through the following link…. Chronic Disease Management Plan
Detoxing AFTER Chemo – The Indian Ayurvedic Way
A Realistic Approach To Your Chemotherapy Diet
November 9th 2016 I had my last chemo session. A PET scan and laparoscopy on December 19th 2016 showed no traces of cancer. In January of 2017, I headed off to an Ayurveda Hospital in India to detox from the harmful effects of chemo in my system. I chose to do a Panchakarma detox.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing, which aims to help people live long, healthy and balanced lives without the need for prescription drugs, complicated surgeries or suffering through painful conditions. Panchakarma is the ultimate mind-body healing experience for detoxifying the body, strengthening the immune system, and restoring balance and well-being. It is one the most effective healing modality in Ayurvedic Medicine, promoting Detoxification and Rejuvenation.
For full details of my Panchakarma experience, please visit my related blog Ayurveda Detox – India
New Diet Following Detox
I was sent home from the detox with 3 months supply of pure herbs designed to strengthen my immune system. My lifetime diet change is now a strict Alkaline diet, the theory being that disease thrives in a high acid environment. This means I need to
- eliminate ALL meats, including seafood and poultry,
- substitute chicken eggs for duck eggs – chicken eggs are acidic while duck eggs are very high alkaline.
- Gluten free.
- NO coffee or wine
- NO chilli
- basically full diet of fresh fruit and vegetables
I am also now going to start coffee enemas as recommended by Gerson.
Thanks go to all the Wonderful Oncologists!
People are always quoting this book or that person who defied the odds and proved the doctor wrong, curing themselves of cancer through very strict detox diets, herbal remedies, etc. Good for them. As a counsellor and spiritualist, I’m a firm believer in alternatives to everything. However, I’m also a realist. Just because someone defies the odds and happens to have used alternative therapies, does not indicate that they ‘found the secret cure to cancer’.
So far, like it or not, chemotherapy is the only cancer treatment tested over a long period of time. Hence, all the improvements we’re now seeing in treatment options and reduced (or at least manageable) side-effects! Many proponents of alternative healing like to sprout that pharmaceutical companies are simply out to make money by pushing chemo. This negates the amazing and tireless efforts of the doctors who devote their own time to Australian cancer research. An area poorly funded by the Australian Government.
If you have any advice or tips of your own, please leave these in my comments and I shall add to this blog. Good luck survivors!! ♥