Breast cancer is a battle. Not only are you fighting the disease but also the effects of the treatment. During this time food can feel like the enemy too. Eating can feel like torture, trying to find foods that sound appetizing and that the body can tolerate. In reality, food should be your ally.
Nutrition should be an important part of any treatment plan. It is time to think about food as medicine not just critically needed fuel. While every woman experiences different things during breast cancer treatment and recovery, there are some tips that can be beneficial to most who are undergoing chemotherapy.
- Chose organic whole foods when possible.
Your body is fighting hard enough, why make it more challenging by giving it chemical and hormone-laden foods? Now is the time to embrace clean eating. If you can’t buy everything organic, start with the Dirty Dozen. This is a list iof produce that is the known to have high levels of pesticides and chemicals. Read labels to make sure you are buying hormone free dairy products. Visit your local farmers market to find a source of hormone free, antibiotic free and grass feed meats if you include meat in your diet.
- Increase your protein intake.
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks to the immune system, critical for healing the body and preserving lean muscle mass (which is easily lost when you aren’t eating a lot or able to exercise). The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recommends a quarter of your plate should be filled with protein at each meal. Plant based proteins are often highly recommended, like lentils and beans, along with organic dairy, eggs and fish.
- Pay attention to your fiber and water intake.
Some people experience diarrhea while others experience constipation during treatment. Make sure you’re taking in at least 64 oz of water per day and 25-35 grams of fiber to help manage both. If you’re experiencing diarrhea, you may also need added electrolytes. Coconut water can help with electrolyte balance as does a natural sports drink like Recharge.
- Keep natural nausea fighters on hand.
Ginger and peppermint can both help ease the nausea that often comes with treatment. Having a piece of crystallized ginger or a cup of peppermint tea can be a helpful part of your morning ritual.
- Limit the consumption of green and white tea.
While green tea has been shown to have positive effects with breast cancer prevention it may need to be avoided during treatment. The polyphenols may block the effects of certain cancer treatment drugs. Instead, enjoy herbal teas like peppermint, ginger or chamomile.
- Eat small and nutrition packed meals frequently.
Eating a large meal can compound the already unpleasant side effects you may be experiencing during chemotherapy. Eating smaller meals through out the day can help keep your energy up and be kinder on your stomach. Try nutrition packed smoothies like my Iron Woman Smoothie or this Green Goddess Smoothie from SkinnyTaste can help.
Just like every woman is unique, so is her experience and treatment of breast cancer. Always have a conversation with your doctor or a registered dietitian about your specific nutritional needs during treatment. If your doctor clears it, also try to add exercise to your treatment plan. According to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, adding exercise to your treatment plan increases survival rates by 7-8%. Use every weapon you have in this fight!