Chemotherapy: What To Eat When You Don’t Feel Like Eating
The side effects of chemotherapy that are commonly experienced can really make eating difficult. Nausea, vomiting, a furry tongue or metallic taste in the mouth, and mouth ulcers are just a few of the things people going through chemotherapy for breast cancer commonly deal with, all of which can really curb your appetite and make you feel like not eating. Another thing that is occurring is that the chemo drugs can kill the microvilli in the bowel, and that can create loss of appetite and other discomforts as well.
Here are some suggestions for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating. I have listed not only things you may enjoy eating, but also things that will help you to feel better again.
First of all, you might want to avoid highly spiced foods, fried foods, dairy products, and heavy food like pizza and pasta. Keep it light. Try these:
Juicing Vegetables and Fruits – When you don’t feel like eating, juicing vegetables and some small amount of fruits is one of the very best things you can do for yourself. The juices are filled with healing plant nutrients that go directly to your body’s cells, they require very little energy for your body to digest, they are easy to swallow, and you can customize your selection of vegetables and fruits to suit your own palate, so if you don’t like the first result, try try again! For loads of tips on juicing and what is best to juice, see my category of articles on the benefits of juicing for breast cancer.
Organic Vegetable Broth/Soups – Have one of your friends who likes to cook prepare this ahead of time for you. You could supply the organic produce, all they need to do is cook it up and put it into freezer containers for your use later. If you find that a chunky vegetable soup doesn’t work for you, just put it through your blender or food processor. All of the healthy nutrients will help you feel better quickly.
Ginger Mint Tea – Mint helps the digestion, soothes an upset stomach, cools the digestive tract If the peppermint tea (organic of course) in your shop seems too strong for you, just pour some boiling water over fresh peppermint leaves – use as many or as few as you need to suit your palate. Add a few slices of fresh peeled ginger – it is a natural appetite stimulant and helps a lot with nausea.
Green Smoothies – Excellent for an upset digestive tract. I would suggest avoiding dairy products in your smoothies, make them with organic almond or coconut milk. They offer pure nutrition, some necessary fiber for your digestive tract, they are quick and easy to make, and give you more energy, and are filling and will keep you hydrated. Drinking a green smoothie every day will provide you with all the vitamins you need, a much cheaper (and more natural) option than buying multivitamins.
Good Fats – Very important, because every cell in your body requires them. Be sure to include avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, chia seeds, freshly ground flaxseed and nut butters like cashew in your daily eating regimen. Keep away from fried foods, they are too heavy right now and won’t help you to feel better at all.
Salads – Some HATE the idea of salads when on chemotherapy, I was one of them. Even though I knew how good they were for me, I could not stomach the idea of all those raw veggies sitting there staring at me on the plate. So I juiced instead, and that was just fine. Luckily that feeling of hating salads didn’t continue past the chemotherapy! For much the same reason as juicing, though, try to include some raw vegetable salads into your daily meals – if need be, get your family to help you wash, peel, chop and prepare all the veggies ahead of time, placing them into glass containers or zipper bags for you to easily take later.
Hummus & Veggies – The health benefits of hummus are actually pretty significant. It helps with balancing blood sugar, it is high in protein, you can flavor it lots of different ways to suit yourself (fresh basil added is awesome), but mainly because of the anti-cancer benefits of chickpeas, which are full of lots of healthy phytochemicals. Freshly prepared hummus is so easy to make, give me a shout if you need the recipe.
Water – Drinking plenty of water is especially important when you’re going through chemotherapy, as one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is damage to the kidneys. By flushing the kidneys with adequate water you help to prevent kidney damage.
Ginger, Ginseng, Swedish Bitters – These are all useful for stimulating the appetite and ginger also has some good anti-cancer and anti-nausea properties (see my page Diet and Cancer for more information).
Probiotics – Probiotics help to replace the good bacteria lost through chemotherapy, and they also boost the immune system, 70-80% of which resides in the intestines.
Spirulina and Wheatgrass – Spirulina is a form of micro-algae that is rich in minerals, vitamins, chlorophyll, healthy fats, iron and protein. Spirulina aids your immune system, helps your body to heal and cleanse and detox your body from the chemo drugs. Wheatgrass is similar in that it has many vitamins, minerals, trace elements, chlorophyll, but also selenium and laetrile, both of which are great cancer fighters. It boosts immunity, helps to keep the body oxygenated (and we know that cancer cells hate oxygen) and is nothing short of miraculous for health. Best taken in juice form (and yes, it does take some getting used to).
Meditation – When you REALLY don’t feel like eating, sitting quietly and clearing your mind of all the excess brain noise and chatter can help you overcome those “green moments” when nausea and negative thoughts threaten to take over. Give it a try, you will see what I mean. If you need help getting started, I’ve got a meditation course that’ll help you.
Please Keep Eating!
Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another, but please persevere. Your body needs nutrition and you really DO need to keep eating to keep yourself strong. This feeling will pass and you will soon start feeling better.
And whatever you do, avoid (like the plague) those cans of Ensure, those meal replacement drinks that are recommended by nurses, hospitals, etc. In a single can of Ensure, you’ll be treated to sugar, bad carbs, GMOs, synthetic vitamins, maltodextrin, preservatives, fillers and chemicals you absolutely do not need in your body. They are about the farthest thing from nutrition that you can get.
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Because chemotherapy is so toxic, it makes sense that prior to undergoing a barrage of chemotherapy drugs, you find out which ones will be more effective against your particular cancer (because everybody is different) and chemosensitivity testing does this.
What impressed me about Rational Therapeutics was that they seem to use techniques which other laboratories do not use.
According to their website: “At Rational Therapeutics, we do not grow, subculture or propagate cells in the lab. Tumor cells are kept in clusters (microspheroids) that mimic the body’s environment. By examining cells in their native state, we take a snapshot of their behavior in response to drugs and combinations of drugs. These microspheroids reflect the complex elements of the body’s cellular environment, which has proven critical for the accurate prediction of clinical response.
“This is a significant advance over earlier methods where tumor cells were isolated and grown in the lab. These types of tests do not accurately reflect tumor response to drug treatments within the body.
“We adhere to three absolute principles of accurate assay analysis:
Measure cell death, not the inhibition of growth.
Never grow cells. We do not grow, propagate or subculture cells. We maintain them in their native state.
Preserve the ecology of cancer biology by preserving cell-to-cell interaction. We maintain stromal, vascular and inflammatory cells that contribute to drug response.”
If your oncologist doesn’t know about chemosensitivity testing, it might be worthwhile having him check out Rational Therapeutics, 750 E. 29th Street, Long Beach, CA 90806, 562.989.6455, 800.542.HELP (4357).
I receive no kick-back or payment of any kind from this company, I just like to keep my readers informed of companies that are doing good work on behalf of cancer patients. This kind of targeted therapy makes a lot of sense to me.
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
Here in America, if you are contemplating chemotherapy, you may or may not be offered the chemosensitivity test.
In Germany, chemosensitivity tests are routinely conducted in order to determine which chemotherapy drugs should be utilized for a specific cancer patient.
Because some tumors may resist certain chemotherapy treatments, some oncologists are choosing to test tumor cells in advance of treatment rather than prescribe a standard chemotherapy combination without knowing whether it would be effective for your particular tumor.
The tests, called chemotherapy sensitivity and resistance assays (CSRAs) are relatively new and are carried out for many types of cancer.
The CSRA is a laboratory test that is done on a single cell in a test tube (in vitro) or on a clump of tumor cells (in vivo), usually taken from a biopsy tissue sample. The test assesses how many cancer cells are killed by a particular drug, or by a combination of drugs, and how many cancer cells are unaffected by the treatment.
When your oncologist examines these test results, he/she can then treat you more effectively, knowing which chemo drugs your cells respond to. Two more added benefits are that you don’t lose any time being blasted with drugs that don’t work for you and you don’t have to be debilitated by the side effects of drugs that won’t kill your cancer.
There Are 5 Qualifying Factors
As of writing this article, I am aware of 5 qualifying factors before you will be considered for a chemosensitivity test.
You have to find an oncologist that will order the test
You need to be strong enough to undergo chemotherapy
You need to have access to a lab or facility that does the assay
You must have a solid or fluid tumor
You must be willing to undergo a new biopsy to get a fresh tissue sample for testing
Insurance Companies and Clinical Trial Results – Two More Problems
Not all insurance companies will cover the cost of the chemosensitivity test, which as close as I could tell runs around $800. Aetna Insurance considers chemosensitivity assays “experimental and investigational because there is insufficient evidence that these assays influence management decisions such that clinical outcomes are improved.” I guess Germany doesn’t count.
It appears that independent clinical trials are still underway here in America and because of that this test is not standard, and it will not be offered to every patient until doctors are convinced of its accuracy and value.
It’s Just My Opinion, But…
If the chemosensitivity test assists oncologists to tailor make a chemo regimen that is going to be the most effective for our specific cancer, why wouldn’t the insurance companies pay for this? It could conceivably lead to less chemo treatments and a patient who is actually ALIVE at the end of the treatment regimen (as opposed to one who won’t be paying any more insurance premiums due to being 6 feet under!).
I think that if toxic chemotherapy is going to continue to be the standard of care (which many consider outdated and prehistoric) they need to step up the clinical trials and get these results back as quickly as they can so that ALL can be given these tests and ensure they have the best response rate to the chemotherapy drugs and the greatest chance at beating cancer.
Finally, take 7 minutes out of your busy day and watch this interesting You Tube video – Burton Goldberg interviews Professor Michael Geising, a German Molecular Oncologist from Munster, Germany. Dr Geising advises “only 15-20% of chemotherapies are successful. The other 80% not only don’t work, but 60% of them actually make the cancer more aggressive by allowing it to develop resistance mechanisms.”
Research strongly suggests that when patients receive the most effective treatment, matched to their cancer profile, they survive longer. Ask your oncologist about the chemosensitivity test. In fact, insist on it.
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
What I liked about it was that if you keep it handy, you can take note of anything odd or troublesome AS IT HAPPENS because trust me – if you don’t write it down, you can easily forget about it when the doctor asks how you’re doing at your next visit. They don’t call it “chemobrain” for nothing. So print out the Chemotherapy Side Effects Worksheet and keep it nearby for easy reference.
I will keep it on my Useful Links page as well, just in case you need another copy.
If you have any questions or need any help, you can contact me.
If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.
Acid reflux can be a real problem – especially when you’re going through chemotherapy. It is often one of the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs. Here’s what you can do about it.
Be Proactive with your Diet
Eat a balanced diet that is rich in alkaline forming foods and low in acidic foods. Foods can be either acid forming, balancing or alkaline forming. Since our body’s normal PH is between 6.0 and 6.8 (we are mildly acidic), values above 6.8 are considered to be on the alkaline side and values below 6.3 are on the acidic side. For a list of specific acid/alkaline foods, click here.
Too much acidity is definitely something you want to avoid right now – in fact too much acidity in the body can be one of the factors that lead to cancer and should always be avoided. But especially right now, when you’re going through chemotherapy, the foods you want to focus on are the alkaline forming foods.
Avocados, dates, fresh coconut, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, herbs, herb teas, honey, molasses, raisins, sea vegetables, seeds, whole organic soy products, whey, yogurt. Low-level alkaline foods to be included in your diet are almonds, buckwheat, lima beans, quinoa and organic dairy products.
All vegetable oils, sprouts, most dried beans and sunflower seeds.
This is the list to be avoided: alcohol, artichokes, asparagus tips, aspirin, beans, beef, beer, cakes, canned fruits, cheese, chicken, cocoa, coffee, doughnuts, eggs, fish, flour, flour products, ketchup, jams/jellies, legumes, macaroni, mayonnaise, meat, mustard, noodles, oatmeal, olives, pasta, pastries, peanuts, pepper, plums, poultry, prunes, sauerkraut, shellfish, soft drinks, spaghetti, sugar, tea, tobacco, vinegar, white rice. Sounds like not much is left, doesn’t it?
Tips & Tricks
Here’s what you do – eat a diet that is about 70% alkaline forming foods and 30% acid forming foods. You can have small quantities of the things you love then – maybe just have them around lunch time so that your body isn’t trying to digest them at night when you’re lying down (part of what causes acid reflux).
I know this is hard, but if you want to get well and start feeling better, the quality of the food you put into your body is ULTRA important.
One more thing – here’s something that helped me immensely. Put a single drop of a therapeutic grade peppermint essential oil into a glass of water. Sip on the water all day. Peppermint essential oil is so calming and soothing to the digestive tract. Just make sure you get a good quality oil, something without other chemicals added.
Juicing is another way to help you feel better quickly. See some of my posts on Juicing. I truly hope this helps you on your road to wellness.
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.