One of my college buddies who still remains very dear to my heart was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. At 37 weeks pregnant. Truly the stuff of nightmares. Her labor was induced a few days later, she delivered a healthy little girl and her family began the quest for appropriate cancer care, caring specialist and something like a peaceful, balance life for their two small children while in the midst of this terror.
E is from Viking stock. And Viking women are fierce. I am always awed to see her, her mother and her sister together. They know what matters in life and they make a mighty team. Finishing up her first phase of chemo treatment she is positive, humorous and seems to be handling things like hair loss with aplomb. I hold her and her family in my heart every day and hope this dreadful and surreal year will someday have the soft fuzz of an old dream for them.
Information is one of the few things I really have to offer at this time. Below is most of an email I sent to her recently after she asked me to find out what I could about breast cancer and nutrition. I’d just like to emphasis that I am while I have learned a ton about nutrition over the years, I am not any kind of specialist. If you have cancer or a serious malady, make sure to find a highly trained, information-driven specialist to work with who can truly hear your concerns and work with where you are at today.
At long last, here are all the nutrition ideas my brain has been storing to share with you. Of course, you know I’m just Sara and not an MD or ND or any sort of nutritionist, though I’ve had it out with most of the good ones lately! I hope some of these ideas help. If anything is unclear or if there are specific areas you need more information in, let me know and I’ll research more for you.
Here are the few things I’ve learned for sure:
· Glucose feeds cancer cells – so maintaining a balanced blood sugar level is very important. How do you do that?
· Eat protein at every meal/snack. Probably around 4-5 oz at meals and 2 oz at snacks is appropriate for you. Focus on lean meats like chicken, fish, certain cuts of beef and pork.
· Eat your carbohydrates WITH your protein. Nutritionally carbs should be tons of fruits and veggies, maybe a small amount of whole grain cereal items (bread, cereal, crackers), sprouted or sourdough will do your body best. Watch serving sizes on these so you get enough veggies and not too much grains.
· Make sure to get plenty of healthy fats with each meal. They are blood sugar neutral and help you body absorb nutrients. If you’re eating extra lean meats (think skinless chicken breast and some fish), make sure to add healthy fats to your meal. Keep an eye on your saturated fat intake – not because they’re bad, but because they’re good. Research is rapidly showing that saturated fats are antimicrobial to help keep our bodies clean, they also help our systems manufacture vitamin D. Good sources are avocados, coconut oil, palm oil, grass fed beef.
· Dairy is bad for glucose levels. Avoid it. I’ll be darned if I can find my article that supports this, but essentially dairy sends glucose off the charts for a fairly long time period. Looking for the convincing info….
· No sugar. Really, no sugar. Or maple syrup or agave nectar or honey or fruit juices. Or any of the things that essentially turn to sugar in our bodies: refined grains, potatoes, etc. For a while, you would even do best to avoid natural sweeteners like stevia. While stevia does not directly impact blood sugar, the sweetness on our tongues signals our bodies sugar is coming which in turn signals an insulin response.
· Exercise. Not so much cardio work, but muscle building work. If don’t know how you are feeling these days. This sort of thing may just be out of the question for you. If not, any gym will have weight lifting classes, or I have the world’s most hip, most information-driven, most mom-friendly personal trainer out there. (Um, yes, I am a little self conscious that I have a personal trainer, but she makes my whole world a better place.). Her blog is at http://coachgibbons.blogspot.com/. Check out http://www.crossfit.com/ for more ideas.
· Dairy stimulates production of the “EFG receptor” which increases tumor formation. For a digestible discussion of this, check out my wonderful and nutritionally freaky personal trainer’s blog: http://coachgibbons.blogspot.com/2007/04/evil-on-horizon.html
· Now that we’ve established that dairy is bad, culturally this is a really hard thing to give up. If you are going to have some, stick with cultured, fermented or raw. Think yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, sour cream or true raw cheeses (not heated over 105 degrees). Turns out brand matters in this, Nancy’s is a great brand for true cultured products. But really, for all the world it sounds like you are much better off without it.
· Soy is bad. Not the popular point of view right now, but it is. It is full of estrogen, which is something you just don’t need extra doses of now, or probably ever. Most of the popular literature out there recommends several servings of soy every day. Here is a complete and well researched article about the politics and dangers of soy http://www.ptonthenet.com/articleprint.aspx?ArticleID=2399&m=17965.
· If you really feel compelled to consume some soy because the institutions are promoting it, stick with the types of soy that Asian women from the positive soy result studies are really eating, in the quantities they consume: 1-2 TBSP/day of fermented soy: Natto, miso, tempah, shoyu/tamari.
· The food pyramid is a beautiful, political creation that represents various food industries well, but it doesn’t serve our nutritional needs well. Research doesn’t support the call for 6 servings of grains/day or 3 servings/day of dairy products. Bodies fighting cancer need great vitamins, minerals, antioxidants: fruits and veggies. Lots of them. According to several sources, at least 9 servings a day. Whew!
· Here is a great site, written by a nutritionist who was diagnosed twice with breast cancer. There is tons of great ideas and information on her fairly short site. She recognizes that there is not research to point to what the right “breast cancer diet” should be, but she’s made some great educated guesses. Her name is Diana Grant Dyer. I like her balanced approach to the confusion about soy, and dairy. I would substitute the below shake for the one she recommends on page 3. http://health.ivillage.com/breastcancer/bc_lw/0,,jdgd,00.html
Groovy information, right? But what can you actually EAT?
Here’s what we’re eating these days:
Breakfast shake (or anytime you’re starving need good nutrition and can’t hold it together to make something more complicated)
Throw all the ingredients in the blend and run until uniform. The longer you blend the more whipped the coconut milk will be.
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup oj (or an additional ½ cup berries)
1 scoop egg protein or whey powders (21g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
2 TBSP flax meal
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
1 cup frozen berries or fruit
Snacks – trying to balance protein and carbs and be nutritionally rich
Salami (nitrate free) and 1 piece of fruit
¼ nuts and 1 piece of fruit
Hummus and veggies
Duck breast w/ crackers or bread (they sell smoke duck breast by the pound at the Whole Foods deli)
1 apple and 1 TBSP nut butter
Left over breakfast sausages and a piece of fruit
Sourdough pretzels with apple butter, nut butter or some other dipping sauce
Celery with 1 TBSP nut butter
Olive and a few slices of deli chicken (again nitrate free)
Blender ice cream
For dinners right now, I’m letting Leanne Ely be in charge. I bought her book, Saving Dinner the Low-Carb Way. It is a year’s worth of recipes by season, arranged by weeks. Each week has a menu and prepared shopping list, which makes things so much easier. Since it is low-carb, the recipes are mostly protein and veggies. Much to my relief and surprise most of the recipes are really, really good. A few are okay. Haven’t come across one yet that we just can’t eat.
Blender ice cream
1 pound frozen berries
1 cup liquid (cream, yogurt, kefir, young coconut water, coconut milk, a little cabbage juice)
¼ c sweetener
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 scoops protein powder (42g) – avoid any “isolate” powders
Put in blender, start at slow and increase speed. The ice cream will form 4 mounds around the blades when finished and will have the consistency of soft serve. Not all blenders can manage this recipe.