I read recently that we are all living with cancer cells in our bodies. Wow. That’s kind of a scary thought. Of course, the goal is to make sure they don’t grow. When they grow and multiply, that’s when they can turn into tumors. A family member was recently diagnosed with cancer and I jumped at opportunity to put together a list of recommendations for a Plant-Based Approach to Cancer.
Tips for a Plant-Based Approach to Cancer — Important Take-aways:
A member of my extended family was recently diagnosed with cancer. Not just any cancer. Stage IV esophageal cancer. I called him soon after I found out and we chatted about his plans for recovery. Let’s call him Alvin for the purpose of this discussion (not everyone is as open to having their situations discussed publicly).
Alvin’s main problem is that he hasn’t been able to eat much and as a result has lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time and feels week. Too week to deal with the chemo his doctor prescribed to begin last Monday. So, he’s asked for a couple of weeks before he begins chemo to help build up his strength. I asked if I could provide him some tips from a plant-based perspective and he was more than willing to listen. That’s all it takes for me – a little bit of encouragement – and I’m on a roll! So I put together a list of recommendations for a Plant-Based Approach to Cancer.
Look, I’m not a nutritionist or a health care provider in any way. In fact, I have an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), and according to Dilbert, an MBA gives a person a limited set of qualifications. However, I can make a pretty mean spreadsheet. Seriously!
And last year I added a certification as a Plant-Based Pro to my credentials and that coursework did include dedicated content on nutrition.
Note: I’m an advocate of modern science and believe the best approach to most medical conditions involve a concerted team-based approach to care between patients and their health care providers. These tips I provided to Alvin are meant to augment and work in concert with the care provided by his oncologist and other health care team members.
Featured Content – Tips for a Plant-Based Approach to Cancer
Here are some of the highlights of the what I put together for Alvin to consider, my tips for a plant-based approach to cancer:
- Dynamic Duo. Dr. Greger of Nutrition Facts show research that cranberries and lemons are strong allies in the fight against cancer (see link below)
- Nixing Nausea. One of my favorite natural cures for nausea comes from the time I was pregnant. I kept a rubber band on my wrist and gave it a snap every time I felt nauseous. There’s also been research on deep breathing exercises and how they can help with nausea in less than 5 minutes.
- Juiciness. Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer was diagnosed with Stage IV, incurable cancer at the age of 31 and turned to juicing as a way to start her journey to recovery. Kris worked with her oncologists too, but she has devoted her life to showcasing the importance of daily juicing as a way to health and vitality, regardless of whether you’ve had a cancer diagnosis.
- Smooth Operator. Juicing is all about extracting the juice from the plant. Smoothies are about eating the entire plant. What’s the difference? Think about juicing as a way to help get all the phytonutrients from the plant into your system as quickly as possible. The fiber has been removed as a way to help you take in all those nutrients STAT! Smoothies can help you get all those phytonutrients PLUS the fiber from the plant.
- Go Organic. I consulted with my friend Megan Gilmore of Detoxinista, a holistic nutrition counselor, and she encourages that whether you’re juicing or blending, organic is best especially when you’re faced with a cancer diagnosis. Your body is dealing with a lot so giving it a break by not adding fruits and vegetables bathed in pesticide or other toxic chemicals is important. According to the Palo Verde Cancer Specialist Group, reducing pesticides and other toxic chemicals should be a goal for all of us.
- Sweet Low Down. There have been connections to increases in refined sugars and a number of health conditions, such as insulin resistance. Kathy Ludington of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute says, “The connection between body weight, insulin levels and cancer survivorship is currently being researched.” In the meantime, greatly reducing refined sugars in your diet is important.
- Refinery. Refined foods such as chips and crackers are oftentimes loaded with fat, sugar, and refined flours. If you do eat refined foods, stick to products that have a limited number of ingredients.
- Meatless Monday Daily. The World Health Organization published a study listing processed meats as carcinogens and associated with cancer. So giving up bacon, lunch meats and sausages first should be a no brainer. A plant-based diet has a big impact on slowing the growth of cancer cells. You can see the images of the growth of cancer cells after only two weeks on a plant-based diet in Dr. Gregor’s video Slowing the Growth of Cancer.
- Gaining Weight. I recommended that Alvin add some avocados to his smoothies because he was worried about the amount of weight he had lost. He wanted to gain a back some of the weight he lost. Avocados can be really helpful in a case like this. You can slice avocados and serve them over a salad. Or mash them up with a little garlic powder and a dash of sea salt and serve it over a piece of whole wheat toast.
- Go Bananas. Most Americans are deficient in potassium, and bananas have lots of it so including bananas in your diet is important. And they’re also easy on the stomach. I asked Jeff Sanders on the Chopped Podcast and he confessed to eating 30 bananas a day.
- Berry Good. Berries are wonder fruits and will add a hint of sweetness to your smoothies without adding too much sugar. And they’re packed with antioxidants. Getting antioxidants is really, really important for all of us, but particularly those with cancer. Some people refer to berries as super foods because of their nutritional density. That means they pack a lot of nutrition with surprisingly few calories. An entire cup of blueberries on has only 85 calories. We buy blueberries frozen in bulk at Costco to make sure we always have some on hand.
- Get Spicy! Spices are another super food powerhouse. I will sprinkle spices like cinnamon or nutmeg in my smoothies or even over hot tea. It really adds a lot of flavor in addition to the health benefits. So get spicy and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice, ginger or nutmeg or any of those over your oatmeal or even with a glass of plant-based milk. They add flavor, make you feel like it’s sweeter (when it’s not), and adds antioxidants too.
- Nuts. If you don’t have any allergies to nuts, then adding these to your salads or smoothies can help, especially if you’re like Alvin and feeling week from too much weight loss. We keep a bowl of nuts in the shell on the counter. When we have to shell them, it helps us not overeat them. Because as healthy as nuts can be, they can also add up to a lot of calories very quickly. It’s better to eat them in moderation! I recommended to Alvin that he give this a try — adding nuts to his diet — to see if it worked for him.
- The Basic Fruit Smoothie. My basic recipe for a smoothie is to fill a blender with spinach. Then I add a banana (or two), some frozen blueberries (about 1/2 cup) and a half cup (or more) of no-sugar added almond milk. Pulse until smooth. Add a cup of ice and pulse until smooth. Yummy! Change out the blueberries for strawberries or cherries. Experiment until you find something you love!
- The Basic Snickerdoodle Smoothie. Another favorite smoothie recipe: Fill your blender full of spinach. Add a banana. Add a cup of almond milk. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon. Pulse until smooth. Add a cup of ice cubes and pulse til smooth again. Delicious!
- Go Green. Another great way of getting phytonutrients into your every day plan is to drink lots and lots of green tea. Science is showing that our gut flora makes a huge difference in our health. Green tea helps feed the good microbes in our guts, so drink lots of it.One of my favorite recipes is my Hibiscus Green Tea Fruit Punch. You won’t believe you’re actually drinking something healthy! I also love my Tea-infused Hot Cocoa.
- Strawberries. Alvin is dealing with a form of esophageal cancer and a recent study connected strawberries with an improvement in this type of cancer. I suggested that Alvin add strawberries in his daily smoothies.
- Meditate. I can’t say enough good stuff about meditation these days. It’s helpful for all of us, including those who are dealing with a health crisis. This kind of stress can be debilitating and finding was to reconnect with an inner peace is truly important. One of my favorite sources for quick, easy meditations is HeadSpace.
This episode includes references to some resources you might find interesting. Here they are:
- Dr. Greger of Nutrition Facts show research that cranberries are a strong ally in the fight against cancer
- Learn more about Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer
- Check out Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
- Megan Gilmore of Detoxinista
- Learn how Jeff Sanders Eats 30 bananas a day
- One of my favorite meditation apps is HeadSpace
- Related post: Listen to Dawn Lermn talk about Food, Family, and Feelings on the Namely Marly Podcast
- Connect with Marly: Namely Marly | Instagram | Twitter
- Production, music, graphic art & sound design by Shawn Beelman
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That’s it for today’s podcast. As always, thanks so much for joining in the discussion!