Time flies, today I am +124 days post transplant. My hair is growing back, I am working again (most days from home), and I am able to keep a steady pace for more minutes when I run. Although I feel tired, I am doing well. I think it is not only because I take my medicines and follow my doctor’s advice, but because I watch what I eat.
As a fervent believer of nutrition and its healing power, I always ask oncologists and other health professionals what do they recommend in terms of diet/nutrition to stay strong. The answer I always get is “just keep eating healthy”. But what does it exactly mean for someone struggling with a disease? What can a person do to stay healthy and eat better?
Since I couldn’t get a clear recommendation directly from my doctors, I started reading and learning more about nutrition, the nutritious value of food, and its role in healing the body. I learned about the importance of the quality of food versus relying only on calorie intake. The bottom-line? Nutrition is a matter of balance and a personal choice.
During my learning process I also found opposite views about nutrition from individuals in the field of traditional medicine and those in the alternative/holistic healing arena.
The traditional medicine field promotes treating and curing diseases using medicines, vaccines, and – in the case of cancer – through the use of therapies such as chemo, radiation, and immunoteraphy. What is interesting (and shocking!) to me is the fact that nutrition is not included into the patient’s care plan most of the time. In the hospital, many times I saw patients eating incredible amounts of food full of sugar and salt while receiving chemo or recovering from a transplant.
On the other side, most of the alternative/holistic blogs and sources I have read talk about changing your diet and skipping standard treatments such as chemo or radiation. These sources feature stories of patients claiming that their disease (and cancer) is in remission because they followed a raw diet, took vitamins, or became vegan. Although these stories are incredible and I don’t doubt the healing power of food, we have to remember that each case is different and it is always recommended to double check the source of information, and to verify the credentials of those making the claims.
Although there are very few great doctors in the U.S. and in the world that approach health in an integral or holistic way, I am hopeful this field will grow and get to the point where doctors and health professionals combine the healing power of nutrition with successful standard treatments. And yes, there will be cases which changing a lifestyle towards eating vegetables and fruits will suffice to cure a disease or health condition.
In my particular case, I need to stay healthy and strength my new immune system. So these are steps I take to eat healthier:
- Cook my own meals anytime I can. This is how I control source, quality, and quantity
- Look for the amount of sugar on each product I buy. I choose products with less or zero added sugar
- Choose fresh food when available. When fresh food is not available I select products with the least amount of ingredients listed on the label. The fewer crazy ingredients, the better.
- Say no to any “light” or “fat-free” products. I eat much less when I eat the regular version of the product (i.e. yogurt, ice-cream, milk, sour cream, chocolate)
- Incorporate a vegetable into each meal. Although potatoes are delicious, they are starch, and don’t count as vegetables (sorry!). I always have romaine lettuce and make a simple salad in case I don’t have other fresh vegetable
- Make my own orange juice. I know, it is time consuming, but this source of Vitamin C is totally worth it
- Reduced the consumption of milk and animal products. I love milk and cheese, but I eat less than I used too. Animal products such as red meat are very limited on my diet
- Keep and freeze ripped fruit for smoothies. I combine frozen bananas and strawberries with almond milk and a drop of vanilla extract
- Do not drink soda anymore. I used to drink diet coke and sodas regurarly. Now I don’t. I only drink plain water and iced tea
- Eat dessert and enjoy!. I like sweets very much and although I don’t eat dessert all the time, when I do I just savor each bite. No guilt!!
Eating healthy is a lifestyle and a commitment with yourself. For many patients eating healthier means to reclaim control over their bodies; it is certainly a personal choice.
Choose healthy and enjoy!
Love – Bea