Two things have led me to write this week's blog firstly, the response I’ve had from my clients following my offer to write meal plans and secondly, a seminar on Ayurvedic medicine and nutrition.
For those of you that haven't heard of Ayurveda it's basically an ancient system of traditional medicine practiced in India since 5000 BC. From the Sanskrit words ayurs (life) and veda (knowledge) Ayurveda has passed from Hindu scriptures and has influenced Buddhist philosophy. This sacred system unites natural elements, spirituality and diet. In short, nourishment of the body is tethered to nourishment of the mind and soul. This is a topic I find fascinating and whilst it is considered an alternative therapy I think there are some basic principles on healthy eating which resonated with me whilst I was going through chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy are highly toxic and both damage healthy cells adjacent to cancer cells. The consequences of cancer treatment are varied and far reaching. Chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, alopecia and mucositis. Radiotherapy, although directed locally can result in systemic side effects such as fatigue, anorexia, sleep disturbance, headache, dry skin and anaemia. Many of us will also experience delayed or late complications of these therapies including persistent dysphagia, infertility, fatigue and cognitive deficits.
I found choosing foods that are cooling and eating raw foods such as fruit and vegetables were particularly helpful for me, whereas spicy dishes, alcohol and caffeine were the last things I fancied when I was going through chemo. The smell alone was a turn off and on the odd occasion that I tried them, the taste was all wrong. I think most people struggling with their appetite during chemo would agree that even the smell of pungent foods could flip their stomachs. Interestingly, these principles are found in ayurvedic practice too.
So to give some examples of how you can eat healthily during chemo based on my experience as a nutritionist and cancer survivor...
Hearty fruit salad - apples, pears, red grapes, blueberries and shredded coconut
Porridge with almonds/raisins/dates/maple syrup
Omelette and avocado
Split pea soup - buttered whole grain bread ( unsalted proper butter ) Add veg like celery, carrots and onions to soup.
Seasoned tofu and wild rice with steamed greens.
Whole wheat pasta and pesto, Serve with broccoli, mushrooms, courgettes.
Dinner / tea (Ideally smaller portion than lunch)
Turkey or bean burger and kale/ lettuce and cucumber
Quinoa and mild kidney bean curry and flatbread
Pancakes and sweet cherries
This brings me nicely on to my next point about meal plans. I am always reluctant to offer meal plans to my members as I hate dictating or insisting on lifestyle choices. I would much rather that my members learn about food and make their own choices.
I put a message out last week offering various things and the meal plan offer got the largest response. It's human nature to want definitive answers, guaranteed solutions and time saving resolutions. The problem with offering something so prescriptive is that it's easy to follow something blindly for a short time without actually taking on board the concepts to enable real change. So I will help my members to explore different avenues; develop an open mind in order to discover what their bodies are needing to achieve balance. Then we can write meal plans together!!
So please don't feel you have to follow a strict diet that someone else thinks is fantastic! We are all different. Find foods that you enjoy and that suit you!
Photo credit: cchana via Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA