‘It is incredibly rewarding to see how much nutrition can influence people’s health with cancer’

We speak to Liz Butler, a cancer-specific nutritionist, about the best foods to eat when you are diagnosed with cancer, and the foods you should stay far away from

cancer food nutrition

Eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you feel better and stay stronger. But we know it’s not that simple, is it?

There may be times during your cancer treatment when you are unable to eat as healthy as you would like. When you’re experiencing sore mouth, difficulty swallowing, and general loss of appetite, how are you supposed to keep your diet balanced and nutritious?

Good nutrition is especially important if you have cancer because both the illness and its treatment can affect your appetite. Cancer and cancer treatments can also affect your body’s ability to tolerate certain foods and use nutrients.

Here’s where Liz Butler steps in. Liz is a nutritional therapist and has been working with people with cancer for the last 17 years. 

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Are you experiencing changes to your taste during chemotherapy?

Taste changes chemotherapy cancer

From a metallic or chalky taste to food tasting bland or different, it is common to experience changes to taste while undergoing cancer treatment

During chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you may notice that you no longer enjoy certain foods, find that all foods taste the same or notice a metallic or chalky taste in your mouth. This can mean you no longer enjoy the foods you used to like before you developed cancer, and struggle to find new things to eat.

Figures show that 50% of people on chemotherapy will be affected by taste changes and it can last up to one month after treatment stops. Other causes for taste changes are usually due to damage to the taste buds either from radiotherapy to the area or from the tumour itself.

Here are some taste changes you may notice: 

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Eating Better With Cancer Part 2: Foods to Eat When You’re Feeling Sick

Cancer patient eating healthy food

Eating better with cancer is possible – even when food seems completely unappealing. We’ve collected hundreds of helpful products to help you manage your diet throughout cancer, and we’ve also written a comprehensive guide to eating during cancer treatment. 

If you’ve read part 1 of our Eating Better With Cancer series, you’ll know that it’s best to prioritise two things: keeping your calories up during treatment, and doing what feels best for you.  Continue reading “Eating Better With Cancer Part 2: Foods to Eat When You’re Feeling Sick”

Try These Simple and Delicious Smoothies for Cancer Patients

Image of cancer patient making a smoothie

We know that it can be important to try to eat well following a diagnosis. One simple way to boost your nutrition is to drink smoothies! Smoothies are perfect for cancer patients because they’re packed full of healthy fruits and vegetables. They’re also fast and easy to make.

If you’ve never tried to blend anything before, don’t worry. We’ve made a list of the 3 best smoothies to drink during cancer treatment and throughout the cancer journey.

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Nic Naish: Foods to Help With Chemo Brain

Nic Naish's Weekly Exercise and Nutrition Tips - 18th May

During my chemotherapy months I definitely experienced what I called “chemo fog”.
Chemo brain or to give it it’s proper names ” Mild Cognitive Impairment – MCI ” or “Chemotherapy-induced Cognitive Dysfunction” is a real issue for some people. I didn’t suffer too badly and apart from funny stories of misplacing my husband’s shoes and finding them a couple of days later in the freezer (true story!) I was able to work around the odd foggy day.

However, for some it is quite debilitating. This frustrating phenomenon can have a significant impact on daily life at an already challenging time. Chemo brain refers to changes in memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly and process. Accompanying extreme tiredness, patients complain of a lack of alertness and energy levels, trouble with multi-tasking and decision making, retrieving words and names and general processing speed.

Brain imaging studies clearly indicate that anti-cancer drug therapies cause both acute and chronic changes in brain structure. Cell studies suggest that the symptoms are likely due to drug-induced neurotoxicity. Our wondrous bodies are constantly monitoring levels and triggering automatic responses to changes in temperatures, chemicals, concentration levels etc., etc. One such defence mechanism is the release of tiny proteins called cytokines that attack any ‘nasties’ in our body. Think of them as little cell signalling molecules that aid cell to cell communication within the immune system. They stimulate movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Chemotherapy drugs have been shown to significantly increase the production of these cytokines which can cause detrimental effects across the entire body.

If it seems that I’m attributing all the blame to chemotherapy drugs, I apologise. The blame lays almost completely with one thing… chronic INFLAMMATION!

Cancer itself will cause inflammation and this may result as inflammation in the brain also.

Anxiety will undoubtedly cause inflammation.

Depression causes inflammation.

Smoking causes inflammation.

Lack of exercise can cause inflammation.

A poor diet, high in sugars and processed foods will most definitely cause inflammation – as will a diet rich in meat, alcohol and dairy.

However not all inflammation is bad. Your body’s inflammatory response is essential and natural for you to heal. This response tells your body to send white blood cells and chemicals to help fight off infection or repair an injury. Prolonged inflammation on the other hand can damage your body’s healthy cells and weaken your immune system and as we have just learned…cause chemo fog/brain!!

So can we lessen the effects of chemo fog/ chemo brain?

Absolutely!

By reducing the inflammation.

Here are my top anti-inflammatory foods…

*ADD MORE PLANT FOODS TO YOUR PLATE*

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • Broccoli
  • Green leafy veg
  • Celery
  • Beetroot
  • Blueberries
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Pineapple
  • Salmon (wild is best)
  • Bone broth

If you want any recipe ideas give me a shout, remember the WHOLE family will benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet. Have fun cooking and trying new things!

Nic x

Live Better With launches new cancer cookbook: Eat Better With Cancer

cancer cookbook ingredients

As part of Live Better With’s mission to make everyday living a little better for the millions of people living with cancer, today marks the launch of our very first cookbook: Eat Better With Cancer.

The cookbook, which includes 92 beautiful pages of stories, tips, and meal plans, brings together recipes that members of the Live Better With cancer community found tasty and easy to cook while going through treatment.

Contributors include writers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and chefs, including Jackie Buxton, author of Tea & Chemo, Jennifer Young, creator of the Defiant Beauty skincare range, and Bryan Thom, Head Chef at the Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh.

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Nic Naish: Setting the record straight when it comes to nutrition

I don’t know about you, but I’m hooked on the Olympic Games of an evening. I didn’t think we could better our home games of 2012 and I still get a warm glow remembering how proud I was to be of the host nation. ‘We’ did a fantastic job…(using the ‘royal we’ there!) As a sports lover, 2012 was a fantastic year to be British and at a time when I was actively using sport as rehabilitation after my cancer, I was hugely motivated by our country’s athletes.

Last night, as I repeatedly went from the edge of my seat to being hugely relieved (on the whole), I noticed how many of our superstars thanked the ‘behind the scenes’ crew for their success. Many of them personally giving credit to their nutritionists. Yay!!

Can you imagine the balance required…to push your body to an absolute peak of it’s potential; to reduce the risk of injury or illness at the same time; to know that your body will do what you ask of it without question: and control all this to happen during a certain month of a certain year. Truly amazing. The ability to fine tune this peak of health and athleticism is a science in its own right.

Now I know we’re not Olympians, but the same rules apply to us too. What you put in your body affects the performance of your body, it’s as simple as that.

Nutritional therapists work alongside conventional practitioners. They do not, (should not) make diagnoses. Their role is to listen to an individual and analyse through many strategies and tests, where and why symptoms are occurring. If a nutritional therapists detects or suspects a certain condition they should advise the client to go to their GP with this information.

Our wonderful NHS can provide excellent quality diagnostic tests and no-one should be paying a fortune for high quality supplements, or eliminating whole food groups without sound professional advice. Some GPs welcome the input of alternative and complementary therapists more than others but, as the patient, you have the right to seek the advice and combinations of treatment that you have faith in.

So going back to my marvels at our athletes peak of health at an allotted time, as cancer survivors we too can take control of our bodies, well at least what we choose to put into them.

A sports scientist or nutritionist will understand the extreme fatigue that a harsh training programme will cause; the hormones that are released and the macro- and micro-nutrients needed to fuel such exertion and subsequent recovery. Likewise a nutritionist can work alongside an oncologist to help reset the natural balance of the body. They can advise how to restore low levels of minerals, how to build up muscle mass safely, combat fatigue through diet and exercise and counter the effects of steroids and pain-killers etc.

If you are a cancer patient/survivor consider nutritional therapy. Far from quackery, a good nutritional therapist will have the time and knowledge to understand you as a whole.

So, as I didn’t give you any recipes or food ideas last week here are some snack suggestions for those evenings watching the Olympics….so you can feel equally virtuous and dedicated!

  • Apple halves filled with peanut butter
  • Oat cakes with a tiny bit of cottage cheese
  • Carrot sticks and  hummus
  • Home-made raita using Greek yoghurt, cucumber, pepper, fresh coriander and chilli to taste.

All washed down with a glass of mineral water, in a posh glass with a slice!

Have fun taking control of one very important element of your health!

Nic x

Pomegranate – a cancer fighting food?

They’re the trendy fruit that are the latest must-have ingredient for salads and juices, even cocktails. But could pomegranates help you live longer, too?

Pomegranate
Pomegranate on a white background

New research has identified the exact compound responsible for the anti-aging and cancer-fighting properties of pomegranates.

The magic ingredient is a compound called Ellagitannins. This is found in high concentrations in the red fruit and is broken down by bacteria in our gut into another compound called urolithin A.

Continue reading “Pomegranate – a cancer fighting food?”