A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that told you a bit about my cancer journey and how I learned to detox from chemo. I also promised in that post that there would be a follow-up soon to talk more about the third piece of the “thriving with cancer” puzzle: nutrition and NOURISHING the body to build it back up with GOOD things after we removed the bad. This is that post!
Here is my plan to NOURISH my body post-chemo!
1) Starve the BAD bacteria.
We’ve spent so much time detoxing out all the dead cells and toxins from our bodies, but now we need to focus on strangling out all the bad bacteria that have been clinging on, damaging our guts, and making us crave chocolate cake and cookies. (That’s not just me, right?)
It’s time to take back the meal plan (using this system — it’s the ONLY one that has worked for me!), and find or make some snacks that aren’t loaded with sugar and carbs. The best way to starve the bad bacteria is to quit feeding them. And you guessed it, they feast on sugar and carbs. White sugar, white flour, they LOVE them.
Cancer LOVES sugar, too, btw!
This step is SO hard when the only thing that sounds good or that will go down easy is saltine crackers or snack cakes. (And why we so easily fall into the #1 Mistake Cancer Patients Make!)
But, if we want our health back, if we want to beat cancer once and for all, we HAVE to make a radical shift in our eating plan. Quit sugar. Quit “white carbs.” Eventually, your body will stop craving them, and you’ll know the bad bacteria have surrendered!If we want our health back, if we want to beat cancer once and for all, we HAVE to make a radical shift in our eating plan. Here's how: Click To Tweet
Plus, it’s not just cancer patients that need to kick the sugar habit. It’s one of my top 3 baby steps to better health for your whole family!
2) Feed the GOOD bacteria.
We’ve fought the good fight and quit sugar and simple carbs. Hooray for us! Now, we need to feed the GOOD bacteria in our gut and help them start the healing process.
A high-quality probiotic is a good place to start. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the author and creator of the GAPS diet, recommends finding a probiotic with as many different bacteria strains as possible. The one she recommends in her book, BioKult, has 14 different strains!
However, supplements will never be enough for healing. We need LOTS of probiotics in our diet, too, and the easiest way to get them is through fermented foods.
Fermented, gut-healing foods can include:
- homemade yogurt
- traditionally fermented pickles
- pickled dill carrots
- and so much more!
The key with fermented foods is to either make them yourself, so you KNOW they are full of awesome, live, helpful bacteria, or to find them at a health food store and check the labels to make sure they have everything you want and nothing you don’t.
We get Bubbies brand sauerkraut and pickles from the larger health food store in our area (but we’ve even seen it at Kroger recently!), since they’re one of the only companies that uses traditional fermentation methods, no sugar, etc. And they are SO good!! I never thought I would like sauerkraut, but man… I was wrong!
3) Trade up for nutrient density.
Instead of feeding the bad bacteria all over again with lots of pasta and pizza, switch up your menu with new recipes that offer TONS of nutrition for the punch.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon is a great cookbook to have on hand as you make this transition to lots of REAL food. It teaches you how to prepare food in ways that make it easy to digest, with nutrients that are ready for the body to use.
My goal is to try one new, gut-healing recipe every week, so I can slowly transition out our not-so-gut-friendly family favorites and replace them with nourishing meals that will become our new go-to recipes.
I’m sure it will take some trial and error, especially with a 3.5-year-old that has decided she only likes spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and pizza. (Can you say GUT IMBALANCE?? ? Yeah, this new eating plan isn’t just for me!) But, I am determined to find recipes we all LOVE and get us ALL balanced, healthy, and able to tackle anything life throws at us.
4) Use the bones.
In any gut-healing diet, bone broth is a staple. The GAPS book recommends drinking a mug of warm bone broth with every meal and several times in between meals, too. That’s a lot of broth!
(Thank goodness my mom bought me an Instant Pot for Christmas! I can make 3-4 quarts of broth in less than two hours now, instead of simmering it for 24 hours in a crockpot. It’s AWESOME!)
Bone broth is FULL of nutrients and minerals our guts need to heal. It’s also one of the few things I could get down on those first few days after chemo.
There’s a reason our grandmothers and great-grandmothers always pushed chicken soup when we were sick as kids. It’s GREAT for healing the body and comforting when we feel crappy.
There are a ton of tutorials on how to make broth across the internet, so I’ll leave the cooking lessons to the experts, but I will tell you: making broth is SUPER easy.
We save the bones from every chicken we buy, bake, or boil, and keep them in the freezer. (Beef bones work, too.) I also save scraps from organic onions, carrots, and celery and freeze them. Once I have enough scraps saved up, I make a batch of broth in the Instant Pot or crockpot, depending on how much time I have.
It truly could NOT be easier, and it is SO much better than the store-bought stuff — both in taste AND nutrition!If you or someone you love is recovering from cancer treatment, be sure to check out these tips for NOURISHING the body during & after chemo! Click To Tweet
5) Train your body to relax.
Up to this point, we’ve mainly focused on nourishing our bodies with food, but for these last few tips, I’m going to switch gears on you. One of the most helpful things I did to help my mind and body during chemo was self-hypnosis.
I can see the eyes rolling from here, but please believe me: there’s nothing weird or evil about self-hypnosis. (I actually used it for childbirth, and it was AMAZING. But, that’s a story for another time.)
Hypnosis is actually a very natural state. Have you ever been driving and arrived at your destination, but wondered how you got there? Your mind was pre-occupied while you were driving, and you just did everything on auto-pilot.
Using hypnosis to deal with chemo side effects and the anxiety that comes with treatment was a lifesaver for me. I saw a recommendation somewhere to use hypnosis to train my body to go to sleep whenever it started feeling unpleasant side effects coming on.
I did that training before I started chemo, and let me tell you: it worked!
I never did have super awful nausea or other side effects, but I DID sleep for 4-5 days straight! Being able to keep the side effects at bay and help myself stay calm during one of the most stressful seasons of my life was a fantastic skill to learn. I HIGHLY recommend doing some research and finding a self-hypnosis guide that works for you!
6) Allow your body time to heal.
Whether you choose to use self-hypnosis or not, one of the best things you can do to help your body stay healthy is to sleep. Sleep allows our bodies to continue the detoxification processes it naturally completes while we rest, and it also give our bodies time to use all those good nutrients we fed it during the day.
Healing for both the mind and the gut happens best while we sleep. Our bodies aren’t stressed, trying to do all of the other processes necessary to keep us alive during the day, and they can focus solely on repairing and restoring anything still out of whack.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression on top of everything else, be sure to check out these AWESOME tips from Marriage & Family Therapist Karisa Kaye about how to start finding your way out of the fog. Sleep is one of her big tips — bonus: it’s FREE and completely natural! — and there is even more great advice in this post to help you!
Our bodies are amazing creations. We just need to make sure we give them time to do their jobs!
Sleep has become a HUGE priority for me the past several months. Those who have known me forever are laughing now, because sleep has ALWAYS been a huge priority for me. I’m the one who slept 20 hours a day as a baby!
But, as an adult, I let myself slip into night-owl habits where I would stay up super late, then drag my butt out of bed the next day to start it all over again. I really thought that was just how I was. I never got really GOOD sleep, until I started making a concerted effort to go to bed BEFORE midnight.
Did you know our best quality sleep happens before midnight? I sure didn’t!
But, it’s true. The nights I fall asleep around 10:30/11pm are the time I can easily get out of bed the next morning and not have to drag myself through my morning routine. I still get tired later in the day, but getting enough sleep at night makes a huge difference in how productive and “normal” my mornings and early afternoons can be.
Are YOU ready to start nourishing your body?
Whether you are a cancer patient dealing with chemo and its side effects, a survivor trying to heal after treatment, or someone currently healthy who wants to make sure you STAY that way for a good, long time, making these diet changes is the BEST thing you can do for your body.
What other tips & tricks do you have for nourishing your body during & after chemo?
Tell us in the comments below!
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.