Nutrition Before During and After Cancer

Information About nutrition for All

Restoring Gastrointestinal Health

Gastrointestinal (GI) health is at the core. Without healthy GI function, other systems—the immune system, the skin, the musculoskeletal system, the cardiovascular system—cannot function optimally. Interventions that effectively support GI function have been shown to help maintain and restore wellness and support health. An optimally functioning digestive system is the cornerstone of good health.

Optimize Digestion

Digestion is the breakdown of large insoluble food molecules into small water-soluble food molecules so that they can be absorbed into the watery blood plasma.

Food takes 24 to 72 hours (about 3 days) to move through your digestive tract. The exact time depends on the amount and types of food eaten. Drinking and eating habits can play a key role in how you bloat. Foods or beverages that contain added sugar alcohols or ‘polyols. Should be avoided to manage bloating.

Foods like Pineapple, papaya, chia seeds, apples, Kefir, Fennel, Whole Grains can help improve digestion, Stay Hydrated and Control Stress.

Provide Gastric Support

Occasional discomfort after consuming coffee, spicy or fried foods, and experience relief after eating small amount of food or drinking milk, may suggest a need for soothing gastric support.

A demulcent is a soothing protective film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation of the membrane.

Demulcent foods include Green Bananas/plantains, bone broth, cabbage juice and ginger. Ginger is a widely used culinary herb but has many excellent health benefits due to the active ingredient—gingerol. Other demulcent herbs include black pepper and turmeric.

Establish Healthy Gut Flora

Normal bowel microflora supports healthy gastrointestinal function through numerous mechanisms. Everyday factors such as poor diet, stress, and travel can disrupt healthy intestinal microflora, contributing to digestive upset and irregularity.

 One way to rebalance gut flora is to eat polyphenol-rich foods such as berries, dark chocolate green and black tea and cloves, get rid of artificial sweeteners, Exercise regularly, Avoid smoking.

Detoxification and Elimination

In a healthy gut, toxins and waste products are detoxified by the liver and eliminated via the bowel. Efficient metabolism and excretion of xenobiotics support the health of tissues and organs throughout the body, not just in the intestinal tract.

 Lifestyle and environmental factors can play a significant role in determining the extent of exposure to xenobiotics. Despite the ubiquity of these chemicals in the environment from multiple sources, it is food that represents the most common source of exposure to xenobiotics.

The major sources of xenobiotics are food additives such as colorings, flavors, preservatives, etc. The other sources are fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic or hormone residues and various other drugs.

Fruits and vegetables that can reduce and eliminate xenobiotics include Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Beets, turmeric, and ginger. Spirulina is one of the most impressive greens you can add to your diet.


Now that I have Cancer

That diagnosis of cancer: How to eat and Physical activity

A diagnosis of cancer is shocking news, but it can create a teachable moment for you. Learn about the changes you need to make to improve your chances of survival and to improve overall well-being and ability to cope with the disease.

Get to, and stay at a healthy weight

The ACS recommends limiting high-calorie foods and drinks and getting more active. Aim to get your BMI in a healthy range

Be active on a regular basis

Return to normal activities as soon as your doctor says it’s okay, and exercise at least 150 minutes a week. Include at least two days of strength training.

Eat a variety of foods

  • Aim for 2 1/2 cups or more of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Choose whole grains.
  • Limit red and processed meat.
  • Healthy food can be tasty, instead of pepperoni on a pizza, use sun-dried tomatoes for added flavor. Instead of croutons on a salad, try roasted walnuts for crunchy satisfaction. Slivered almonds or mustard perk up fish.
  • Pasta can be an alternative to pepperoni pizza if you want a quick Italian meal. Use whole-grain pasta, low-sugar tomato sauce, plenty of vegetables and a source of lean protein, such as grilled chicken or shrimp. Add mixed Italian spices or fresh herbs, such as oregano and basil

Limit alcohol consumption

Find a Registered Dietitian

A registered Dietitian can help you manage treatment related side effects while you go thru the treatment and later help with issue that many survivors can face.

Festive cooking

Using cancer fighting Ingredient

Cranberry-Apple Hazelnut Crumble


Fruit Filling:

  • 10 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries, unsweetened
  • 3 medium apples, peeled, sliced
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Whole Grain Crumble Topping:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • Pinch salt (optional)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Place cranberries and apples in 9-inch pie dish or baking pan. Add zest, orange juice and brown sugar. Toss well.
  • In small bowl, combine oats, flour, hazelnuts, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and salt, if using. Stir in oil with fork to make a crumbly mixture.
  • Sprinkle crumb topping over cranberry-apple filling and bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 240 calories, 11 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans-fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 5 g dietary fiber, 0 mg sodium, 19 g sugar, 9 g added sugar.

Date, Walnut, and Dark Chocolate Cookies


  • 1/2 cup soft dairy-free margarine spread, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1-1/2 tsp. egg replacer**
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup diced, pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or broken dark chocolate pieces


  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  • Mix margarine, vanilla, and honey in a small bowl.
  • Combine the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, and egg replacer in a separate bowl.
  • Add flour mixture to the margarine mixture and mix well to form a crumbly dough.
  • Stir in the walnuts, dates, and chocolate chips.
  • Shape the dough into walnut-sized balls and place about 3 inches apart on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown

Makes 20 servings (1 cookie). Per serving: 130 calories, 7 g total fat (2 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans-fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 105 mg sodium, 8 g sugar, 5 g added sugar.

Smoky Jalapeño Hibiscus Cooler


Spice Glass Rim: (optional)

  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika


  • 1/2 cup orange juice, unsweetened
  • 1 small lime, juiced
  • 1/4-1/2 small jalapeño, sliced (depending on heat preference)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 12-ounce can hibiscus flavored sparkling water, unsweetened or your choice of flavored water
  • 1 large or 6 small ice cubes
  • Garnish: (optional)
  • Orange, lime slices
  • Jalapeño slices
  • Hibiscus flowers


  • Create a spice glass rim with two 12-ounce glasses by running lime halfway along edge of each glass. Mix sugar, cinnamon and paprika together in small saucer. Press each glass into spice mixture to coat rims. Allow to dry for a few minutes before adding liquid to glasses. Or use plain glasses.
  • Place orange juice, lime juice, jalapeño and smoked paprika in blender. Process for 1-2 minutes until well blended.
  • Place ice cubes in each glass. Divide blended juice mixture between each glass.
  • Top each glass with half of hibiscus flavored sparkling water.
  • Garnish with orange, lime and jalapeño slices and hibiscus flowers, if desired.

Makes 2 servings (1 1/4 cups each). Per serving: 40 calories, 0 g total fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans-fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 mg sodium, 8 g sugar, 0 g added sugar.

Recipes courtesy AICR


Collagen is a type of protein. It is a hard, insoluble, fibrous protein found in muscles, bones, tendons, skin, nails, blood vessels, and the digestive tract.

 It is abundant in three key amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. Collagen is the primary structural protein in the body, essentially acting like the “glue” that holds us together.

It has several roles in the body, including providing elasticity and strength to our skin, repairing, and replacing skin cells, and maintaining the health of joints, bones, ligaments, tendons.

Your body can produce all the collagen you need if you eat a balanced diet, supplements may not be necessary.

Types of Collagen

The majority (90%) of collagen in our bodies come from three types:

  • Type 1
  • Type 2
  • Type 3.

While dietary collagen can only be obtained from animal sources, there are plenty of foods in plant-based diets that help boost collagen formation in the body.

Type of Collagen, Function and Sources

  • Type 1 Promote hair, skin, nails, and bone health. Derived from Animal skin, hide, tendons, scales, Bones of cows, pigs, chicken, fish
  • Type 2 Improve joint and cartilage health, often derived from poultry
  • Type 3 Promote hair, skin, nails, and bone health, comes from Bone, tendon, cartilage, and connective tissue

Boosting Collagen Naturally

Nutrients that promote collagen formation in the body.

  • Proline: Egg whites, meat, cheese, and soy
  • Glycine:  Fish, meat, dairy, spinach, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkin, banana, and kiwi
  • Hydroxyproline:  Meat, fish, eggs, carob seeds, alfalfa sprouts
  • Vitamin C:  Citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and kale
  • Anthocyanins and antioxidants:  Berries, herbs, and spices such as oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, and turmeric
  • Copper: Beef liver, sunflower seeds, cashews, chickpeas, lentils, dark chocolate, hazelnuts

Forms used in supplements

  • Hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolysate). This type is derived from bovine (cattle), marine (seafood), poultry (often chicken or eggshells), pigs, and other animal sources, and it’s broken down into smaller and easier-to-absorb peptide particles.
  • Undenatured collagen. This is raw collagen derived from chicken cartilage.
  • Gelatin: This is cooked collagen, usually derived from animal sources.

Calcium: Needs and Sources

Calcium is the most abundant of the metallic elements in the human body.

Calcium is elemental in building bones, but this mineral also has a connection to the heartbeat. The cardiac muscle keeps the heart pumping at an average rate of 70 beats per minute.

At birth, the body contains about 26 to 30 g calcium. This amount rises quickly after birth, reaching about 1,200 g in women and 1,400 g in men by adulthood. These levels remain constant in men, but they start to drop in women because of increases in bone remodeling due to decreased estrogen production at the start of menopause.

 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Calcium
0-6 months*200 mg200 mg
7–12 months*260 mg260 mg
1–3 years700 mg700 mg
4–8 years1,000 mg1,000 mg
9–13 years1,300 mg1,300 mg
14–18 years1,300 mg1,300 mg1,300 mg1,300 mg
19–50 years1,000 mg1,000 mg1,000 mg1,000 mg
51–70 years1,000 mg1,200 mg
>70+ years1,200 mg1,200 mg
*AI=Adequate Intake

Milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich natural sources of calcium. In the United States, approximately 72% of calcium intake comes from dairy products and foods with added dairy ingredients. Nondairy sources include canned sardines and salmon with bones as well as certain vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage (bok choi). Most grains do not have high amounts of calcium unless they are fortified. Foods fortified with calcium in the United States include many fruit juices and drinks, tofu, and ready-to-eat cereals.

Calcium absorption varies by type of food. The absorption of calcium from dairy products and fortified foods is about 30%. Certain compounds in plants (e.g., oxalic acid, phytic acid) can decrease calcium absorption by forming indigestible salts with calcium, decreasing its absorption. As a result, absorption of calcium is only 5% for spinach. Net absorption of dietary calcium is also reduced to a small extent by intakes of caffeine and phosphorus and to a greater extent by low status of vitamin D

Groups at Risk of Calcium Inadequacy

Postmenopausal women

Menopause leads to bone loss because decreases in estrogen production reduces calcium absorption and increase urinary calcium loss. On average, women lose approximately 1% of their bone mineral density (BMD) per year after menopause. Over time, these changes lead to decreased bone mass and fragile bones.

Individuals who avoid dairy products

People with lactose intolerance, those with an allergy to milk, and those who avoid eating dairy products (including vegans) have a higher risk of inadequate calcium intakes. Options for increasing calcium intake in individuals with lactose intolerance include consuming lactose-free or reduced-lactose dairy products, which contain the same amounts of calcium as regular dairy products.

 Those who avoid dairy products because of allergies or for other reasons can obtain calcium from non-dairy sources, such as some vegetables (e.g., kale, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage [bok choi]), canned fish with bones, or fortified foods (e.g., fruit juices, breakfast cereals, and tofu). However, these individuals typically need to eat foods fortified with calcium or take supplements to obtain recommended amounts.

Herbs in your Garden

When we talk about food we think fruits and vegetables, whole grains etc. but forget the humble and powerful herbs in our gardens specially at this time of the year, and some that can be grown year-round in our kitchen window boxes.

In your fight against Inflammation and cancer include growing and learning to consume fresh herbs. When we talk about a plant-based diet, keep herbs and even spices at the fore front. Plant based does not just mean vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

Herbs, like other healthy plants in our diet, contain phytonutrients and other minerals and vitamins.

The herbs listed in this blog are easy to grow, some are perennials, others can be dried and used when fresh herbs are not available or difficult to come by.

Healthiest Herbs


  • Improves digestion, helps with nausea, improves oral health.
  • Contains Manganese and Copper, Vitamin A.
  • Spearmint also provides a significant amount of iron and folate.
  • Mint can be used in chutneys, tea, infused water, Chew for fresh breath. Make your own mint syrup, perk up Pesto.


  • Traditional uses include the treatment of bites, colds, and inflammation.
  • Basil provides nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin K, as well as a range of antioxidants.
  • Use it as Pesto, in marinades and dressings, Oils and Vinegars. Herb Butter.


  • It is used with great success for dyspeptic complaints, flatulence and to stimulate appetite and the secretion of gastric juices.
  • It is also used as supportive therapy for rheumatism and circulatory problems.
  • Rosemary is high in Manganese, essential nutrient for metabolic health, and carnosic acid, a compound known for its powerful antioxidant properties.
  • Add to meats, soups and best of all breads and crackers.


  • There are many species of sage. The two most common species are common sage and Spanish sage.
  • Sage is used for digestive problems, including loss of appetite, gas (flatulence), stomach pain (gastritis), diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn.
  • Sage is an excellent source of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, calcium, iron, potassium
  • Use Sage Infused Oil. Sage Butter. Sage Seasoning Salt, add to Salads. pairs well with any meat, especially poultry.


  • This herb can reduce bloating and relieves intestinal cramping. Thyme is a natural diuretic, that is it promotes regular urination to maintain kidney health.
  • Thyme is a source of vitamin A, vitamin C, copper, fiber, iron, manganese.
  • Use it to season soups, and sauces., add to bouquet garni. Thyme has been used to marinate chicken, fish, and meats, can be added to chicken stuffing


  • Rich in antioxidants. Supports bone health. Contains cancer-fighting substances
  • Parsley has high amounts of the flavonoid known as apigenin, it’s a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
  • Parsley can be used to cook pasta sauce, soups, stocks, to roast or braise vegetables, and to create bouquet garni.

Cilantro (Coriander)

  • Rids the Body of Heavy Metals. Arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury. Protects Against Oxidative Stress. Reduces Anxiety. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels.
  • Contains vitamins A, C, and K, and the leaves also have folate, potassium, and manganese. Cilantro possesses natural antihistamine activity.
  • Add cilantro into a stir-fry, toward the end of cooking, Chop and toss into guacamole. Add a handful into a smoothie. Add to a salad dressing.
  • Cilantro may not be for everyone since it contains many molecules that contribute to its scent and taste. Some of those molecules are called aldehydes, and existing research has shown that a set of people perceive aldehydes as having a soapy taste or smell.

Small bites or Snacking

Eating on-the-run, grabbing the first thing you see, snacking may have a bigger nutritional impact on you than you realize.

Foods that are nutrition packed and made up of diverse ingredients and food groups can meet Nutritional needs when included as a part of your daily intake, can help you lead a Heathy lifestyle, maintain weight and avoid hunger pangs and overeating at mealtimes.

Like meals, snacks need preplanning as well, the importance of snack contribution towards our health cannot be discounted, it maybe you are unable to eat a meal and nutritious snacks can fill the gap, or you might want some weight loss, remember for weight loss try and have one snack  per day, consumed at the time of the day when you are most likely to reach for the first thing or over eat at meal time, like in the evening when you get home from work.

Snack Ideas

Protein Bomb


  • 3 cups Walnuts, divided
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried apricot
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup vanilla whey protein powder
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons cherry extract


  • Preheat oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside 1cup walnuts.
  • Place remaining ingredients in a food processor and process just until mixture is sticky and holds together.
  • Add remaining walnuts and pulse on and off to coarsely chop.
  • Press into a 7 X 10-inch rectangle and cut into 20 equal pieces.
  • Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to an airtight container.

Chocolate Time


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup banana chips
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips


  • Preheat the oven to 300ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Bring brown sugar, water, butter, honey and extract to a boil in a large saucepan. Let boil for a few minutes, then stir in oats, walnuts, and extract.
  • Spread on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Stir and bake for 10 more minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Let cool completely, then stir in fruits and chocolate chips. Store in an airtight container.

Going Through Treatment

Avoid Dehydration

People going through cancer treatment can fight and recover from cancer with good nutrition.
Nutrition is an essential part of any Cancer treatment.
Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated can be a challenge but it can make you feel better and keep you from visiting the emergency room/urgent care.
Eating well does not mean you have to have a balanced diet at every meal. Eating and hydrating is important and the need to change the texture if swallowing is an issue or learning to eat different foods if taste is an issue. Sometimes the treatment can impact the foods you can eat.
Until you get a chance to talk to your Dietitian to help you manage eating. Remember to stay hydrated to avoid a visit to the hospital due to dehydration which can easily happen if you have diarrhea, vomiting or are unable to eat/drink due to nausea.

Some Recipes to keep you hydrated till you see the Dietitian.

Ginger-Lime Spritzer

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ounces peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 5 cups seltzer, club soda or sparkling water, optional ice and lemon wedges


Over medium heat combine water and sugar, add the ginger, let sugar dissolve. Remove from heat cool, strain and save.


¼ cup of this mix with 1cup seltzer, club soda or sparkling water, add optional ice and lemon wedges.

Strawberry-watermelon-mint Cooler


  • 2 cups watermelon chunks without seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, optional honey


Blend watermelon, mint, lemon zest and strawberries

Add honey after tasting

Unflavored Rehydration Drink


  • 2 Cups cold water
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, optional lemon/ lime slices or crystal light powder


In a pitcher combine all ingredients. Shake well add lemon or crystal light powder and drink. Discard after 24 hours.

Orange Rehydration Drink


  • 2 Cups cold water
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup orange juice


In a pitcher combine all ingredients. Shake well and drink. Discard after 24 hours.

Recipes courtesy American Cancer society

Hunger Games

We start the new year with Sarah, our guest blogger.

This information can be used by all who are interested in eating well and maintaining their weight.

As a dietitian I speak to people all day about food, nutrition, hunger and all things related to health and in my opinion, there are three types of hunger: physical, mental and emotional.

Physical Hunger


This is when we feel our tummy rumble, when we are hangry or when we feel low energy.  This type of hunger happens at certain times in the day because daily our body needs fuel and how it gets the fuel it needs is by producing a hormone called Ghrelin.

Hunger can stress really stress us out, especially since sometimes we don’t feel hungry, or we feel un-ending hunger. If you experience going the whole day without feeling hungry only to feel un-ending hunger at other times, it is important to know that these types of feelings are early warning signs of metabolic imbalance such as insulin resistance.

Mental Hunger

What's the difference between physiological hunger and psychological hunger?

When we think something sounds tasty, when we see something and instantly want to eat it, when we are craving, when we are in the mood for something. Think of this as a habit hunger.

And yes, they can all mix, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the differences.

Emotional Hunger

Dealing with Emotional Eating, from a Man's Perspective | SparkPeople

In a nutshell there are two main reasons we emotionally eat, to detract from an uncomfortable feeling and/or to enhance a good feeling. Eating to enhance good feelings such as celebrating a job promotion with a fancy meal doesn’t usually cause us stress; rather, we feel the worst, when we are eating to soothe uncomfortable feelings.

Getting stuck in a cycle of eating to sooth uncomfortable feelings that we feel bad about, is very easy to do. But do not fret; it is possible to get unstuck.

If food becomes your only tool for managing emotions, then, it is possible for food to become overused and cause unwanted health consequences. Instead of being stuck, answer this question when you are feeling emotional: what else can I do right now to help myself feel better?

Making Sense of Hunger

The downloadable Hunger Worksheet will help you figure out what type of hunger you are experiencing. Just fill it out during a few episodes of hunger and eventually things will start to make more sense.

Gaining awareness, feels very empowering. But exactly what and how much you can be aware of and manage really can vary day-to-day and season-to-season. If you try to control in a rigid fashion, it can lead to feeling like a failure when “something” happens that throws the plans off course, and “something” always happens, so stay understanding and flexible and go into this process with an open mind.

Sarah our Guest Blogger can be found in the Pacific Northwest applying her expertise in nutrition and yoga to her care for people who need support with metabolic health.

Please, feel free to email her at