I start chemo on Friday, June 15th, 2012. I'm told I will probably be nauseous during chemo since I was when pregnant and I'm young enough (47) that it will affect me this way. I have frozen a lot of homemade chicken broth and some beef broth (all from pastured animals of course). I have some coconut milk I can stomach but I figure I may have to thin it quite a bit with water. I'd love to hear from survivors of chemo for any reason (cancer, wegener's, lupus, RA, whatever...) and whether you were paleo before and if you felt it was of concern to stay at all paleo thru chemo. If you weren't paleo, do you now, as a paleo eater, think you could have stayed somewhat on track or at least eaten decent food? I have celiac disease also so between that and a cancerous tumor (removed), I'm fairly orthorexic right now. Words of encouragement also appreciated. Thanks!
I had chemo in late 2008, pre-paleo. Now I'm an oncology nurse who administers chemo every day, and have been eating primarily primal/paleo for about 8 months. So, I have some thoughts!
First of all, can you tell us what specific chemotherapy drugs you'll be getting and/or the name of the regimen? And what kind of cancer? Although it's true that being young and female increases risk for nausea, it's by no means a foregone conclusion, and certain chemo drugs only very rarely cause nausea. The type of cancer affects the risk too. (GI cancers are obviously higher risk, for example.) Most centers are quite aggressive with nausea-prevention drugs and strategies, especially if the regimen is known to be emetogenic. So, don't count on being nauseous. I literally had ZERO days of nausea during my treatment (taxotere + cytoxan, for breast cancer), and know many MANY people who had and have similar experiences. If you do experience nausea, you need to take any as-needed nausea meds they give you (compazine or zofran probably) sooner rather than later, and if they aren't effective, you need to let the doc or nurse know right away -- there are many options, and no reason to just give up and feel sick without exploring them!
It is very likely that you'll experience appetite and taste changes of some kind. A lot of people lose their taste for certain foods that they normally love (coffee, dairy, and -- uh-oh -- red meat are the most common). But you may not. Some of the meds often given with chemo (such as steroids) may stimulate your appetite (that's a nursey way of saying "make you feel like a ravenous pit that can never be satisfied"), and statistically most breast cancer patients gain weight on chemotherapy.
All that said, there is no reason that you couldn't and shouldn't stay as paleo as you wish while doing chemo. You will likely have to adapt your diet somewhat -- some people find they only want bland, smooth foods -- good paleo options might be anything coconut-based, smoothies, bananas, simply cooked chicken breast; others want to add a lot of salt and spices to their food so they can actually taste it. I know several people who've remained vegan through chemo with no issues, and several others who though they weren't paleo ate lots of whole, natural foods, cultured foods, etc. through chemo and did great.
The only thing you really must try to do is stay hydrated -- depending on the chemo, they may specify that you need to drink 2 quarts of water a day, or something like that. But even if not, staying well-hydrated is a proven method of preventing nausea, and is really a good idea to flush that shit out of your kidneys and bladder ASAP. Water is fine, but broth (especially bone broth! holy nutrients and electrolytes!) is great too, herbal teas, kombucha, coconut water, coconut or water (or dairy if you do that) kefir, all those paleo beverages are wonderful.
Hope this helps! Chemo sucks, no two ways about it. But, 1000s before you have done it, and you can too.
Paleo, I've read, is very cancer treatment friendly - especially if you lay off the sugars a bit, maybe even revert to Whole 30, eating a lot of good meats and vegetables, fruits that are on the lower end of the sugar spectrum. Sugar helps cancer, so anything you can do to avoid sugar should help your treatment. I stumbled on this website awhile back which had a wealth of information about cancer treatments, fallacies, diet, etc... It seems the consensus of many alternative treatments for cancer involves a diet that looks a lot like Paleo:
My husband had 30 days of Interferon (Immunotherapy) a few years back after having stage 3b melanoma. This was before we learned about paleo though. Regardless he couldn't eat much during that time. I made him a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich that he would eat every afternoon during his treatment and that's about all he ate most days. Sometimes he would eat soup during the day if he got hungry but mostly he was just exhausted and not hungry. I think that you could probably stay paleo during chemo but, you probably won't want anything heavy. Also everyone reacts differently to treatment, some people tolerate it really well and others do not fair well at all. You're going to have to see how you feel and do the best you can.
I was 4 years younger than you when I started chemo, and that was 12 years ago. I wasn't paleo back then, but I tried rejuvelac, juicing - lots of things. You name it, if it was food and someone thought it prevented recurrence and it sounded half way sane - I tried it. It seemed important to try different things because, in whatever small way, I was in control of something. I completely stopped eating processed foods; ate mostly fish and greens. I lost some weight during chemo, but not much.
I'm not sure why my cancer has stayed away so long, but it has. I don't know if the diet had something to do with it or if was the surgery, the chemo, the tamoxifen or arimidex.-My guess is it's a combination of everything I know about and some things I don't know about. Who knows.
I began eating paleo about a year ago to lose 20 pounds. I'm not 100% paleo (I try) because I love ice cream and M&Ms - my once a month treats. But I also love kale, chard, and spinach, which make up a large part of my diet.
Keep in mind that there are many, many survivors. Keep searching for and reading the success stories - all of us did. Those stories helped to move the cancer thoughts to the back of my brain instead of up front. I hope they'll do the same for you.
There are so many types of chemo and so many different protocols, it's hard to make comparisons. I had 4 rounds of etoposide and cisplatnin (1 week on, 2 weeks off) for testicular cancer about 5ish years ago, pre-paleo. The good thing about TC is that it's pretty fast growing, so it's easy to kill, but you need to hit it hard. I know some people have much longer cycles of their chemo that's not as bad per cycle. There were people in the infusion room with me, talking, enjoying themselves, laughing, feeling good. I got hit really hard, tons of nausea which was countered with tons of anti-nausea drugs which caused nasty headaches which then needed some crazy pain killers to get rid of (I wish I went the MMJ route, but I wasn't in the mood to get in trouble with the law while being sick). The good thing was that I was done with treatments in 3 months (then I had about a year of rebuilding my body, which was discouraging because I expected to bounce back more quickly.) But the people who had the "easier" chemo sometimes had cycles lasting 6 or more months.
Basically, I can only speak to really the really toxic shit they pumped through me, I don't know what you'll get. For the week on, I basically had no appetite, I did force down chicken broth and sometimes some noodles. For the weeks off I started to get hungry but I couldn't taste anything, so I dumped tobasco and cayenne pepper on everything just to get some flavor, sadly it's was often mac and cheese since.
I wish I had known about paleo then, it would have been better for my body than feeding it the crap I was. Especially since the carbs would have been feeding the tumors at the same time I was trying to kill them. Plus any of the wheat I had would have been causing inflammation that made things even harder on my body. And from what I've read being in ketosis actually makes you more resilient when it comes to dealing with the chemo.
I really can't give you advice since I don't know your situation, but I can say that with complete certainty, if I had to do it again I would be 100% paleo, be very low carb, and avoid anything that even might cause some inflammation. If I couldn't do that, I would just not eat and live off my fat stores until the nausea went away.
Do some research on fasting/intermittent fasting while on chemo. Sounds pretty promising to me. Opposite of what traditional doctors will tell you. Good luck! I've had several family members go thru chemo. It's much less harsh now than it was 20 years ago.
If you tend to nausea, some probiotics will be very beneficial for maintaining a healthy gut flora and staving off other unpleasantness, such as diarrhea. I think it's something that not everyone thinks of, but it would be particularly helpful to such intense treatments such as chemo.
I wish you the best of luck- support your body with lots of nourishing foods, help your gut flora out, keep the lines of conversation open with your oncologist, and hopefully this will be a healing experience for you!
The only thing I can recommend is a cookbook that we used for a family member going through chemo, he started loosing his tastes, his eating changing completely because of the chemo, this book has a whole bunch of great stuff that tells you what do to for combating the nausea, metal tastes in the mouth, and other side effects you might encounter. It is a wonderful book to help you beat the chemo effects, truly worth the purchase:
The cancer fighting kitchen by rebecca katz with mat edelson isbn 978-1-58761-344-9
best of luck to you!!!
I am going through chemo now. I am 35. The anti nausea mess are very good although I still had some stomach pain. I did find that my appetite was unpredictable and I was, unexpectedly, a bottomless pit some days. Of all the side effects, nausea was really the least of it. I think you will be fine