I get asked that question quite a bit, so I thought I’d put it into a post…which will also force me to get more clear about the answer.
If you’ve been hanging around reading these posts since the beginning, you know that this journal/journey didn’t begin with colon cancer. Rather, I began when I decided to research/explore what has been written about alternative ways to deal with cancer—other than the ‘traditional’ methods of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. That was in January 2013. It began when I almost ‘accidentally’ attended an at-home seminar where the speaker was a woman who used Gerson Therapy to deal with her very serious case of uterine and colon cancer. Her doctors (at Mayo) told her she couldn’t expect to live without radiation and chemo, but she refused both—went home and began a 2 year, very intense regimen of nutritional therapy. (I won’t go into more detail—it’s all in the first few posts that I wrote in early 2013.) That was 22 years ago—she’s still doing fine.
I had just completed 2 years of treatment for my non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which at this point is considered chronic—meaning I can expect it to return. I was intrigued by the idea that maybe I could find a way to cure, or at the very least, stave off the return on my NHL.
So began a very focused, determined, committed search for information that won’t be found in any traditional doctor’s office. I’ll make a very long story, very short: I made huge changes to my eating habits—scared the daylights out of several of my friends!! More than one person thought I’d gone off the deep end—juicing my way into oblivion! But I felt good, had great energy, and loved the whole idea of learning many new things.
I became almost entirely vegetarian, and nearly vegan (cutting out all dairy). And I consumed about 7-8 helpings of homemade juice each day. I also followed the Gerson recommendation of doing coffee enemas daily in order to detoxify my liver. (That really blew people’s minds!!) I was very faithful with this routine for several months until August 13, when I went for a routine colonoscopy, and came out with a diagnosis of colon cancer.
And so began yet another journey. After surgery and 5 months of chemotherapy, I’m finally feeling pretty much back to normal, and can make some decisions about how I want to eat “now”. I lost about 20 pounds during chemo. I ate whatever I could tolerate, with no regard as to whether it was ‘good for me’ or not, but ‘what I could tolerate’ was a short list. Now I’ve gained back enough so that I’m ready to give more thought/effort to what I want to put into my body on a daily basis.
Now, I realize that many people simply do not give much thought to what they should eat. (or..they think about it, but don’t take much action.) I know I’m a little odd, giving this much attention to nutritional decisions. But with 2 cases of cancer in my recent personal history, I happen to believe that my body has a better chance of remaining healthy if I pay a LOT of attention to what I put into into it (as well as what I put onto it—another whole topic!) Plus, I give a lot of credit to my two daughters-in-law for helping me to better understand the importance of good nutrition, and support me as I’ve tried to learn a whole bunch of new info: Tami is a personal fitness trainer and has studied nutrition and its effects on our bodies, and Jen has undergone 2 heart attacks in her 30’s and has become a strong advocate and spokesperson for women’s health. It makes for interesting family discussions!!
So—back to the original question: What am I eating these days?
It’s easiest to begin with a basic philosophy that I’ve adopted: I want to keep my body as free from toxins and inflammation as possible. Doing so will keep my immune system at optimum levels and allow it to do what it is designed to do…namely, fight off disease inside my body.
In order to do that, I need to avoid or eliminate, as much as possible, food (and other products) that contain chemicals, pesticides, hormones, GMOs, antibiotics… That is not easy to do in today’s world! It’s a little bit like navigating your way through a mine field! But, there are a few basic ‘rules’ to follow to get one a long ways toward this goal:
- Avoid processed foods. Although I’m not patient enough to make everything from scratch, I have certainly eliminated a lot of cans, packages, bottles, etc. from my cupboards and my grocery trips. Some examples: I buy tomato sauce in cardboard cartons rather than cans. I buy bulk black beans and boil them—not a big time consumer. I avoid chips and crackers MOST of the time. I buy fresh vegetables rather than canned. I make granola from scratch rather than buy cereal in boxes.
What’s so bad about processed foods? Briefly: the biggies: chemicals, salt, sugar. Nearly all processing involves chemicals (can you think of any that doesn’t?). And nearly all processed foods have an overabundance of salt and sugar. There’s plentiful evidence showing the hazards of consuming too much of either…no need for me to add to that. So—I avoid processed foods as much as possible.
2. Avoid sugar, white flour, and cut way back on salt. Basically there is no redeeming value to any of these products, so I avoid them as much as possible. I stopped drinking pop quite a few years ago…full of sugar. And diet pop is even worse. Once in a great while I’ll order a Coke—that used to be my passion—but I find that I just don’t like the taste of it anymore. I never thought that would happen!
3. Eat “clean” meat. Meat that is hormone and antibiotic free is labeled that way. If it isn’t labeled that way, you an count on the animals having been fed both hormones and antibiotics. I usually buy my meat at a coop, which makes it easier to find clean meat.
4. Eat organic produce and other foods. The biggest argument I hear about organic and ‘clean’ products is that they cost more than regular products. Yup—they do. And here is how I choose to think about that extra cost: 1) If eating clean can keep my body healthier in the long run, (which I believe it can) the “cost” is well justified. 2) What it costs to eat one nice meal in a restaurant is about the same as the additional cost per month of what I spend on organic products. That’s a no brainer to me—eat one less meal out each month, and my costs are covered.
5. In general, eat less restaurant food…unless it’s an organic restaurant. Restaurant food is overloaded with salts, sugars, and starches. It’s far from clean and generally not healthy. Having said that, I enjoy going out with friends to eat and don’t turn down opportunities to do so. I simply am careful about how often, and what I eat when I’m out.
That’s it! Those are the most basic guidelines of what I follow. It’s really not that difficult or complicated once you change your belief system and your habits. Actually…the difficult part is the part about changing your belief system. Once your beliefs change, the habits will follow, and so will—I believe—better health.
(**Note: this is not a lecture. I’m not trying to convince anyone to do anything–honest! I’m simply answering a question I’ve been asked frequently. I believe we all need to come to a place where we feel best about what we’re doing about our health…and this is my place, at least for now.)