Get the Facts: Health After Breast Cancer

Health After Breast Cancer
By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

October is Breast Cancer awareness month, a diagnosis that one out of every eight women will receive in their lifetime.  Here at Reboot with Joe, one of the most common questions we receive is, “How can I detox after chemo?”   In honor of breast cancer awareness month, let’s breakdown fact from fiction and share what you can do to help support your body’s immune system, recalibrate and heal after treatment.    We’ll also cover common “detox” strategies to avoid. Watch these award-winning videos for more on Eating Well During Cancer . 

Choose One Thing

Going through cancer treatment can leave you physically and emotionally wiped out.  In the face of life’s usual hustle and bustle, getting back on track after treatment with your wellness, family responsibilities, career, and many aspects of everyday life can feel overwhelming.  The key focus: Keep it simple.

So, if you had to choose one thing to help your body rid itself of any remnants or after-effects from the medicine you had coursing through your veins, what would it be?  I’ll tell you straight up the correct answer is not simply green juice!

Sure, green juice may be helpful, but that’s just way too specific and over exaggerates one detail, leaving the real message lost in the forest.  We want to look Beyond Pink, at how a Rainbow of Colors may promote Breast Cancer survivorship.  Plant-based diets, physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are each powerful separately as well as synergistically together to lay the foundation for optimal wellness and also for getting back to feeling strong, healthy and building a resilient “new-normal” self.

Ultimately your best “one thing” to help get your body back on track is a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables.   Nutrition can make a difference when it comes to cancer.  Let’s look at a few specific foods and nutrients that may be especially important to include in your diet.

Cruciferous Craze

This now popular group of veggies has key nutrients to help support the body’s natural detoxification actions in the liver.  Cruciferous vegetables grow in many seasons and include a wide variety of choices.  Think kale, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, red cabbage, radish, kohlrabi, arugula, wasabi, etc.

Besides helping the liver with detox potential, many of these veggies are rich in cancer-fighting nutrients like:

  • Antioxidants vitamin C, carotenoids and anthocyanins
  • Electrolytes and minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium
  • B vitamins like folate

The American Cancer Society touts this family of veggies as an important part of a cancer preventive diet and best to choose at least one serving per day.

Looking for some great Cruciferous Recipes?

Pass the Carrot Juice, Please

Preliminary research studies show that carrot juice may help to reduce oxidative stress in women previously treated for cancer.  Carrots contain carotenoids, a group of antioxidants credited with these benefits.  Carotenoids like beta-carotene also help to maintain healthy vision with age and may help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers, like lung cancer.  About half a million women, worldwide, died from lung cancer in 2012, making it the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women.

Looking for delicious carrot-based juice recipes?

Water, Water, Water

Besides the liver, your kidneys play a key role in natural detoxification processes in the body.   Support your kidney’s health and help reduce excess exposure to drugs by drinking plenty of water.  Hydration needs are higher during and immediately after treatment.  Unfortunately, water usually tastes horrible during chemotherapy, making this seemingly simple goal feel out of reach.

Add flavor, palatability and nutrients by creating Infused Waters, with mint, basil, melon, berries, cucumber or citrus.  Aim for at least 64 oz (2 L) of fluid per day.  Tart or sour flavors are often best when taste changes from treatment hinder your desire to drink.

Try these recipes for taste changes during treatment. 

Sweat it Out

Perspiration is another way we release compounds and regulate body temperature.  Physical activity has been shown to help reduce risk of developing certain cancers and promote survivorship.

Eat Clean

Including more plant-based foods can help support your body’s immunity and detox systems, but avoiding unhealthy additives is just as important.  It’s not just what you are eating, but what you’re not eating too!

Steer clean of these

Love Your Skin

What we put on our bodies is just as important as what we put in our bodies.  Many skin care products contain toxins and other unwanted additives.  The SmartScan app from the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project lets you scan supermarket or hardware store products to get a rating based on harmful ingredients.

Even better than store-bought, make your own edible skin care products from healthy ingredients.  Perfect for fall with many seasonal ingredients.

Avoid household cleaners with harmful chemicals.

Keep your Microbiome Happy

As more research reveals the importance of our microbiome, aka “healthy bacteria”, we want to be sure to support these helpful bugs.  Many “detox” products sold in the US are unregulated by the FDA, as supplements.  Some may be a waste of money and ineffective while others could be potentially harmful.  Colonics, for example, are not recommended because they can wipe out your gut flora, or microbiome, increasing your risk for infection, especially at a time, like post-treatment, when your immune system is rebuilding.  Always speak with your doctor before starting a supplement or other regimen.

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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