A collaboration with Nutritional Therapist Katherine Khoo from Aman Wellness
Written by Katherine Khoo
Our nutritional status directly impacts our body’s metabolism. Too much or too little of a certain nutrient, affects our cellular metabolism. This is true for all cells, including cancer cells. Our nutritional status plays an important role in preventing cancer development and cancer growth.
I know that many people are well aware of the importance of eating right during cancer treatment. However, not many know how to eat right, to complement their treatment. In this article, I will be sharing my take on this question – what is “eating right” for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy? What is an ideal cancer diet plan? I laid out 5 strategies, in partnership with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physicians from Oriental Remedies Group, to help you plan your diet during and after cancer treatment.
1. Calorie matters
For cancer, calories do matter. Numerous studies have shown that dietary energy reductions (calorie reduction) significantly reduces the growth and progression of several types of cancers including mammary, colon, brain, prostate, lung, and pancreas. Calorie reduction is best practised on individuals that are still in relatively good health.
It is important to note that calorie reduction is not the same as starvation. Calorie reduction is different from the once-popular Super Low-Calorie Diet, which recommended an intake of only 800 calories a day or less.
My recommendation is a slight calorie reduction of 5% to 10%, this reduction has been shown to have a positive effect on cancer. As an example, if a cancer patient’s daily caloric requirement is 2000 calories, then a slight reduction of 100 to 200 calories daily is recommended. 100 calorie reduction is about ½ bowl of rice. Thus, by just reducing ½ bowl of rice daily, a cancer patient could be creating a positive effect on his or her treatment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine DIY acupressure can aid appetite control
It can be difficult for you to control your appetite at times. Physicians at Oriental Remedies Group (ORG) recommend these common acupoints that you can massage in the comforts of your home to help with natural appetite suppression. Acupuncture can also help with anxiety for patients who may still be feeling shocked or anxious about their diagnosis.
Acupoint 1 – Hunger point and Stomach point (Ear acupuncture)
Auricular acupuncture was found to be able to suppress Ghrelin production. Ghrelin is a hormone produced by the cells of the stomach. It is often called the “hunger hormone” because its production increases food intake. Blood levels of Ghrelin are often highest before meals and lower after mealtimes. Suppression of Ghrelin production can thus make one feel more satiated by decreasing gastric activity and gastric acid secretion.
Both Hunger point and Stomach point are both easily accessible. Stomach point can be found at the point where the crus of helix ends, also known as the 4th zone of the concha auriculae. Hunger point can be found at the lower tip of the anterior free margin of the tragus.
These points can be easily stimulated by pressing hard on said point using a finger by using ear beads that can be stuck on to the point for continued stimulation up to a week. Stimulation of the points can be done for 5-10 minutes before mealtime to achieve the best effect.
Acupoint 2 – Nei Ting acupoint ST 44
Nei Ting acupoint is an important point for purging heat from the Stomach meridian. Heat that accumulates in the Stomach meridian can cause pathogenic Fire leading to excessive hunger. Massage and acupuncture of this point can help purge heat in the meridian and aid in lowering the intensity of hunger pangs.
Massage by moving the second and third toe apart using your left hand and rubbing the acupoint using your right index finger. Another way is to soak your feet in warm water, making sure the water level exceeds that of Nei Ting acupoint.
2. Processed vs Unprocessed
As much as possible, eat wholesome, unprocessed foods. Avoid all processed foods during this phase. Processing food removes nutrients from the food that your body requires to recover after cancer treatments like chemotherapy. Processed food contains chemicals like preservatives and food colourings are added to increase shelf life and make the product more visually appealing.
Various articles and reports have been published stating the dangers of these food additives when consumed in huge quantities. Some of these additives are known to increase the risk of asthma, allergies, inflammation, and cancer. In conclusion, it is best to avoid highly processed food items.
There are many local organic farms in Singapore that sell their fresh produce online giving you farm to home options for fresh fruits and vegetables. Source your fresh vegetables, fruits, and even cooking herbs from them!
Traditional Chinese Medicine natural herbs can further support your recovery
Supplement your diet with natural plant-based Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herbs to support your body’s immunity and regain your health. Here are three tips for you when selecting TCM herbs for your recovery from chemotherapy/radiotherapy.
- Eat herbs that are high in antioxidants
Increased oxidative stress can reduce the body’s antioxidant defence against angiogenesis and spread of cancer cells. Hence, eating a diet with herbs full of antioxidants can reduce this oxidative stress. Common TCM herbs used by cancer patients are Huang Qi 黄芪 (Astragalus) and Ling Zhi 灵芝, both of which are very high in antioxidants.
- Select high-quality herbs that are free from chemicals and pesticides
For example, opt for naturally grown Huang Qi that is harvested from the wild. Naturally grown Huang Qi 黄芪 has a higher concentration of bioactive ingredients that gives the herb its antioxidant, immunomodulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Make it easy for yourself to incorporate herbs into your diet
Many TCM herb suppliers have put together convenient herbal soup packs that are easy for busy patients to add to their daily soups. Find a herbal soup pack that is most suited for your body’s needs and take them regularly to reap its benefits. For cancer patients, I recommend these premium herbal soup packs with naturally grown Huang Qi, they don’t just strengthen your immunity, they also alleviate common chemotherapy and radiation side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea and feeling of heatiness or dryness.
3. Avoid Hydrogenated and Trans Fats
Today, most of us are fully aware of the dangers of trans fats. It increases inflammation and risk of inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular disease, including cancer. Most people have stopped consuming margarine. Margarine is hydrogenated and contains a high level of trans fats. I do want to point out that a lot of commercial baked goods do contain a high amount of hydrogenated and trans fats because margarine is used in place of butter. Margarine is still widely used in most commercial baked goods.
Highly processed, chemically bleached white flour and food additives are common ingredients used in commercial baked goods. One example is the common supermarket sandwich bread. Pick up any sandwich loaf and you will notice a long list of unfamiliar ingredients listed and the list can be as long as 17 different ingredients. To make bread, we only require 4 ingredients – flour, water, salt, and yeast. What are the other 13 ingredients for?
4. Eat plenty of vegetables
Steamed, stir fry or sautéed, juiced or blended into smoothies, cooked in soup or stews – these are all good ways to cook and eat your vegetables, during and after cancer treatment. Use your fist as a guide on how much to eat. It is recommended to eat 6 to 9 fists daily.
Three reasons why you need your vegetables:
1. Provides you with plenty of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals), that are essential for your healthy cells to recover after chemotherapy or radiotherapy
2. Provides you with fibre to improve liver and gut health
- Your liver is your body’s primary filtration system, cleansing your body system, converting toxins into waste to be cleared while metabolizing nutrients and medications.
- Out liver also helps to remove xenoestrogens.
3. Improved liver and gut health aid in removal of xenoestrogens
- Xenoestrogens are chemical compounds that behave like Estrogen. Inside our body, these chemicals can cause symptoms of Estrogen dominance and trigger cancer growth, especially in Estrogen-dependant cancers. 80% of breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive, meaning they respond to Estrogen.
- Xenoestrogens are found everywhere from plastic food containers, plastic bags, plastic water bottles, household cleaning products, cosmetics, skincare products, and synthetic fragrance.
- It is crucial that we eat for our liver and gut health, to help with the removal of xenoestrogens from our body.
- Another healthy compound found in cruciferous vegetables is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane helps the liver to remove excess estrogen and xenoestrogen. So, incorporate 1 to 2 servings of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages into your diet daily.
4. Green vegetables help to alkalize the body
- Cancer cells use glucose (sugar) for energy production and release Lactic Acid as a byproduct. Lactic Acid acidifies the body and causes muscle weakness, muscle aches, and even encourages the tumour to grow.
- One easy way to help alkalize the body is by drinking green vegetable juices or smoothies. Each serving is about ½ to 1 glass, and drink once or twice daily.
How Traditional Chinese Medicine with tech-enhanced therapies can support
The team at Oriental Remedies Group believes in using technology to complement TCM to help patients feel better faster.
- Electro-Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (ELT) helps the body speed up the removal of toxins from the body (including xenoestrogen) by unclogging blockages in the lymphatic system
- It is like a very gentle tuina – a non-invasive technique that uses an FDA-registered device to stimulate proper flow and drainage of the lymphatic system, detoxifying the body.
- Patients with high xenoestrogen levels tend to feel thirsty very quickly after their ELT sessions because the body is working hard to excrete waste from the body.
- Negative Ion Therapy can neutralize acidic byproducts in the body
- Negative Ion Therapy using a medical device from Japan is a non-invasive therapy that provides the body with large amounts of electrons/negative ions. Negative ions exist naturally in places of nature, however very little amounts of negative ions are present in urban areas.
- Generally, acidic byproducts in the body have a H+ ion (positively charged hydrogen) concentration.
- Negative ions (e- / electrons) bond with H+ ions, neutralizing H+ ions. This reaction reduces the acidity. One of the byproducts of this reaction is water, which is why users tend to report going to the washroom more after therapy.
5. Eat Low to Moderate Amount Of Protein
Numerous studies have shown that high levels of protein increases the level of IGF-1 in the body. IGF-1 stands for Insulin-like Growth Factor 1. IGF-1 is a hormone, it is not a bad hormone and is necessary to promote normal bone and tissue development. It is crucial during fetal development and childhood growth.
However, a high level of IGF-1 in cancer patients has been shown to cause tumour growth and spread. A high level of dietary protein is also known to elevate levels of IGF-1 in the body. Therefore, it is recommended to have a diet containing a low to moderate amount of protein. This will help to maintain a healthy level of IGF-1.
The recommended protein intake for cancer patients would be 0.8g for every kg of body weight. If the individual is still physically active and is involved in physical labour work or weight training, then the amount can be increased to 1g – 1.2g for every kg of body weight.
How can TCM help with the digestion of meat?
There is a common TCM herb combination used to aid cancer diets – Jiao San Xian 焦 三仙 (Charcoaled 3 Fairies), which consist of Charcoaled Malt 焦麥芽, Charcoaled Shen Qu 焦神麴 and Charcoaled Hawthorn 焦山楂. These herbs are very commonly used to aid in digestion, relieve nausea and invigorate our spleen.
Each of these herbs can help digest different kinds of food – Charcoaled Hawthorn helps in digestion of meat, while Charcoaled malt helps in digestion of carbohydrates and Charcoaled Shen Qu helps in general digestion to aid digestive functions.
This article is brought to you by Katherine Khoo and trusted bilingual TCM Physicians from Oriental Remedies Group.
Katherine Khoo is a nutritional therapist, who has more than 7 years of experience with clients from Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. She helps her clients identify the root of their disease symptoms and use nutrition to manage and reverse their symptoms naturally;
Oriental Remedies Group is a leading patient-centred healthcare provider offering effective treatments grounded in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and enhanced with medical technology.