I am finding it harder and harder to write blog posts. When I started this blog at the beginning of our cancer journey, I think I had the idea that B’s illness was this specific entity that was going to have specific and somewhat obvious/ easily identifiable impacts on our life that would be relatively easy to define/ write about. But it hasn’t turned out to be so simple. Sure, there are the obvious milestones of Dr.’s appointments, test results, etc.; but so many of the impacts of this disease are manifested in between these milestone moments, in the tedium of day to day life. And, like the physical side effects, many of the emotional side effects seem to be cumulative, starting out very subtle and gradually increasing in intensity. Also, my emotions seem to behave somewhat perversely; I don’t always feel happy right away when we get good news, and likewise it often seems to take a while for me to work through any sadness or anxiety or stress when things get tough. All of this is rather difficult to describe, hence difficult to blog about.
Luckily, today I have something a little less abstruse to talk about because today we visited a naturopathic nutritionist for the first time. Much of what she had to say confirmed ideas that I already had about what we (and B in particular) should be eating, but there were a few new insights that we came away with as well. Here’s an outline of some of the points I took away from our conversation:
– First off, she mentioned that most wheat is extremely hybridized and generally more difficult than other grains to digest, which is something that I had never heard before. She suggested that Brandon pay close attention to how he is feeling after he eats wheat to see if it is something that he might want to avoid. She recommended some alternative grains for us to try as a substitute for wheat, including millet and amaranth, two grains that I have never cooked with before.
– Lately B and I have been avoiding meat for vagueish reasons. Dr. von der Heydt recommended incorporating small amounts of lean, appropriately raised meats into our diet, mostly because it is just so important that B is getting a lot of protein right now. She also recommended beans, nuts, hemp powder, etc. to help round out B’s protein intake. One of the meat products she recommended consuming regularly is homemade stock. Apparently homemade stock done right is intensely packed with nutrients as well as very easy to digest, which is important for obvious reasons but even more so for B because his digestive system is being damaged right now by the chemo and he isn’t able to absorb nutrients at normal levels. She recommended 8 oz of homemade stock per day.
– B has already been drinking a lot of fruit smoothies, which he makes with hemp powder and spinach as well as whatever fruit/ yogurt we have on hand. She recommended adding 2 tablespoons of flax seeds to this every day for extra fiber and omega-3’s.
– We talked about dairy, and at this point the jury is out on whether it is good or bad for B. There are a lot of benefits that dairy can have, but some people have an intolerance for it. She recommended using raw dairy products if we choose to incorporate dairy into our diet. I asked about the risks associated with illness from non-pastuerized dairy products and if we should avoid these products while B’s immune system is potentially compromised by the chemo, but she said that the risks were extremely minimal if we do our homework and make sure we’re purchasing from a reliable source. According to her, you are much more likely to get sick from supermarket spinach or a McDonald’s hamburger than from raw dairy products from a trusted local farmer.
– We also talked about soy. She recommended fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso, but said to avoid soymilk, soy protein powders, and excessive amounts of tofu or other highly processed soy products. And since soy production generally uses heavy amounts of pesticides, she suggested seeking out organic soy products.
– She recommended drinking mostly water and avoiding drinking a lot of fruit juices because of their high sugar content. She also said that when drinking juices or eating very sugary fruits like apples, it is good to pair them with a source of protein so that the sugars will be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. I thought this was interesting because I have noticed that I often feel bad if I eat an apple by itself, but I feel fine if I eat apple slices with peanut butter.
We talked about a lot of other dietary recommendations as well, but those are the ones that stood out to me and that I can remember off the top of my head. Some other interesting advice that she gave concerned exercise. She encouraged Brandon to try to get some mild exercise, even on the days when he’s feeling nauseated. And for those days when he is really just feeling too sick to move, she said that simply visualizing exercise can have benefits. B tried this, and he actually said it did help him to feel better. Who would have thought?
Dr. von der Heydt also gave him a homeopathic remedy called Nux Vomica that helps relieve nausea, and has been beneficial for some of her other patients who have undergone or are undergoing chemo. We are supposed to check in with her next week after B’s next chemo treatment to see how the Nux is working out.
I meant to ask about multivitamins today, but forgot. I have never bothered taking a multivitamin, because I feel that my diet is probably sufficiently varied and healthy to provide the array of micronutrients that I need. But I’ve been wondering if B should start taking one since his body’s ability to absorb nutrients is compromised by the chemo. I haven’t just gone out and bought one because I know that a lot of people have difficulty digesting them, and I’m worried that taking the wrong one might just make things worse. I guess I’ll ask her about it next time we talk. Maybe homemade stock, flax seed smoothies, and a lot of green leafies are a better way of getting the nutrition that he needs anyway.