To get it out of the way, I’ll state what we all know – our bodies are machines.
In order to run at all, they need fuel (food). In order for our machines to run well, we need the best fuel at the right time and in the appropriate portions. I’m guessing none of this is news to you.
Your machine has a repair issue. You have multiple myeloma, and your chief oncology mechanic is telling you that you need more than a tune up. Perhaps a complete overhaul. Myeloma has infected your engine and they’re going to do everything they can to get you running again, pass inspection and hit the highways of life.
There isn’t a cure (yet), but you can keep going. You CAN. But you and the master technicians have to pay attention. Watch every hiccup and backfire. Adjust as needed. Until they find a fix for your myeloma, you still have to keep your engine running optimally.
That means you have to put the right fuel in your tank.
Okay, enough with the car metaphor.
Besides exercise, you need to eat well, so that you work well. And this is important.
What Should You Eat?
That’s complicated, and before I even start to dive into the question of what you should eat, know that there are a lot of variables that affect this answer. They are all personal to you, your chronic condition, your otherwise physical health, allergies, and possibly even the stuff you just like. There isn’t a formula that lets us plug in all your information so that we can know what the right food is for you.
We have a pretty good idea where to start, however, and there is a lot of good data to back it up. Let’s start with the ones we can all agree on. In future blog posts, I’ll break each one down a little further. Hopefully this will give you an idea on some small changes you can make to your own nutrition to start seeing some real changes to how you feel.
As a disclaimer, I am not a nutritionist, and I do not advocate for or reject any of the diets or lifestyles presented here.
So, here’s what we know so far when it comes to a diet consisting largely of food that was not an animal or produced by an animal (by-products, like milk and eggs):
- Overall there are higher incidents of cancers in meat eaters than vegetarians, but vegetarians had a higher incidence of colorectal cancer than meat eaters.
- Vegans and vegetarians have a lower Body Mass Index score, and are less often overweight or obese.
- Some people report feeling better eating a plant-based diet, but those studies appear less than conclusive.
“Compared to meat eaters, vegetarians usually eat less saturated fat and more fiber, vitamins C and E, magnesium, potassium, folic acid and phytochemicals, such as carotenoids and flavonoids. For this reason, vegetarians are likely to have lower total and LDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure and less body mass, all of which may contribute to a reduced risk for many chronic diseases,” according to Harvard Health.
In general, (according to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines) vegetarian eating patterns tend to be followed by healthier lifestyles. The reasons why, are usually complicated and there isn’t enough data to say that eating an entirely plant-based diet will cure all that ails us, and eating meat isn’t the smoking gun explaining why we all get sick.
Keto, Atkins, and Carbs (oh boy!)
I suppose all diets are “alternative”, if they aren’t normal for you, but there are a few that are not part of the mainstream and don’t necessarily follow USDA guidelines for healthy eating. There are studies relating to these diets relating to cancer patients, but results are varied.
The Ketogenic Diet (KD) is one such alternative diet. There have been different versions, and names over the years, but generally they encourage consumption of high fat, low carbohydrates and high protein and there has been limited research on how it could positively impact cancer patients.
Often, the ratio encouraged is 2:1 fats:carbs. The theory is that by starving cancer cells of energy in the form of sugar (glucose), the body will enter a state (ketosis) where normal (non-cancerous) cells draw energy from fat. The normal cells adapt to their new fuel source while the cancer cells starve.
There have been some incidences of tumor reduction and several clinical trials. Their success is certainly open for discussion. I promise to share more on this in the future.
Processed Foods and Sugars
Processed foods have been altered from their original state, usually to make them more convenient for us to use, as well to make legumes look like Thanksgiving Turkey. By that definition, not all processed foods are bad for us. Bags of salad, frozen vegetables, peanut butter, and strawberry/banana/kale smoothies are all “processed”, but aren’t necessarily bad for you.
There have been recent studies investigating the rate of cancer in people who consume “ultra-processed” foods. The studies have certainly raised eyebrows and it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Our lives are generally hectic, and processed foods tend to be easier, faster, and often less expensive than shopping for (or growing) and preparing each meal ourselves, but there does seem to be some strong indicators that we need to slow down and be somewhat more purposeful in our eating habits to not only keep cancer at bay, but also to discourage what you have from spreading and to make you feel better.
Know what you are eating!
This should be obvious and “health nuts” and your mom have been saying it for years – look at the labels! If you don’t understand them, it’s fair to make the assumption that this is not only not good for you, but it’s not going to make you feel better either.
Just because you have latched on to “comfort food” to make you feel better, it is likely that the short-lived sugar highs (followed by sugar lows), that feed your immediate malaise or depression will ultimately do more harm than good, leaving you feeling less than the person you hoped to be. There are obvious choices we can make to fuel us through this chronic illness, all the while working hard to a progressively healthier you, inside and out.
If you want to discuss your fitness and nutrition with me directly, feel free to find me on Instagram (@boneheadkenny), or email me at [email protected].
Next Month: Getting Motivated to Move with Myeloma (and loving it)