Diet & Nutrition


Firstly, I want to emphasise that becoming a slave to a particular diet can cause more stress and instead of helping to boost your immune system to improve your chances of getting well and staying well it could make you miserable and depleted. So make it tasty and enjoyable and remember - the odd bit of chocolate, cake or gin and tonic won’t make much difference if you manage to eat a a healthy balanced diet most of the time.

How often have you heard the old saying, “You are what you eat”?

How often have you enthusiastically started healthy eating programmes and 2 weeks later (or less if you’re anything like me!) noticed that you have just eaten chips, chocolate, drunk enough coffee to give you the shakes and a few too many units of alcohol?

Well it took a diagnosis of cancer to give me the motivation to really try to stick to a healthy diet and I still have a few “banned” substances like the odd piece of 75% dark chocolate, occasional fresh coffee, a glass of cabernet sauvignon and a little chunk of tasty goats cheese. Moderation and balance seem to be key words here!

I think that its important to read all you can about healthy diets and then adapt them to suit your lifestyle and tastes as best you can. You are more likely to stick to the basic principles if you make it fit in with your lifestyle and enjoy it.

Although it is a bit more trouble to prepare fruit and vegetables and avoid most ready meals, fat, sugar and salt laden snacks, etc. I do actually feel much better for it, my whole system seems to flow better, I’ve got more energy and I am happy with my weight. I also feel good that I am bothering to care for myself so well and giving myself more chance of getting well and staying well.

Penny Brohn Cancer Care will send you some useful information on diet and nutrition free of charge. 

Recommended Foods

feeling fruity?Wholefood e.g. wholemeal bread, brown flour, brown rice.
Fresh fruit and vegetables, as salad or lightly steamed.
Raw Cereals - muesli, nuts, dried fruit, seeds, etc.
Organically grown foods as affordable and available.
Beans, pulses, lentils, vegetables, cereals, linseed daily.
Variety - avoid dependence on any one food.
Freshly made fruit and vegetable juices.
Cold pressed oil for cooking.
Drink lots of filtered or spring water.

Avoid the Following:

Red meat i.e. beef, pork, lamb and veal.
Saturated fat e.g. milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt (use soya instead).
Smoked and salt cured foods.
Refined sugar (use honey, maple syrup or molasses).
Processed and refined foods (they contain preservatives, salt and sugar).
Caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate and coca-cola.
Excess alcohol.
Sweet fizzy drinks.

I heartily recommend that you get a copy of the book Eat to Beat Cancer (see bookstore). It has everything you need to eat a healthy diet which is backed up by research. There are sections on why, how and what to change in the way we eat. Then there is an excellent chapter on Food as Therapy followed by some really tasty recipes.

The four principles stressed in the book are:
1. reduce your intake of animal fat
2. increase your daily fibre intake
3. eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
4. avoid obesity

There are many other diets on offer for beating or avoiding cancer and all that I have seen so far suggest that we adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet often with the addition of free range organic eggs and oily fish. Apparently vegetarians are 40% less likely to die from cancer.

Learning to eat well - a few tips (some of which are taken from Everything you Need to Know to Help you Beat Cancer)

1. Eating vegetables raw at the beginning of a meal means you absorb up to 40% more vitamins and minerals.

2. Drink at least 2 litres water daily but not at or near mealtimes as it dilutes the much needed digestive enzymes.

3. Eat slowly and focus on the food. Your mood does affect your digestion.

4. Chew thoroughly to release digestive enzymes. Try to eat 4 to 6 small meals a day to maintain blood sugar levels and put less strain on your digestive tract.(I have found this especially helpful after chemotherapy)

5. Try to avoid eating carbohydrate and protein together as our digestive system isn’t designed to cope with both at once and results in inefficiency throughout the intestinal system.

6. Fruits are digested better at the start of a meal rather than afterwards.

7. Vegetables, pulses and oats contain soluble fibre which is good for cleansing your system and removing toxins. Brown rice is great for this and should ideally be eaten daily
. treat yourself!
8. Eat lots of fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs (preferably organic) as close to the raw state as possible so they retain their goodness and it doesn’t end up down the plug hole with the cooking water.

9. Restrict meat and fish to no more than 4 times a week. Have vegetarian days and eat pulses or quorn to avoid animal fat which has been shown in research on a group of Italian women to be associated with a higher incidence of cancer. Because fat is a good solvent, animal fat actually accumulates toxins that the animal ate or produced. Meat and fish also bring their hormones into your body. When choosing oily fish go for wild salmon rather than farmed to avoid any hormones or unwanted chemicals.

10. Stomach cancer is linked with smoked, pickled, salted or dried foods, where sodium nitrite is used as a preservative.

11. Pickled foods, alcohol and tobacco increase cancer risk in the oesophagus. Meat, alcohol and coffee are turning previously low rates of pancreatic cancer in Japan into Western figures.

12. Fresh bean sprouts are an excellent food, full of vitamins and minerals and easily digested. I have bought a sprouter and use it every day (see or call 0845 130 1304).

It seems that we need to get back to basics. If we avoid bringing certain foods home from the shops and start to plan menus using good wholesome food (often cheaper!) we are on the right path.

Cancer Bacup (see useful contacts) have a useful free booklet with diet and nutritional advice and some great recipes.

Please send in any healthy and tasty recipes that you want to share and I’ll make a section for them.


The Beauty of Juicing

I am a big fan of fresh organic juices as the best way to give myself the nutrients and enzymes that it needs to build a strong and healthy immune system.

For about a year before I started the Gerson diet I was having an average of 4 fresh juices a day – mostly carrot and apple or green juices (apple, lettuce, cabbage, kale, watercress) and now I have 10 juices a day – 1 orange, 6 carrot and apple and 3 green juices.
I believe that they have helped my body to slow the cancer down and hopefully now to stop it altogether.

The Gerson diet recommends a 2 stage juicing system (first a grinding machine that produces pulp followed by a press that squeezes out the juice) which is rather costly in money and time. I have been using a little machine that I think is adequate for the job called an Oscar 900. It is still a grinding type rather than the cheaper and more common centrifugal juicers (which I have read destroy more of the essential enzymes) but does not need the press in my opinion.
To find out more go to or
Happy Juicing!

Vitamin and mineral supplements

I have come across a bewildering amount of different advice on vitamin and mineral supplements. There is a lot of information in Chris Woollams book Everything You Need to Know to Help You Beat Cancer. I have followed the Bristol Cancer Care Centre Guidelines that are free of charge.
The 6 that they recommend are Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Vitamin E, Vitamin B Complex, Selenium and Zinc. Some people recommend that up to 10g of Vitamin C are taken daily, but apparently there is no evidence that the benefits increase at higher levels, so 2g is what Bristol recommend.
All these can be obtained from CanHelpNow - 24 hr. order line: 0117 980 9522

I also take Echinacea daily for 2 weeks between my chemotherapy, Omega 3, 6 and 9 capsules and primrose oil capsules. Just after chemotherapy when my stomach feels upset I take Slippery Elm Bark tablets and Aloe Vera to ease it.
Again I have found conflicting advice about whether to take these vitamins and minerals during chemotherapy. Some people, including my consultant, have given me the impression that it makes no difference to the chemotherapy if you continue taking the vitamins.
However, Bristol recommend stopping all supplements 2 days before the chemotherapy dose and restarting 3 days after. I tended to stop the day before and started again a couple of days afterwards. All doses can be continued into remission and Bristol recommend that people take them over a long period of time and have regular appointments with a nutritional therapist.

Schisandra has been recommended by Susan Clark in her Sunday Times column, What’s the Alternative? Apparently it is the adaptogen (any substance that enables the body to cope better with stress) of choice for people undergoing cancer treatments or surgery because it can help the liver process toxic chemicals and is a very potent antioxidant. She suggests taking 500 mg daily but only after checking with your doctor.

Alternative Therapies - Are you at risk?
It seems that we often don’t consider complementary medicines like vitamins and mineral supplements, herbal medicine, etc. as medicines. However according to Dr. Chris Steele on ITV Granada’s The Afternoon Show 25/7/04 there can be potentially dangerous results when mixing certain prescribed drugs with some complementary medicines.

Key mixtures to watch out for-
Grapefruits and their juice with drugs for Blood Pressure/ Cholesterol/ AIDs treatment/ Valium/ Tranquilisers. Grapefruit can stop the breakdown of certain drugs and mean higher levels of the drug end up going into the bloodstream possibly causing a  dangerous increase in side effects. This could include chemotherapy so check with your consultant.

St. Johns Wort and Various Drugs - do not take with the following-

  • The pill
  • Pregnancy
  • Anti-coagulants
  • Transplant drugs
  • SSRI’s and anti-depressants
  • Diabetes
  • Heart drugs
  • Migraine treatments
  • Asthma

There are certain prescribed drugs that don’t mix well with Echinacea, Garlic supplements, Glucosamine and Gingko Biloba. I suggest that you ask your doctor about these. (See£content=10172 for more details).

Nutritional advice
You can have a home visit from a NHS nutritionist who will give you dietary and nutritional advice free of charge. Ask your district nurse or GP to refer you. I found this useful as reassurance that I was having all the right things plus some useful tips about eating dry and more salty than sweet food when I felt nauseous after chemotherapy.

A website with useful nutritional information is Nutritionist Resource.

Detox Diets

Before I got diagnosed with cancer I found it helpful occasionally to go on a detox diet for a couple of days.
I wouldn’t recommend it during treatment but if you want to have a go at detoxing when you’re recovering and feel strong enough I have found  the diet suggested in The Food combining 2-Day Detox by Kathryn Marsden to be fairly easy to manage for a couple of days. In fact, apart from giving up caffeine and alcohol, it’s quite tasty and I haven’t felt hungry at all.
Below is the recipe for the Daily Healing juice which is recommended during the detox and indeed anytime you need an energy boost, liver cleanse, if you suspect a cold is lurking, or you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn, or are recovering from an ulcer.

Daily Healing Juice
Shine like this sunflower!
2 organic carrots, well scrubbed
1 or 2 apples, peeled
A couple of dozen grapes of any colour
1 raw beetroot
A few sprigs of parsley
A few watercress or spinach leaves

Wash all ingredients well. Put them in a blender or juicer. Drink at once but slowly. If you can’t get all the ingredients at least include carrots, apples and grapes. It looks pretty disgusting but I like the taste and I do feel energised afterwards.