Food Sensitivities and Cancer Recovery

As someone recovering from breast cancer, I am extremely devoted to ensuring I stay healthy. Since the only traditional treatment I received was surgery to remove the lump and surrounding tissue for clear margins (it took removing the lump and two subsequent re-excisions to accomplish this), I have made it my life’s mission to educate myself on more natural approaches to healing and recovery from cancer.

Shortly after my diagnosis in 2009, I transformed my lifestyle. I cut out processed foods from my life and went on a mostly vegan (I do eat some wild caught salmon and other fish on occasion for the healthy omega 3 fatty acid benefits) diet. But I went beyond vegan. I call my diet a “clean vegan” diet. There are many who believe that a vegan diet is healthy. However, this is not necessarily the case. Even as a vegan you can still consume junk foods and processed foods. My diet excludes the junk and processed foods leaving only clean foods as close to their original state as possible.

This also means that I do most of my cooking from scratch, which is time consuming but worth the health rewards. I was able to total cleanse my body and rebuild my immune system.

With all of my eliminations of foods, I still seem to get migraines often. Shortly after my cancer diagnosis during the first phase of my lifestyle changes, I converted to a mostly raw food diet. I did this for several months and felt amazingly well. No headaches and I lost a bunch of weight. However, I found that the diet was very time consuming to prepare and starting adding soy, Ezekiel bread (which contains wheat) and some cooked foods into my diet, even though I still consume a lot of raw foods. But with these reintroductions of certain foods, some of the headaches returned.

During a recent visit to the doctor, he did some bloodwork for food sensitivities. I had done this in the past and discovered I have intolerance to dairy products and eggs. Sure enough it was discovered that I have sensitivities to not only dairy and eggs, but also soy, corn and wheat. SOY! Oh my gosh. I consume soy on almost a daily basis. And, it is even in the “Earth Balance” vegan butter spread that I love so much! Luckily, they make a soy free version!

My new mission is to find replacements for soy products since soy is found in nearly everything out there! And, no more tofu for me :(. I also found a replacement for the Ezekiel bread I sometimes eat. Food for Life also makes gluten free bread products made from rice and seeds. I have tried the English muffins so far – not bad! In fact, last night I made English muffin pizzas for my family. Mine were made using the Food For Life gluten free English muffins and Daiya (soy free) cheese with a homemade tomato sauce. It was delicious!

I am pretty confident that eliminating soy is going to reduce the number of headaches I get. I will let you know. If you have had sensitivity to soy and eliminating it improved your life, please leave a comment and let me know what you did and how it helped! I am a true believer that all of our body functions are connected. It would not surprise me if one day a link between allergens and cancer is discovered. It would make sense that after years and years of introducing allergens to your system there would be some ill effect like cancer as a result. I am not a doctor, but it makes sense to me!

Living with food sensitivities can be a challenge. But, with all of the gluten free, vegan restaurants popping up, it is easier and easier to find places that offer options for those with food sensitivities or who don’t eat animal products. When in doubt, order salad! I think that has become my new motto!
Eating this super healthy diet, I believe, has kept my cancer from recurring. I regularly monitor my health and am quickly approaching my 3 year cancer-versary. This is a big milestone considering my cancer was an aggressive form. Luckily it was found early and removed. My two year anniversary was big because it is after 2 years that your chance of recurrence drops significantly. After 5 years with no recurrence it drops to almost nothing. I regularly consult with my wonderful doctors who are both prevention and health minded. However, I don’t see an oncologist. I feel that an oncologist would try to talk me into treatments that I do not wish to take. At this point, there seems no reason to see an oncologist.

Cancer is certainly something that should not be approached mindlessly and without good resources. It can be a deadly killer. I once saw David Wolfe, the nutrition expert, speak. He said that the biggest mistake Steve Jobs made with his cancer was walking into the wrong doctor’s office. That open-minded type of thinking is what I believed put me on the road to recovery. One of the first documentaries I watched regarding nutrition was “Food Matters“. It is an important film that looks into how we can affect our health with what we eat. I had never thought this way before and watching the film gave me a new prospective on the importance of nutrition.

I turned down the harsh treatments and found ways to improve my overall health. I believed that since my cancer was at stage one with no spread, it was wiser to remove it and build my  instead  health of wreck my body with chemo and radiation. Those treatments seemed like such overkill for my situation. But, the traditional world is directed by one standard of care. It is a one-size-fits-all approach that does not really examine an individuals need or likelihood of benefit. This needs to change and seems to be headed in the direction of a more personalized approach.

It is so important that you feel comfortable with whatever decisions you make about your approach to cancer. If you don’t feel confident and comfortable with your decisions, they may not work for you. You have to be your own advocate. It is your life and your body afterall. You are the one who must live with the consequence of your decisions.

My advice to anyone who is newly diagnosed with cancer and does not know what to do is to absorb as much information as you can on ways to deal with cancer. Look at ALL possibilities. Talk to doctors – both traditional and alternative – and see what makes the most sense to you. It is important to question the statistics and what the real benefit of treatment would be in your situation. Don’t make a decision before you feel confident in doing so.

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