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Chemotherapy and Dehydration

One of my clients has just finished receiving a full dose of taxol and is set to begin the next, more intense round of treatment next week. Her side effects from the chemo have been primarily fatigue, loss of appetite, insomnia and dehydration. She was beginning to have joint pain around day 4 after treatment, but acupuncture therapy has since prevented the onset of pain.  She is thankful to not experience neuropathy as of yet.  One of the main things we have been discussing lately in regards to her meal prep is dehydration.  A lot of the other symptoms are exacerbated by dehydration.  I know she has been receiving fluids periodically and she has teas to help with sleeping, but I wanted to explore how foods and beverages could help.  She also shared that it's difficult and frustrating to drink all day, have to pee every hour and still feel dehydrated. My goal is to find efficient and sneaky ways to improve and combat her symptoms.  

Below are a few things we have tried. 

Protein: Chemotherapy consumes protein.  When protein levels drop, nutrients and fluid get pulled out of the blood; therefore, it is important to take in protein to avoid dehydration.  I have been preparing a lot of dishes with healthy protein. This week I made Salmon Burgers topped with red cabbage and fennel slaw. The only ingredients in the burgers are fresh salmon, sweet potato, garlic and lemon zest. Salads with grains and beans are another great way to sneak in a good bit of protein.  I also add protein powder to shakes.  I use a vegan powder called RAW Protein.  It contains organic sprouts, all essential amino acids and is an excellent source of complete protein.  It supports digestive function with live probiotics and protein digesting enzymes.

Chia Seeds: My favorite way to enjoy chia seeds is by soaking them overnight with almond milk, bananas, cinnamon and vanilla extract. The result is a gelatinous pudding like mixture to which I add buckwheat groats, granola, fruit, or nuts.  When chia seeds are soaked, they can hold up to 12x their own weight in water. This makes them fantastic for maintaining hydration.  The soaking also makes it easier to digest and allows more nutrients to be absorbed by the body, thereby helping to maintain energy levels.  I also add them to oatmeal.  

Watermelon, Tomato, and Basil Skewers: Watermelon is a super hydrating fruit/vegetable (yes, it's both!) that's great for staying hydrated during the dog days of summer.  In addition, it's a valuable source of lycopene and vitamin C.  It also contains dietary fiber as well as minerals, such as potassium.  Double bonus!

Herbs: I  love adding herbs, such as mint and parsley to freshen the dish up. Both mint and parsley act as a digestive aid.  Mint can actually make foods seem more palatable to the taste buds, while parsley serves as an appetite stimulant. These traits are especially helpful when appetite is low.  Allowing herbs diffuse in luke warm water can be a great way to hydrate while also benefiting from the herb's medicinal properties. 

Beverages:

  • Green Tea Ginger Lemonade: Refreshing lemonade that's way better than the store-bought blend.  Ginger can help with nausea.  Green tea contains a lot of antioxidants called catechins. They have been shown to inhibit cell cancer growth and blood flow to tumors. The lemon adds a burst of energy and alkalizes the body.
  • Turmeric Lemonade: Turmeric is balancing and purifying. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is known for being tridoshic (healing for all three body types).  It is also rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It helps cleanse the liver, boost immunity, and enhance digestion and circulation.  
  • Mineral Broth: A homemade broth made from super healthy veggies.  This is an efficient way to get nutrients without having to consume a lot. It's good for hydrating also because you can sip on it throughout the day.  I added kombu, a dried seaweed high in potassium, iodine, calcium, and vitamins A and C. It's also a rich source of fucoidans, a polysaccharide which may inhibit cancer cells.

To Sprout or Not to Sprout?

The seemingly ever-changing opinion on food and health can be overwhelming and confusing at times.  We are told "eat flax seeds. They are ahhhmazing for you!"  And then we are told "actually, flax seeds aren't all they are cracked up to be. Enjoy in moderation". This is just one example.  It's difficult to navigate through it all sometimes.  I feel this way about organic foods, locally and seasonally grown produce, gluten content, carcinogenic products and the list goes on (I will address these later). This post will be the fist of a series of posts I will affectionally refer to as Penny Wise and a Dollar Short. We spend so much time researching all the little details, trends and facts (pennies of knowledge), but we somehow end up feeling more confused than we were when we started (dollar short). I want to step outside the trends, corporate agendas, advertising and myths in order to look at the basics of how nature works.  

Now on to seeds, nuts, grains and sprouting. 

 I have known about and loved sprouts for a long time.  I had heard about soaking nuts and seeds, but didn't know much else about it or why.  I think I first became really interested in the sprouting debate when I discovered Ezekiel Sprouted Grains Bread.  I started reading about the benefits of sprouting or soaking not only grains, but also seeds and nuts. The reasoning is actually quite logical.  

Seeds, nuts and grains have developed natural protective mechanisms for survival. Natural enzyme inhibitors protect them from growing in unfavorable conditions and anti-nutrients discourage other animals from consuming them. Phytic Acid is the most commonly mentioned anti-nutrient because it interferes with the absorption of zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium and it inhibits digestive enzymes (it binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract). Sprouting disables the protective enzyme inhibitors, neutralizes the anti-nutrients and allows our bodies to access the nutrients inside.  In a nutshell ;), sprouting allows the body to more easily digest and assimilate nutrients.  

Sprouting is a natural process that begins germination, but it can be initiated in a controlled setting by soaking either overnight or for an extended period of time. Do not use a plastic containers for soaking due to their chemical content.  After nuts and seeds are soaked, they can be dried in a dehydrator or on low heat in the oven. 

Recommended Soak Times for Raw Nuts and Seeds 

Green Peas, Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans: 12 hour 

Almonds, Lentils: 8-12 hours                                                                                                         

Buckwheat, Hazelnut, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas), Quinoa: 6-8 hours    

Walnuts: 4 hours    

Cashews, Sunflower Seeds: 2 hours                                                                                                    

*Chia Seeds do not need to be pre-soaked; however, they do form a gelatinous substance when soaked that is both hydrating and easily digestible.  Flaxseeds do need to be soaked, but there are better options such as flax oil and ground flax.  I'm working on a post dedicated to all things flax and chia, so stay tuned.                                                                                                                                        

*Hulled Hemp Seeds do not need to be soaked.                                                                                                                                        

Cooking Grains and Beans. The addition of seaweed when cooking grains and beans can also assist in disabling Phytic Acid. 

The Good Side of Phytic Acid. Phytic Acid, the anti-nutrient mentioned earlier binds with minerals in the body, so it can actually be therapeutic in some cases of disease.  However, a high intake has also been associated with significant reduction in mineral absorption. Phytic Acid does have some good qualities to offer, including anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-cholesterol qualities. Unfortunately, the benefits come at a cost.  It will be interesting to see if there is a way to maximize the benefits while minimizing the negative effects.  

Ezekiel bread I mentioned Ezekiel Bread earlier.  It is made from 4 types of cereal grains (wheat, millet, barley and spelt) and 2 legumes (soy beans and lentils).  The grains and legumes are grown and allowed to sprout before they are processed, mixed together and baked into bread. Sprouting increases the amount of healthy nutrients in the bread, while decreasing the amount of harmful anti-nutrients. Some studies show that sprouting wheat may lead to increases in soluble fiber, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Beta- Carotene.  Sprouted grains may also have slightly less carbohydrate due to the fact that the seed partially breaks down the starch for energy to fuel the sprouting process.  They also do not contain any added sugars. They contain less gluten than whole wheat breads, but they are certainly not gluten free. Ezekiel bread is a better alternative, but at the end of the day, it is still bread. 

Plain Ole Sprouts I did not initially make the connection between sprouts and sprouting. I know, pretty ridiculous.  I just thought of it in it's own world. It should come as no surprise that all the basic principles explained above apply here, as well. Sprouting is a moment of great vitality and energy.  When a seed sprouts, it activates many different metabolic systems and begins to synthesize a variety of new enzymes.  There are many benefits gained from eating plants during this stage because it is so full of life. There is some controversy surrounding alfalfa sprouts. Their seeds have higher amounts of an amino acid called canavanine which some studies have associated with worsening inflammatory conditions. It may be wise for individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritic and autoimmune conditions to consider avoiding alfalfa sprouts. 

Why Sprouting is Important for Chemo? When consumed by humans, Phytic Acid binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract, causing irritation and contributing to the potential for nutrient deficiencies.  Chemotherapy results in a reduction of nutrients and minerals, so it is important to prevent further loss.  It is also necessary for the patient to benefit fully from the nutrients, protein, etc. being consumed and to receive all the benefits the food has to offer.  Furthermore, sprouting begins the process of breaking down the seed, nut or grain which makes it much easier on digestion.  During chemotherapy, it's important to make things as easy on the body as possible.  

 

Let's Start At The Beginning...

Ok, so this isn't really the beginning, but it is the beginning of my journey documenting this process.  

In the years since my Dad passed away, a lot has transpired. I began researching healing foods right before my Dad passed away. I have a degree in biology and psychology and I became fascinated with the science behind digestion and the energy exchange that occurs between food and our bodies. In February 2014, I received my Ayurvedic Health Coach Certification and that really changed the way I looked at everything. Of course, I still enjoy some of life's vices from time to time, but I am much more aware of what is happening in the body... good and bad. Soon after my Dad passed away, I had the idea to start a business preparing healthy, intentional meals for people during cancer treatment (something I wish had been available to him). I then sat on the idea for a couple of years. This past February, I took a leap of faith and began translating my ideas into action.  In a few short months, the idea is becoming reality.  There is so much to share!

This blog will serve as a glimpse into my journey of things I have already learned and will continue to learn along the way. I hope you find it vulnerable, yet valuable.