After months of chemotherapy, my principal concerns and questions were related to diet and exercise. Can you please provide some advice on the best path moving forward?

- by Thomas G
from USA


Thomas G:

Hi, I was diagnosed with Acute promyelocytic leukemia in 2013. I underwent several months of chemotherapy, both inpatient and outpatient. Where my principal concerns and questions really relates around diet and exercise. And I was wondering if you could offer some advice as to what the best path is going forward, given my disease and the treatment that I had received? Thank you very much.

Rachel Johanek:

That’s a great question. There are several little things you can do with your diet to improve your chances of avoiding a reoccurrence or a secondary diagnosis with cancer. There’s a good list of foods that we recommend you limit or avoid altogether if you can, starting with alcohol, we definitely want to keep it to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

We also want to reduce our processed meats like our bacon, sausage, those kinds of things to as little as possible. So, keep it more as a special treat versus every day at breakfast kind of thing. We also want to reduce our red meat intake to no more than 18 ounces per week. So that’s three 6-ounce steaks, that’s pretty easy to do, we just recommend you lean into those other protein sources like our chicken or fish and our plant-based proteins to kind of round out your meal planning throughout the week.

All of those are linked to several different types of cancers, especially stomach cancer and colon cancer. So, we want to reduce your risk of having a secondary diagnosis down the road.

And we also want to really reduce things like our sugary beverages, like our sweet tea or regular soda or loaded caffeinated drinks, and our fast food and junk food. Like our snack cakes and chips and dips and those kinds of things. Particularly because those foods just tend to add a lot of calories into our diet without a whole lot of nutritional value, like our vitamins and minerals. They tend to cause weight gain.

And obesity is linked to several different types of cancer. So, we really want to keep you as close to a healthy weight as possible. So, reducing those foods can definitely keep you from having that extra poundage come on.

You can also change things around by increasing your intake of our healthy foods, which you probably guessed are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We really want to have more of those in our diet. We aim for about a third of your plate being your animal protein and the rest being those vegetables, those whole grains with a little side of fruit.

Or another way to think about it as having two servings of vegetables at least at lunch and dinner and having a serving at breakfast and having some with your snacks to get five or more servings per day.

The reason we love those are because they’re high in those vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in fiber, which means they’re going to help keep your gut regular and moving, which really helps reduce that risk for colon cancer and other digestive cancers. It also helps with lowering cholesterol and things like that. But they’re very high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, which are cancer fighters. So, they’re very good to have a good amount in your diet.

The other thing you really can do with that exercise, like you mentioned, that’s a great way to help keep that weight in a great place. So, you want to do whatever works for you. It doesn’t have to be any particular exercise. But we do want to work on getting to that 30 to 60 minutes a day, to really get that best benefit.

It doesn’t have to be all in one lump sum. If you can only do 10 to 15 minutes at one time and do that a couple times a day. That’s great. It doesn’t have to be all together. And you also don’t have to start for that number right off the top. If you’re only doing a little bit every day, add 5 to 10 minutes and keep building up from there. You also want to add those strength training exercises like doing lunges or squats or weightlifting to keep those big muscle groups active. And that helps keep the lean mass in our bodies very strong and reduces the fat content on our body.

So, there’s a lot of great little things you can do to definitely reduce your risk of a reoccurrence or a new diagnosis of cancer.

- by Rachel Johanek MS, RD, CSO, LD
from Augusta, GA
Scroll to Top