Nutrition has become a really important part of supporting myself through treatment, as it makes sense to me to provide my body with the best raw materials possible to carry out its repair processes. As I qualified as a nutritional therapist a few years ago I was already familiar with this approach to nutrition, but I realise most people will be more familiar with dietitians (who do a really important job, but within a medical framework). There is a useful summary of the differences between nutritional therapy and dietetics here if you are interested.
Supporting people with cancer was only covered lightly in my training, so I sought out someone with specialist knowledge to support me with an individually tailored programme. I really didn’t feel it would be a good use of my energy or all that healthy for me emotionally to suddenly try to research everything for myself from scratch.
I am fortunate to have found a nutritional therapist who is extremely experienced and knowledgeable. It was really important to me that any advice was research-based, and in particular that any supplements I take are safe and won’t interfere with my medical treatment.
If you are interested in finding someone to support you, I would say looking for a practitioner with experience of supporting people with cancer (ideally the type of cancer you have) is important.
How to find a nutritional therapist
There is a searchable database of qualified nutritional therapists on the website of the professional body BANT. All BANT members have completed a recognised qualification and have to keep up-to-date by completing a specified number of hours of additional training each year. Whilst the website shows you practitioners in your area, it doesn’t necessarily show the areas they specialise in.
Nutritionist Resource offers a bit more information, but to be honest nutritional therapists who specialise in supporting people with cancer can be few and far between. I would research people in your area and e-mail them to ask what their experience is.
When it comes to supplements, don’t be scared to really grill people on the evidence their recommendations are based on. Although I personally think specific supplements can be really helpful, you are much better off not taking any than risking taking something that will reduce the efffectiveness of your treatment (which is possible!) or may interact with your medications and worsen side effects. Food should be the primary focus.
Obviously it’s not possible for everyone to see a nutritional therapist, whether due to geography or finances, so coming up in the next post are a couple of books that I’ve found helpful in giving a really sensible, balanced overview of nutrition for supporting yourself during and after treatment.