Eating Well Part 3: helpful books

There are so many books available now about cancer, but quite frankly I don’t want to spend my time reading about it. I had a moment a few months ago when I wondered whether I had been missing out by avoiding them, and so ordered a whole stack online. Most of them were returned or sent to the charity shop.

The two books that stayed are actually cookbooks, but ones that offer quite a bit of background nutritional information. There are only a couple of recipes in each that appeal to me and suit how I’m eating right now, but obviously tastes differ, and I think they are worth a look as it’s easy to dip in and out of them without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail too. Both incorporate what I would consider a more ‘complementary’ nutritional therapy-type perspective in a way that is still accessible and I would hope wouldn’t completely freak out a dietitian.

cookbooks1

The first is called Nourish by Christine Bailey. Christine is an experienced nutritional therapist who also does a lot of work in healthy recipe development, and she’s produced this book in conjunction with the Penny Brohn Cancer Centre in Bristol. The nutrition section in this book is fairly concise, but I think it makes a nice starting point.

The second is The Living Well With Cancer Cookbook by Fran Warde & Catherine Zabilowicz, produced in conjunction with the cancer charity Maggie’s. This goes into a bit more detail and had some snippets I hadn’t come across. I found this a really informative and somehow reassuring read. I also liked the way it acknowledged that there are some more ‘out there’ approaches, but that these may have their downsides or require specialist support.

What books have you found useful?

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Eating Well Part 2: finding a nutritional therapist

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.