Eating & Cancer: 8 Food Questions with Survivor Allison W. Gryphon

by Jessie Losch

Because of the overwhelmingly positive response to our last post on this topic, Allison W. Gryphon is back — and this time, she’s tackling food, nutrition and how to eat for healing. Cancer-warrior advocate-turned-filmaker, Allison Gryphon, will be answering your questions on how to stay healthy and happy: before, during and after treatment.

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Photographed by Mary Elizabeth Gentle

 

How important is nutrition as you’re going through the different stages of fighting cancer?

You are what you eat. What we put in our bodies is so important, particularly when you’re fighting cancer. I believe, that it is food and exercise that got me through chemo and radiation with minimal side effects, and through surgery with a fairly easy recovery.

What can proper nutrition combat during cancer treatment?

Staying hydrated and well nourished is so important. Food is our fuel. When you’re going through cancer treatment you want the best fuel that you can get. You want a streamlined diet customized to your body and the best food source. I believe that clean, nutrient rich food free of chemicals can keep your body in its best shape so that you are better able to get through the day-to-day impact of cancer treatment. Cancer is hard on your body. Treatment is hard on your body. The right food is imperative.

It can be overwhelming, especially in the midst of information on treatments, processes, doctors, etc., to sort through all the differing opinions on food.  How did you research nutrition or diets without feeling overwhelmed?

There was a great deal of food research that went on when I was diagnosed. First there were the guidelines provided by the government, then there was the nutritionist assigned to me, and finally and most importantly was my absolute fear of side effects. I do not like being sick at all. I certainly didn’t want to be sick through months upon months of cancer treatment, so I researched what would combat the possible side effects and boost my immune system.

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Looking back on it, it wasn’t that difficult. Clean food that came from a local source and nothing processed was at the heart of all my decisions. With that and really listening to my body, I evolved throughout the process and came to understand which foods I needed and what would help me.

In terms on not feeling overwhelmed, I’d suggest first to accept that it’s a process that takes time and secondly to stick to natural ingredients  Use that as a base and expand from there based on what your medical team suggests.

I have a friend (who may or may not be reading this interview over a big bowl of clam chowder!) who has been through chemo, radiation and a number of resultant side effects.  He hates (is “hate” too strong a word?…nope, it’s about right) quinoa.  Try to get him to eat tempeh and he looks at you with sad puppy eyes.  So, can a steak-and-potatoes kind of person eat both healthily and happily through treatments?

Every body is different. I don’t believe in forcing a reinvention of the world on anyone. I think you can eat smart without going to extremes. Again, in my opinion, starting with clean food really helps. No pesticides, no antibiotics, no hormones, no processing. It’s not as hard as most people think.drinks

 

If you were to come up with a “chemo lunchbox” of quick, body-friendly foods, what would that look like?

That is a tricky question because there are many forms of chemo and many types of cancer, and of course we’re all unique. Again, it’s important that you listen to your body. I can tell you that my personal “chemo lunch box” was full of fresh fruits and vegetables (cleaned thoroughly with a water and vinegar combination), as well as plant proteins and rice. I found that sparkling water helped to combat the, “metal mouth” I was experiencing. I added olive oil, aloe and coconut water to my daily diet which really felt right and good, and I believe helped my skin and hydration. I personally felt energized and balanced by drinking Synergy Gingerberry Kombucha every day, although this is a drink that I specifically asked my doctor about as I feel everyone should. I enjoyed organic hot teas. I limited dairy and wheat in my diet. When I cheated, I noticed. When I stayed on track I felt better.

Has the way you ate during your cancer treatments stayed with you? 

I’m actually more strict now. I had been a good eater. Cancer threw me in to being a “clean” eater. Now that I’m not in the madness of cancer treatment and I’m able to focus even more, I’m more conscientious about how I eat. Do I cheat with a big piece of cake or something like that once in a while? Absolutely. But for the most part I’m eating cleaner and healthier than ever.

I stay away from processed foods and by personal choice, I don’t eat refined sugar or salt, I’ve cut out poultry and I have limited organic red meat. This is one of those decisions that I’ve made in learning how to really listen to my body. And again, everyone is different. You’ve got to do what’s best for you, the important thing is to really take the time to know what that is.

With all of your upcoming projects with The Why? Foundation, do we see a possible cookbook in your future?

That would be fun! I will definitely keep you updated on that one!

There are arguments that proper nutrition, or certain diets, can “prevent” cancers from forming the body.  What do you think about this?

I think you can take care of your body, be in touch and be aware. I personally do not believe cancer can be prevented. I do think it can be caught early if were in tune with our bodies and I think a huge part of that is a good diet and an understanding of food and how it interacts with the body.

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What are your go-to food choices now that you’re in remission?

A typical day is organic oatmeal, berries and coffee for breakfast. Ezekiel bread, a Perfect Foods bar or a Hemp Protein shake as a snack. Loads of veggies with a bit of rice for lunch and dinner. I like fish very much and have it a few times a week, but I’m still learning about the best sources for seafood. I maintain drinking Aloe, Real Coconut Water and Synergy Kombucha and organic tea every day.

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Overall it’s everything in moderation and no eating without thinking. I made it through stage 3 cancer treatment, so really every meal is perfect because I get to have one. Now I appreciate on a profound level how valuable it is for that meal to be the best it can be for my mind and body.

To learn more about Allison or the Why? Foundation, click here