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  • Stephanie Phillips

how to help a loved one through chemo

"The person who takes medicine must recover twice - once from the disease and once from the medicine" William Osler, MD.

This has never been truer than in the case of cancer and chemo.

It is no secret that chemo is extremely hard going on the body. It can feel like glass being pumped through your veins and leave you feeling like you have been run over by a truck with nothing but the taste of metal in your mouth to prove it.

Chemo is there to poison the cancerous cells but in the process it also wipes out all of our rapidly reproducing cells that play vital roles in our nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive systems causing all sorts of uncomfortable side effects from constant constipation to loss of sensation.

In the past year, two of my dear friends got cancer. They were both barely over 30. They both underwent painful operations (bone marrow transplant and removal of large intestine) as well as several rounds of intense chemo. But they survived.

Below you will find the advice I shared with my friends to support and protect their bodies through the process.

1. Take as much pressure off the liver as you can

You want the chemo itself to be the only toxins the body has to deal with. This means:

  • make sure all your toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, clothes detergent etc are free of chemicals especially sulphates. There’s an excellent online inventory which you can use to look up how "clean" a product is. It covers all the major commercial brands as well as more niche ones you can buy online:

  • Food wise, you want to buy organic as much as possible. It’s not essential for every single vegetable but it’s super important to make sure you do it for the ones called “dirty dozen” cos they tend to have way more pesticides. It’s also very important to buy organic meat because most pesticides are fat soluble so they tend to accumulate as you move up the food chain

2. Prepare food so that it is easy to digest

Chemo destroys the mucosa cells that line the digestive tract so you want food to be as easy to digest or as “bio-available” as possible. This means making soups and stews so that the meat and veg have already been broken down by the heat.

Check out this amazing recipe book

3. Add anti-tumor foods and spices to your regular diet

The 2 key things you need to cook with all the time are TURMERIC and SHIITAKE mushrooms. Chuck them into your soups and stews. The longer you cook mushrooms for, the more medicine they release. Slow frying them in butter with parsley is yummy too.

4. Avoid foods that make the body more acidic

The more acidic the body is, the happier the cancer is. This means avoiding SUGAR, DAIRY and RED MEAT. You need protein in your diet because it is essential for your immune system but you don’t need to eat meat everyday. Things that make the body more alkaline are green vegetables and lemon juice. You also need to avoid most fruit apart from bananas and red berries

5. Make a medicinal broth

You won’t always want to/be able to eat after chemo but you want to make sure that everything you do eat is nutritionally dense. The best way to do this is to make sure you have your freezer stocked with magical healing stock. You can find recipe here.

You can use this as a base for your soups and stews, but even as a substitute for water if you are cooking beans or rice.

It’s vegetarian but you can always add a chicken carcass or beef bones. Just make sure that if you put bones in you put a dash of vinegar because it helps break down the bones

6. Order some Marshmallow Root

It will help with the sensitivity in your throat as well as with the constipation/diarrhoea. It’s also highly nutritive so a good thing to drink when you don’t/can’t eat anything

Put about 2 heaped tbs per pint and leave it to sit overnight if poss but at least for 4 hours. Strain and then it’s ready to drink. Quite neutral tasting.

7. Swap your oils

Make sure you are cooking with oils that do not de-nature when hot (butter and COCONUT OIL are best choices). Only use olive oil RAW by adding it to soups or on bread or in salads

8. Send your immune system some love

I'm a strong believer that all illness shows up to teach us something, to make us pay attention to something we have long been ignoring. Remain positive. Thank your body regularly for being awesome. Take time to do total body relaxations, sending love to each part of your body very slowly. Thank your immune system, your heart, your lungs, your body for working tirelessly.

If you want more recipes and rituals to keep you healthy in a stressful world, please sign up to the monthly newsletter.


Just as an end note, each cancer is different which is why I haven't included specific herbal formulas. Please make sure to work with a herbalist directly to support your healing rather than relying on internet research and make sure your physician is aware of everything you are taking.

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