Post-mastectomy recovery diet

When I had my double mastectomy in February 2015, following a diagnosis of breast cancer, there was very limited information out there about how diet and nutrition could aid my recovery. The whole focus was on taking drugs to reduce pain and swelling.

There is a still a dearth of facts about how you can easily and safely reduce symptoms of pain and swelling by simply paying attention to what you eat.

You won’t see any booklets in clinics telling you to select certain foods that will help dampen down inflammation.

You won’t see any booklets in clinics telling you to select certain foods that will help dampen down inflammation and boost your immune system, while avoiding those things that make swelling and inflammation worse.

That’s why I decided to devise a post-mastectomy meal plan which has already been used by hundreds of women who have undergone surgery for breast cancer. The great news is that the plan is inexpensive and has no nasty side effects. Anyone can get some benefit.

So what to avoid?

Dairy products containing cows milk are more difficult for the body to digest because lactose has to be broken down by a special enzyme, which can be deficient in some people. This extra effort diverts the body away from the process of healing, so go easy on dairy for a few weeks after your surgery.

Gluten is another substance found in wheat-based foods which can cause an inflammatory reaction in some people. Whether you are gluten intolerant or not, it is best to avoid gluten while your body is already under strain.

Refined sugar and other refined carbohydrates can set up inflammatory processes in the body’s cells.

Refined sugar and other carbohydrates can set up inflammatory processes in the body’s cells. 

Alcohol is a toxin and the whole body is put under strain as the liver and kidneys work harder to flush the breakdown products of alcohol through the system.

What should you choose to eat in the recovery period?

Goats cheese is an excellent source of calcium and protein. Unlike cow’s milk, goat’s milk is made up of shorter-chain molecules which resemble human milk and are easily digested.

Lentils, quinoa and amaranth are all excellent carbohydrate sources which also contain portions of protein – essential for tissue repair.

Goji berries contain an abundance of Vitamin C, which is essential for muscle repair. Kiwi fruit also contains a high level of the powerful antioxidant Vitamin C. Studies show that Vitamin C has a role in helping to promote a healthy immune system. Garlic and turmeric are both anti-inflammatories which add flavour aswell as improving recovery.

Avocado, salmon and other oily fish contain anti-inflammatory omega fatty oils so I recommend eating three portions of these at least each week. I often choose ostrich meat when I want a burger or steak because it is very low fat and has a pleasant, rather peppery taste.

If your breast cancer diagnosis shows a hormone sensitive element, you may also wish to consider reducing oestrogenic foods post op. Food products derived from soya for example can be akin to wearing a HRT patch, tempeh and tofu are inclusive of this boosting property. Dried apricots and prunes are high in phytoestrogens which can mimic the existence of oestrogen in the body. Bran cereals, chickpeas, beans, alfalfa sprouts are worth limiting, with a consideration for the use of flaxseeds. Although the flaxseed is a great source of omegas especially if you a vegetarian or vegan they are the number one way of getting oestrogen into the body.

Just focusing on a recovery diet for two weeks after mastectomy can significantly help women who want to use nutrition in tandem with more conventional treatment.

Example meal plan – 

Breakfast – Protein Pain relief porridge – 3 x 25g scoops of amaranth flakes, 3 x 25g scoops of millet flakes, 3 x 25g scoops of quinoa, 1 x 25g scoop of blue poppy seeds, 2 tins reduced fat coconut milk

1/2 cup Natvia (taste dependant, I don’t like it too sweet!), 700ml to 1 litre of water (or use the empty coconut milk tin and use this measure twice), 3 dessert spoons of Steenbergs Pumpkin spice mix, 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (I use GrapeTree Foods)

Lunch – Stuffed Sweet potato, with soft goats cheese, walnuts and spinach.

Tea – Salmon and Goji Berry Omega curry – 1tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 8 garlic cloves, 3 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp turmeric, 150g tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, 2 green chillies, ½ tsp Sukrin gold, salmon, 50g Goji berries, 25g coriander, lemon juice.

 

Emma Kirke

Dr Emma Kirke is a clinical nutritionist and doctor of Osteomyology. She launched MedicinalKitchen in 2015 as a consequence of her own journey into health following a breast cancer diagnosis

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