Below is a guest-post written by Penny Daugherty, RN, MS, OCN and Oncology Nurse Navigator at Northside Hospital.

A diagnosis of cancer catapults you as patients and caregivers into emotional chaos as well as an instant feeling of loss of control over your lives.  You are suddenly entering a very foreign maze of life-altering and often devastating treatments, side-effects, and body image changes that occur. Not to mention being inevitably subjected to a vast amount of miss-information about nutrition, supplements and integrative modalities – many of which come with unrealistic promises as well as very high cost to accompany the often slickly coated assurance of the renewal of health and joive de vive.  Deplorably, multilevel marketing to cancer patients is rampant and largely unregulated.

Having a life-long with a lifelong passion for integrative care and the power of actual nourishment I hope to offer an introductory and practical resource which will address supplements, nourishment, assorted relaxation modes and rebalancing awareness to diminish physical and spiritual inflammation.

In this initial entry, let’s talk about a few facts about nutrition. The biggest caveat we hear is that sugar is evil and its immediate elimination is crucial. The fact is that our genes developed in an environment where one person consumed – at most, 24 kgs (4 lbs) glucose (mostly in the form of local honey) per year.

We NOW consume 70 kgs (150 lbs) of glucose per year (largely in the form of “manufactured” sugars/year.

So here’s the deal:

56% of calories come from 3 sources that were non-existent as our genes developed:

Refined sugars (cane, beet, corn sugar…that being largely derived from GMO, pesticide treated, heavily “sophisticated” plants)

Bleached flour (white bread, white pasta)

Vegetable oils (soy, sunflower, trans fats)

These particular 3 sources contain NONE of the proteins, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids needed for proper body functioning. These 3 sources DIRECTLY fuel the growth of cancer cells and here’s how:

Glucose = the form of digested sugar in our body.

The metabolism of tumors is largely dependent upon glucose metabolism (Note: a PET scan simply measures the specific body area that absorbs the most injected sugar…. This is termed “PET-AVID”…interesting term, yes??)

When foods with a high glycemic index ( refined sugar, white flour…anything containing high fructose corn syrup, etc) are eaten >>levels of glucose rise rapidly.

The body’s insulin production ramps up to get that excess glucose into the cells>>>Insulin Growth Factor (IGF) then ramps up to be able to handle all the insulin being secreted and this causes CELLULAR INFLAMMATION!

Today we know that peaks of insulin + secretion of IGF directly stimulate the growth of cancer cells as well as their capacity to invade the neighboring tissues…..

So, let us begin to eat WELL:

Fruits and vegetables:

Studies have shown that eating an abundance of fruits and vegetables ~ especially those high in anti-oxidants will be protection against the free radicals that can damage the cell’s precious DNA

Some great choices:

Think “dark colored” leafy veggies:

Broccoli (always at least very slightly cooked to soften the fibrous stalk)

Brussels sprouts (cook w/baking soda to diffuse gas-producing properties)

Spinach/Kale/Collard greens

Fruits: Mangoes, cantaloupes, oranges, kiwis

Berries: Cranberries, strawberries, blueberries

Complex carbs in whole grains will boost energy, take longer to digest (thereby stabilizing blood sugar) and may protect against cancer cell proliferation

Brown rice, millet, kasha, barley, quinoa, whole wheat and organic corn pasta are ALL good choices


Proteins repair tissue, prevent infection and help with cellular energy production

Try to stick w/plant proteins

Nuts, dried beans, lentils, fermented dairy products (yogurt and kefir)

Can use hydrolyzed whey or hemp protein in smoothies.


To food chemists – natural and synthetic nutrients are basically the same elements. Their goal is to preserve food, keep it attractive and make it saleable!

HOWEVER!! The molecular structure of synthetic ingredients does differ from natural ingredients – the elements are arranged in a significantly different manner.

GUESS WHAT??? Your body can tell the difference and responds by creating “Inflammation” to get these synthetic ingredients processed…………..

Remember the “inflammation” story with the excess glucose???

The goal is to avoid inflammation!


We rarely consume enough Vit D – most natural sources include:

Sunlight – BOO HISS – causes wrinkles. . . And more BOO HISS while undergoing many types medical treatment…..

*Note: great dietary sources of Vit D fatty fish, fish oils (remember that icky cod liver oil??), egg yolks, and cheese (artisan cheese, please!)

Obesity: Vit D is extracted from the bloodstream by fat cells which alter its release into the circulation. People with a BMI> 30 often have very low levels of Vit D.

Dark skin – Melanin < skin’s ability to make Vit D

Age – older people can’t convert Vit D to its active form

ASK to be tested:

Most accurate test is the 25-hydroxy Vit D

THE KEY IS Self-Education:

  • Most people spend more time choosing their wardrobe than what they put into their one and only body.
  • You MUST be your own teacher and your own advocate!


(if you google: “The Legend of the Starfish” you’ll see how very important you truly are!)

I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to contact me with any feedback, questions, comments, suggestions:

Penny Daugherty, RN, MS, OCN

Oncology Nurse Navigator

Off: 404-459-1657

Cell: 678-787-6427

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