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  • Writer's pictureRos McMaster

My Chemo Diet (tips, tricks, & more)

Updated: Nov 27, 2022


May 2016: Hysterectomy reveals metastasis on ovaries

May 2016 : Diagnosis Stage IV Colon Cancer (Mucinous adenocarcinoma)

Primary in Transverse Colon and another secondary in ascending colon.

Prognosis : 2-3yrs- maybe 4 with chemo.

June - Nov 2016 : Folfox Chemo through a port-a-cath inserted under the chest wall (used to give intravenous chemotherapy)

Feb 2018 Return of cancer

March-May 2018: Folfox + Avastin Chemo

June 2018: HIPEC surgery to remove Peritonium, Omentum (stomach lining), & gallbladder. (Seven tumors found during surgery - 5 of these were non-malignant)

Aug 21 Return of cancer. Port-o-cath had been removed and began 2 weeks of chemo tablets. Bad reaction to tablets lead to 2 weeks in hospital.

December 2021 - 2nd HIPEC surgery. Spread to Sigmoid and subsequent resection

Let's Dive Straight In.... Radical Alternatives - Should You or Shouldn't You?

When I was first diagnosed, well intentioned friends (and strangers) were always quoting this book that had a secret recipe for curing cancer..... or that person who defied the odds and cured themselves of cancer through very strict detox diets, herbal remedies,  etc. etc. Good for them!  As a counsellor and spiritualist, I'm a firm believer in alternatives to everything.   However,- yes there's a "but " ..... I'm also a realist.   

Just because someone defies the odds and happens to have used alternative therapies, does not  indicate that they 'found the secret cure to cancer'. And just as conspiracy theorists like to claim that pharmaceutical companies are out to get rich off the cancer industry, the same could be said for shonky new-age alternative therapy enthusiasts. The vitamin industry is holding its own against big Pharma when it comes to raking in the profits. That's got to be a bitter pill to swallow!

But let's be clear...... I'm not an expert regarding medical, nutritional, or alternative therapies. Not even pretending to have any great knowledge when it comes to cancer related diets. And I have a healthy scepticism for anyone proclaiming to "have a cure" for this invasive disease.

My main goal during my own chemotherapy was to help my body eliminate the harmful effects of chemo while I was undergoing treatment,. and maintaining a modicum degree of feeling "well" while I was unwell. Taking care of things while I was undergoing treatment also ensured I'd bounce back quickly when it was all over.

I want to share with you what worked and didn't work for me. Bearing in mind, we are all different, and my recommendations might not have the same effect on you. At the end of the day, all advice you're given necessitates that you let your 'gut instinct' guide you.

I do believe that during chemo,  a healthy diet and exercise program may assist you greatly in managing some side effects.  And when I say "healthy diet", that means full of fresh fruit and vegetables, high in protein and fibre, devoid of processed foods. The same diet you would recommend to someone who doesn't have cancer and simply wants to live better. 

After doing a bunch of google research into detox diets, I was honestly left confused by all the contradictory information! But I'm happy to share with you the information that I found most vital, what worked for me, and what perils I discovered along the way.

The bottom line is...... once you decide to go ahead with chemotherapy, alternative treatments - especially strict detox diets - can actually cause you a great deal of harm.   

Strict Detox Diets

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, many friends who were fans of alternative therapy, sent me information on the well renowned GEARSON DIET.   After a lot of digging, it seems Gerson himself doesn't proclaim to be able to cure cancer (or any other disease for that matter) with his diet.  Gerson admits that  "There are many variables and factors involved in determining whether a person will successfully recover from chronic and serious diseases such as cancer. These factors can include: age, family history, occupational or environmental exposures, dietary and lifestyle habits, inherited traits or genetic weak links and pre-existing conditions. There are also many factors influencing a cancer prognosis.  For instance 

  • type and stage of the cancer,

  • how much time has elapsed since the initial diagnosis,

  • whether it is a recurrence, and

  • previous chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.  

Gerson himself warns that in certain cases, patients may need a surgical intervention or other conventional therapy before starting, or while doing, the Gerson Therapy.

Gerson goes on to say ..  "In some cases, the disease process is too far advanced and the immune system is too weakened to respond fully to the therapy. Some diseases are not treatable with the Gerson Therapy (see Contradictions and Cautions for the Gerson Therapy).  The Gerson Therapy isn't to be used as the sole form of treatment.   Ultimately, it isn’t possible to predict with 100% accuracy who will be able to reverse their condition using the Gerson Therapy.  Successful recovery is on a case- by-case basis". 

Gerson Diet - Why you SHOULDN'T During Chemo

In IAN GAWLER'S book, You Can Conquer Cancer,  he heartily promotes Gerson's juice diet regimes and use of coffee enema's as a detox tool.  However, Gerson states emphatically that if you are currently undergoing chemotherapy, under NO circumstances are you to do the coffee enemas, and must limit detox juices to 7 per day.  (I hadn't noticed this important fact mentioned in Gawler's book.) As a side note, the Cancer Council Australia does not promote Gawlers books in any way .... and for good reason.

 In most cases, chemotherapy works in direct conflict with a detoxifying therapy such as the Gerson Therapy.   When a patient receives chemotherapy, a significant percentage of each dose remains lodged in the body. When the Gerson Therapy coffee enema begins to work, it can very quickly dislodge toxins - including chemotherapy residue - from the cells into the bloodstream.   Patients with such a large amount of toxins being released into their bloodstream often cannot detoxify the body fast enough. The result is that they may be prone to liver failure.  At the very least they can become very sick.  

As for Ian Gawler, and his very popular book You Can Conquer Cancer, his ex-wife Grace Gawler, who designed his original diet, has stated that the book has been changed many times since it's origins, and the diet being proposed now is nothing like her original plan. She also says that Ian Gawler later becoming a vegetarian had nothing to do with his cancer recovery ... it was a personal lifestyle choice.

Grace Gawler, who now runs a counselling support service for cancer patients, said she had seen many patients suffering malnutrition after following a strict vegan diet, and to say Ian's recovery was influenced by a vegan diet is wrong and very misleading.

Before we leave the subject of well-known books sprouting cancer cures, I'll also address "Chris Beat Cancer" which has gained considerable momentum.

In 2003 Chris was diagnosed with stage III Colon cancer. He refused chemotherapy and radically changed his lifestyle, including a complete turn-around on his diet, and in 2022, he is still reportedly cancer free. Chris went on to write several books about curing cancer, promoting his not-so-extraordinary cookbook, and an enormous array of multivitamins. On his website he invites others to share their stories of recovery without chemo and here's where it gets interesting. Every diet story is different! For instance someone juiced a kilo of carrots and chewed vitamin C. Another had mistletoe infusions. The range of stories was mind-blowing and proved one thing...... there is no one dietary secret that can be attributed to the cure of cancer nor keeping the cancer at bay.

How about we look at emotions then..... Chris was also in a high stress work environment, and had a lot of negative emotions in his life. Those are major contributing factors to disease in the body. He cleaned those up too. I'm a firm believer in the mind-body connection to disease, and have no hesitancy in attributing my cancer to long held toxic emotions following a 30yr dysfunctional marriage.

Bottom line....... if you've got the strength while undergoing treatment, make emotional healing a part of your overall "treatment plan". Not kidding.

But I digress.... You came looking for advice regarding a diet for your chemo days so finally here it is...

Tips From My Own Chemo Diet 

First of all, I repeat..... I'm not an expert.  This information is based on what worked for me (or didn't work). I had stage 4 bowel cancer which had spread initially to my ovaries.  My stomach, lungs and liver were clear (although I did develop a fatty liver from chemo, and later needed more surgery for spread to small bowel).  What works for me may be very different for you depending on your condition.   

I recommend getting the advice of a dietician specialising in your specific cancer and/or you should talk to your oncologist about adding any supplements or alternative remedies to your diet.  When I added extra supplements (out of fear that the chemo was robbing me of nutrients), my system actually suffered (more on this below). I found that my regular daily diet was very good without needing to add supplements. Also, I saw a dietician who specialises in cancer and she told me my diet was already healthier than anything she was about to suggest! The 'meal plan' she offered me was something akin to a public hospital menu. Hmmm? Seriously ... Yuk. However, I would still suggest you see a dietician if you have no real knowledge of heathy lifestyle food choices.

 Best advice.... go carefully.  At the end of the day, you'll do well learning to follow your own gut instincts and listen to what your own body tells you. Here's a few simple tips from my own experience and research:


The dietician recommended supplementing my diet with protein powder to boost my nutrients. Protein helps build muscle which can become severely depleted during chemo.  While not being strictly vegetarian, my intake of protein was poor. On days when I had a strong metallic taste, I sometimes didn't eat at all. 

She recommended AdVital, an Australian product which is high in proteins, vitamins and minerals.  The best part of this product is that it's tasteless and has no aroma, making it easy to sprinkle over food or add to casseroles and juices.  

When the metallic taste was strong and it put me off eating, I added Advital protein supplement to my juices/smoothies to keep up the protein.  

Protein from Meats

A friend of mine who was an oncology nurse told me it was important to build protein in the body prior to any surgery. Protein in my diet generally consisted of pulses, grains, seeds etc (vegetarian) and very little in the way of chicken and red meat. However, chicken, fish and red meat have proteins that are different to grains, and necessary to build the body's defences, so I included more fish and chicken in my diet in the months prior to any surgery.


I won't go into detail about supplements because I'm not really a believer. They're artificial forms of nutrient that should otherwise come from food. In fact, during treatment for cancer, supplements can work against you! However, initially I was mindful that my body needed help during chemo so I started with Spirulina. Again I caution... just because it worked for some people during chemo, we are all different and you need to become proficient at listening to your own body.

Spirulina - I had heard about the amazing health benefits of Hawaiian Spirulina so couldn't wait to add it to my daily diet during chemo.  For instance, it's 60% protein and an excellent source of vitamins A, K1, K2, B12 and iron, manganese and chromium. A rich source of health-giving phytonutrients such as carotenoids, GLA, SOD and phycocyanin. 2800% more beta-carotene than carrots. 3900% more iron than spinach.  

After my 6th chemo session I begun taking 1 tsp daily.  Up until this point my bowels had been moving well, but after 2 weeks taking Spirulina, I was suddenly chronically constipated for 2 days, then immediately suffered terrible diarrhoea for two days.  It may be a coincidence, given that both these conditions are a chemo side effect, but on instinct I decided to stop the Spirulina, and my bowels returned to normal immediately.

* NOTE: There is a belief among oncologists that chemotherapy can be rendered ineffective to varying degrees if the patient ingests antioxidants. They believe this because one of the ways chemotherapy works is by introducing free radicals into cancerous tissues to destroy them.   After more research, it appears that Spirulina has four times the antioxidant ability of blueberries!!

Again, all the information on the web can leave you confused, and there is still no real data from either alternative specialists or medical practitioners that confirms the effects of anti-oxidants. Despite my own perceived troubles with Spirulina, there was plenty of positive feedback from other cancer/chemo patients who reported feeling great while using this supplement!

Bottom line.... if you're going to try Spirulina, make sure you find Hawaiian Spirulina, as it's the purest form. And listen to what your body is telling you!  (I have provided an Australian link to an on-line store for this product, but I did find mine at a health food shop locally)

Turmeric - People have long used the golden spice known as turmeric for culinary and medicinal purposes. Prior to one of my surgeries, the Anaesthetist asked if I was taking turmeric. She proceeded to angrily tell me that Turmeric contains cur-cumin, which also has blood-thinning or anticoagulant properties. This can leave surgery patients at great risk if they're health fanatics who use excessive amounts of Turmeric! It's a random fact, but I thought it wise to add this snippet of knowledge here.


Experts suggest that rather than replacing an entire food group with juice,  it should only be used as a supplement to round out your diet. But I did supplement my diet with juicing on days when I simply had no appetite, or when the metallic taste was so strong that food became unpalatable. Juicing at least felt like I was getting some nutrition, and I added protein powder to the juice for an extra boost.  Juicing is especially good if you're struggling to eat/chew your food due to mouth ulcers during chemo!

Juicing Rules -

Try not to juice fruits.  Fruit juice converts to sugar very quickly in the blood stream.  Instead, eat fruit whole and juice your vegetables.  A carrot or apple in the vegetable juice will sweeten it slightly.  Green leafy vegetables are great juiced and you'll find plenty of web sites with juicing recipes.   I loved smoothies made of yoghurt,  prunes  and bananas which helped with my fibre intake, not to mention the health benefits of a good probiotic!  Put this in a wine glass to 'class it up' and you're good to go!

If you're going to take up juicing to get your boost of nutrients, start your day with 1.5 cups fresh Celery Juice (that's about 160z). Have this first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else. Celery leaves are high in vitamin A.  The stems are an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and C with rich supplies of potassium, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, sodium and plenty essential amino acids.  Additionally, nutrients in the fibre released during juicing aid bowel movements.  (Please read the information in the start of my blogs with regards to the dangers of detoxing, and limit juices to 6 - 7 per day).

Cold Press juicers are best as they help retain nutrients.

Carrot Juice?

In June 2018 I spent one month in hospital after major surgery when cancer showed up again. Now it had spread to my small bowel - I underwent HIPEC surgery and had my stomach lining and gallbladder removed.

After returning home from hospital, I started on a morning ritual of 5 cups of carrot juice per day. I'd read about a woman with stage 4 bowel cancer who claims to have kept her cancer away for many years now. She has a healthy diet but attributes her cancer success to the carrots. I figured "what the heck". There are many healing properties in carrots that's for sure, especially in terms of boosting the immune system (necessary after all the chemo and surgery). All the juicing turned me a lovely shade of orange after a couple of months, and while I did look and feel great, carrot juice is incredibly high in fibre, so daily diarrhoea was very intense, causing me to abandon carrot juice completely. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way...

Really, all I needed was time, and my body healed from the surgery with rest, and love - and eating a regular nutritious balanced diet every day.


Fibre is vital for colon health.   Chemo (and bowel cancer) can make you constipated or give you diarrhoea. I've already talked about some of the ways I adversely affected my bowel movements with supplements, so here's some healthy alternatives to keep bowels moving smoothly and avoid constipation:-.  

CONSTIPATION . If you still feel constipated, boost your fibre with pure psyllium husks (or Metamucil, which is made from psyllium )....  1-2 teaspoons in a class of water every day is easily digestible.   But only take it if needed.  

Celery is known to be a 'bowel scraper'. I start with 1 cup of celery juice on an empty stomach. 3-4 stalks (including leaves) makes a cup. It can taste bitter so add a green apple if you like.

Too much fibre in your diet can actually cause constipation!  

DIARRHOEA If you're contending with diarrhoea, eating white rice will help. Water is particularly important if you get diarrhoea as you need to watch dehydration.      

FRUIT & VEGETABLES - Try for 5 serves of fruit and vegetables per day. 

Stay away from stone fruit as much as possible as they're higher in sugar. Some