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Using Nutrition to Fight Cancer—An Interview with Alison Tierney

When cancer dietitian Alison Tierney discovered a lump in her breast at age 33, just 10 days after finishing breastfeeding her second child, she never expected it would lead to a breast cancer diagnosis. But after an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy, Tierney was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.

In my recent interview with her, Tierney courageously shared her breast cancer story and offered guidance to others looking to use nutrition to battle cancer based on her personal experience and expertise as an oncology dietitian.

Tierney’s Cancer Treatment

Tierney underwent a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Genetic testing revealed she had a mutation that increased her cancer risk, impacting her treatment plan.

Throughout her treatment, Tierney focused on eating a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

She also took steps to avoid inflammatory foods, boost nutrients, and maintain muscle mass.

Tierney credits this nutritional approach with helping her tolerate treatment well and regain strength quickly.

Becoming an Oncology Dietitian

Interestingly, years before her own cancer diagnosis, Tierney felt called to help others with cancer. She became a registered dietitian nutritionist, specializing in oncology.

Today, Tierney provides personalized nutrition counseling to empower clients to take an active role in their treatment and recovery through nutrition.

9 Tips to Use Nutrition to Fight Cancer

Here are Tierney’s top evidence-based nutrition tips for those going through cancer treatment:

  1. Focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats. Limit processed foods.

  2. Reduce inflammation by avoiding refined carbs, fried foods, processed meats, and foods high in saturated fat. Eat more leafy greens, salmon, and turmeric.

  3. Get enough protein to maintain strength and muscle mass. Good options include poultry, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, and plant proteins.

  4. Ask your dietitian if you need more calorie-dense foods or nutrient-rich beverages to manage weight loss.

  5. Work with a dietitian to minimize treatment side effects like nausea, digestive issues, sore mouth, fatigue, and taste changes.

  6. Speak with your doctor before taking any vitamins, minerals or supplements, as they may interact with treatment.

  7. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids like water, unless advised otherwise.

  8. Move your body daily, even light activity, to support your immune system.

  9. Meet with an oncology dietitian to create a personalized nutrition plan to optimize your health during treatment.

The Power of Food as Medicine

Tierney emphasizes proper nutrition can make a major difference when combined with conventional treatments.

While a cancer diagnosis is scary, focusing on what you can control through nutrition, exercise and lifestyle gives you power over your healing.

Tierney now helps others through their cancer journeys so they can emerge stronger than before.

She urges people to listen to their bodies and advocate for their health.

Key Takeaways:

  • Listen to your body - if you find a lump or something doesn't feel right, advocate for follow-up testing. Early detection saves lives.

  • Focus on whole, anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, veggies, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and healthy fats.

  • Incorporate gentle exercise like walking daily to support your immune system function.

  • Remain positive and focus on what you can control through nutrition, lifestyle and mindset. You have power over your healing journey.

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