Eat, Drink, And Be Healthy


Elephants and Tea is the fabulous, young adult cancer magazine on the scene and they have been rocking awesome content since they launched earlier this year.  This article, by Marloe Esch, is no different.  Marloe talks about healthy eating through a young adult cancer experience.

What we put in our bodies can have a major impact on how we feel throughout treatment, so it’s important to think of good nutrition as part of your treatment plan, and to make it a priority.

Healthy, nutrient-rich foods help damaged cells and tissues heal, play a role in keeping your immune system strong, and can fight fatigue at a time when it can be hard to keep your energy and strength up. Wondering what this might look like? Consider the following tips to help you get started!

You can read the rest of the article here.

Does Sugar Feed Cancer And Other Great Questions

food spread

Whenever I see a food labeled as ‘cancer-fighting’ or anti-cancer’ I gag a little…ok, maybe a lot.  I’m a vegetarian who ran marathons before getting cancer and now I’m a vegetarian, marathon running cancer survivor so the idea that my ‘not healthy enough lifestyle or eating habits’ caused my cancer is ridiculous.  The flip side to that is that healthy eating can definitely play a role in preventing some cancers.

Well, the Ulman Foundation recently asked Jaime, a registered dietitian and certified yoga instructor, some of the questions on every cancer survivor’s mind!  She delves into sugar and cancer, organic vs. non-organic, superfoods, and more!

Check out the entire article from the Ulman Foundation here!

How To Make Applesauce Video

pile of apples

The newest thing here at Lacuna Loft…cooking videos!  Check out our very first one, led by the very talented Brandie!  She walks you through how to make applesauce.  A very healthy (and easy) treat for during or after active treatment.  The video is great…almost like you’re actually in Brandie’s kitchen hanging out while she cooks for you!

But, Do You Eat Kale?

stop blaming the victim

About a month ago, I ran across this article somewhere on the interwebs:  Yes, I’ve Heard of Kale.  While I’ve heard this rant before from the perspective of a young adult cancer survivor, this particular article is awesome.  It is complete, attacks the issue from multiple sides, and my very favorite part of all, gives a well-deserved nod to the magic of knowing some introductory stats 101 when talking about this very subject.  There are seriously so many gems of wisdom and perspective in this piece.  So many helpful chunks of “stop blaming the victim” and many references to the importance of understanding statistics and the power of scientific citations.

The author, Marisa, says, “Think ‘prevention’ vs. ‘minimizing risks’ is just semantics? It’s not.”  You’re damn right it’s not!  Goodness gracious, if I had a dollar for every time I need to explain this to someone who wants to know why I didn’t do x, y, or z instead of chemo, I’d be rich.  She later adds, “I am also aware that for some people, comments like these on some level stem from their own fears about cancer, disease, and their own mortality. Cancer is scary. Dying is scary. So if cancer happens because people do or don’t do the “right” things, then you can make it so it won’t ever happen to you.”  Nail hit on the head.  So many of the inappropriate things said to cancer survivors stems from this very fact of human nature.

The kicker of the article though?  Marisa is analyzing why she might have gotten cancer and says, “why did I get breast cancer while most women around my age have not, including many women who do not exercise as much as me or who eat less healthily than me? The answer probably lies in a swirl of genetics, environmental and other exposures, and random error / bad luck.  And that makes the major conclusions and implications of many of these “prevention” articles and “What the Health” type movies seem a bit simplistic and unfair (and in some cases, irresponsible and potentially dangerous – like the scene in “What the Health” that implies that cancer can be cured simply by shifting to a plant-based diet after diagnosis. I would bet large amounts of money that if I had foregone chemotherapy in favor of simply pursuing a plant-based diet that I would be dead today).”  Ding, ding, ding!

Great read.  Worth the time to get all the way to the end.

Eat What Tastes Good During Chemo

eating during chemo

A few years ago, NPR ran an article featuring four tips to help a foodie get through chemo.  In the article, the author shares the four tips that she used when deciding what to eat while undergoing chemotherapy.  She emphasizes that sometimes you just have to eat what tastes good!  Here at Lacuna Loft, we thought that this advice was great!  There are so many articles out there telling you all of the anti-cancer properties of this and that and different food tips for chemo.  Once you’re going through chemo treatments though, sometimes you just have to eat what works!

My mother and I always loved a particular diet soda.  While she was doing chemo and radiation treatments, all of a sudden I noticed our beloved diet soda’s main competitor starting to appear in the fridge at home.  I couldn’t believe that she had made the switch!  I asked her about it, and she replied that the old favorite just didn’t taste the same anymore.  I experienced some of this myself, once I began chemo treatments.  While on a road trip with some friends to a wedding, we stopped at a restaurant for dinner.  I ordered something that I’d enjoyed before, but that time around, the food burned my mouth and was almost impossible to eat.  I kept asking everyone I was with to try the food, expecting that it was far spicier this time around or had some other component wrong with the food’s normal taste.  No one else thought the food tasted any different than it ever did!  Then it dawned on me…my mouth had been bothering me all day.  I guess I had pushed it to the back of my mind in hopes of enjoying the car ride without thinking of my ailing mouth.  Throughout the rest of the meal, I picked around from everyone else’s plate but nothing really tasted good.  When we left the restaurant I was still hungry.  On the way out of town we stopped by an ice cream place and I got a medium, hot fudge concrete (for everyone not from the midwest, think blizzard).

I ate a lot of ice cream while going through chemo.  Eggs were another go to meal for me.  I’m lucky enough too that both of those foods still taste pretty good to me now that I am a few years past my chemo treatments.  Other foods are still off limits though.  For instance, I ate at a Korean restaurant with some friends during chemo.  I still cannot stand the smell of what I ordered that day.  My husband and I also used to eat at a popular eatery every once in a while during chemo treatments…it was right across the street from the hospital.  It took a few months post-chemo for me to be able to even walk into that eatery without feeling nauseous.

Some of these preferences have gone back to the way they were before treatment and some of them haven’t.  I think it is just another one of those changes that cancer causes that needs to be embraced, not resisted.

Herbs to Help the Body Heal: Part 2

herbs and wellness

In my life and herbal medicine practice, I have come to view health challenges as opportunities to connect more deeply with nature– particularly with plants that offer support and nourishment for body and spirit. This is the second article in a series of three, exploring plants that nature offers those of us living with and recovering from cancer.

Nourishing Tonic Herbs

In the herbal Materia Medica—the array of medicinal plants in our tool kit— I admit that I play favorites. Though I’m grateful for potent, low-dose plants during times of illness, I champion tonic herbs. Rather than aiding healing during brief periods of sickness, tonics are incorporated into one’s regular diet to support wellness. They are gentle and nutrient-dense. When used casually, tonics are nutritious food. When used regularly, research and traditional knowledge demonstrate notable “medicinal” effects on various body systems.

Stinging Nettle Leaf

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is the tonic I use most commonly. It grows like a weed in moist, partly shaded places, especially along creeks. Nettles have a reputation for being rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C. Though some nutritious leafy herbs have a bitter flavor (ie. dandelion leaf), I find nettles slightly sweet and pleasant.

Nettles are a mild, nourishing tea for anytime.
Nettles are a mild, nourishing tea for anytime.

According to David Hoffman’s Medical Herbalism, “Nettle is one of the most widely applicable plants in the materia medica. The herb strengthens and supports the whole body. Throughout Europe, nettle is used as a spring tonic and general detoxifying remedy” (591). When used regularly, the leaf has a reputation for easing arthritis, seasonal allergies, skin ailments, anemia and more (Gilbert, 303).

Though nettle tea is readily available to purchase, nettles are easy to wild-harvest yourself. Be sure of identification; a quick brush of the hand along its stinging hairs will serve as confirmation. Wear gloves when you harvest, unless you desire the circulation-stimulating sting that some intentionally seek! (It’s called “urtication.” Think bee sting therapy). Once nettle leaves are crushed, cooked or dried, they lose their sting and are as safe to eat as spinach. Harvest in spring or early summer before they flower.

Red Clover

I often see Red clover (Trifolium pratense) blooming in open fields during the summer. The bright pink flowers are edible, slightly sweet and nutritious. Like other legumes, the plant contains a range of isoflavones, or phytoestrogens (plant estrogens).

Phytoestrogens can outcompete more aggressive estrogens for estrogen receptors in the body. They may also offer a gentle estrogenic presence when our body is low on its own estrogens. Some practitioners recommend eating soy for these phytoestrogens, suggesting they can ease menopausal symptoms and prevent certain cancers for some. However, many practitioners caution that conventional soy products are poorly digested unless they are fermented, as tempeh and miso are.

Red clover bridges the gap between these camps. The phytoestrogens in red clover flowers are much more gentle than those in soy. Though red clover leaves can be tough on some stomachs, the flowers are easily digested for most people. Plus, those pretty blossoms are irresistible in a teacup, or tossed into salad.

Feel free to harvest red clover blossoms yourself. Eat or make tea from fresh flowers, or thoroughly and quickly dehydrate them. If any of the flowers look brown, discard them.

Oat Straw

Oat straw (Avena sativa) comes from the same plant that produces our hot breakfast cereal. For those less familiar with herbs, I love offering such a common plant in a different way. The straw has traditionally been used as mild and mineral-rich tea. According to Dr. Sharol Tilgner, the plant is rich in calcium, iron, manganese, and zinc. The developing seed of the plant, or “milky oats,” are a source of protein, and used as a calming nervous system tonic (Tilgner, 128).

Peggy Fitzgibbon harvests milky oats from her garden in western NY
Peggy Fitzgibbon harvests milky oats from her garden in western NY

Red Raspberry Leaf

If you enjoy the taste of black or green tea, Red Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) is the herb I recommend to you. Its tannins are reminiscent of a delicate black tea, without the caffeine. Tannins create an astringent effect, gently toning the tissue of the gastrointestinal and reproductive systems (Hoffman, 578). Like the other herbs we’ve discussed, it is highly safe and shown to be suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers (Gilbert, 316).

Raspberry leaf carries a nutritional bonus. One study found that the leaf is significantly higher in antioxidants than the berry, pound for pound. It is rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and a range of trace minerals and vitamins (Wilkins).

Sourcing and Preparation

All of these herbs shine when consumed in tea form. A longer steep is required to extract minerals and other desirable constituents. Place 1 tsp – 2 Tbsp herb per cup of water in a jar or mug. Pour boiling water over the herb, cover with a lid or plate, and steep 4-12 hours. Strain and enjoy warm or cold. A little honey is a nice way to jazz up your cup.

Though these plants can be harvested yourself, they can easily be purchased as well. Mountain Rose Herbs is an affordable and ethical source of a range of dried herbs. Feel free to mix and match to make your own tea blends. Since the herbs we’ve discussed are mild in flavor, I like to add peppermint or holy basil to my blend for an aromatic kick.

Happy sipping!


For educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Cech, Richo. Making Plant Medicine. Williams: 2016. pp. 231-232.

Gilbert, Cyndi, ND. The Essential Guide to Women’s Herbal Medicine. Toronto: 2015. pp. 303-305, 316.

Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Rochester: 2003. pp. 578, 591.

Marlowe, Maria. “Is Soy Healthy or Not?” Huffington Post, June 2014.

Tilgner, Sharol. Herbal Medicine: From the Heart of the Earth. Pleasant Hill, 2009. pp. 128, 142.

Wilkins, Elena. “Benefits of Red Raspberry Leaf Tea.” Vegalicious. May 2014.

Please remember this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention.  Please learn more and always speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes yourself.  Lacuna Loft supports healthy living.  Find what works best for you!

Herbs To Help The Body Heal: Part 1


In my life and herbal medicine practiceI have come to view health challenges as opportunities to connect more deeply with nature– particularly plants that offer support and nourishment for body and spirit. This is the first article in a series of three, exploring some plants that nature offers those of us living with and recovering from cancer.

Fu Zheng Pei Ben

There are herbs to support all phases of an individual’s experience with cancer—including mid-treatment. In my herbal medicine practice, I often ask myself, “How can I support and nourish this individual without interfering with existing medications or therapies?”

China’s medical system offers an excellent model for supporting those receiving cancer treatments. As in the US, many forms of cancer are treated with radiation and chemotherapy. In China, it is considered good practice to curb side effects and nourish the body while administering such strong treatment. Out of this belief came a therapy approach called fu zheng pei ben, which translates to ‘support the normal qi and strengthen resistance.’

Fu zheng pei ben uses many adaptogen herbs. Adaptogens are a category of herbs that enhance the body’s response to physical, mental, and emotional stressors. Most are supportive of a range of body systems, including the cardiovascular, endocrine, and digestive systems. Adaptogens are considered non-toxic, stamina-boosting, and safe for long-term use. Each contains constituents shown to be chemoprotective and radioprotective, antioxidant, and immune-boosting. Adaptogens are used to mitigate side-effects of cancer treatments, including nausea, fatigue, low red blood cell count, immune suppression, and decreased white blood cell count.

Below are three of my favorite fu-zheng herbs, plus two herbs from India that fill a similar niche. Their gentleness also makes them appropriate during mildly stressful times of life—anytime, really. They are most effective when taken daily over a longer period of time (4-6 months, or much longer).

  • Astragalus root has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. Studies demonstrate its ability to increase low red blood cell formation, increase white blood cell count, and stimulate a range of immune functions. It is frequently used in combination with medications to reduce side effects and toxicity.
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants
Most adaptogens are nourishing roots of medicinal plants.
  • In a clinical study, eleuthero root was shown to reverse bone marrow suppression and leukopenia—common conditions among patients receiving radiation and chemotherapy. Eleuthero is liver-protective, immune-boosting, and may improve digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • Studies demonstrate Reishi mushroom’s ability to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. This herb is also used to support the “shen”—one’s emotional and mental balance. Anxiety, insomnia, and mild depression may all be supported by Reishi.
  • Ashwagandha root is used to mitigate the depletion of white blood cells that can occur during cancer treatments. Like Reishi, it is often used for its calming effects on the nervous system. Ashwagandha is also rich in iron, and may be helpful for those with iron-deficient anemia.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): Drinking a delicious tea like Tulsi can be as uplifting as the properties it contains. Fragrant holy basil is revered and heavily-used in India. A holy basil alcohol extract was shown to have a “significant antistress” effect in mice. It may help protect against damage induced by chemotherapy and radiation. It has a reputation for improving digestion and mental clarity.

Due to their food-like nature, adaptogens can be fun to “take”! This adaptoballs recipe has a nut butter and honey base. It can be tweaked to include whichever herb powders you, your doctor, and an herbalist agree work best for you. Be sure to store powders in the freezer to maintain their potency. Adaptogens are frequently taken as tinctures (alcohol extracts) as well. A local herbalist may offer a much lower cost than store bought tinctures.

Talk with your doctor before adding adaptogens to your treatment plan. Keep in mind that most US medical schools no longer require herbal medicine training. Be prepared to present studies and articles about your herb(s) of choice to your doctor. An herbalist should be consulted in choosing the best herbs for you.


1.) Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism, Rochester: 2003. pp. 532, 545.

2.) Ming Li, Pan. “Cancer Treatment with Fu Zheng Pei Ben Principle.” Fujian Science and Technology Press, 1992.

3.) Winston, David and Stven Maimes. Adaptogens. Rochester: 2007. pp. 95-98, 140, 159, 169.


Please remember this post is the opinion of the author and should not be replaced for actual medical advice or attention.  Please learn more and always speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes yourself.  Lacuna Loft supports healthy living.  Find what works best for you!


waffle recipe

Waffles are a quick and easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  This recipe from FoodNetwork, is great but if you switch out some of the ingredients you can make the recipe easier and add some protein along the way.  Double win!

You’ll need:

– 2 cups all-purpose flour

– 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

– 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

– 3/4 teaspoon salt

– 3/4 cup Greek yogurt (make sure it is actual Greek yogurt and not Greek “style” yogurt.  You can often find real Greek yogurt with almost 20 g of protein per serving)

– 2 large eggs

– 3/4 cup milk

– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

– 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

– t tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

Mix the dry ingredients (the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt) in a medium bowl.  Whisk the Greek yogurt, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.  Then add the butter and the beaten eggs to the liquid ingredients.  Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just combined.

Make according to the instructions for your waffle maker.

These are super yummy and not so bad for you either!

Do you have a favorite waffle recipe?

Easy Peasy Applesauce


Fall is here.  The season of pumpkin spice, cooler weather, changing leaves, and…APPLESAUCE!

With apples, a touch of water, and a dash of sugar and cinnamon we arrive at a lovely snack, breakfast, or dessert.  Easy to eat when your stomach is on the fritz and a very healthy addition to any day.



To check out how we made our delicious, homemade applesauce, go here.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

easy food for cancer

These muffins are my absolute favorite.  That’s probably influenced by the fact that I have fond memories of my mother making them when I was growing up.  Still, these are easy to make and delicious.  They are a great snack when you’re feeling crummy and just generally easy food for cancer treatment or survivorship.  The original recipe is for banana chocolate chip bread but I always make them into muffins.  I often cut out some of the sugar and use 3 bananas instead of measuring a single cup…the more bananas in my opinion, the better.  🙂  You could always adapt the recipe by adding nuts or dried cranberries though I’m partial to the chocolate chips myself.




Do you have any favorite recipes for snacks or easy food during cancer treatment and survivorship?