Monday, February 23, 2009

Quick Update, Plus a New Diet

We're still touch and go with Isabella. On Sunday for the first time in a week, Isabella was drinking well and she started to try and eat different things. Her appetite is still being affected, but we're not sure if it's because of a change in her taste or her stomach is still not feeling quite right. She's lost a lot of weight since the last round, but she is starting to taste a few things. We had some family over and for the first time in a while, she was smiling and engaging, so again, we had some positive signs.

Speaking of eating, Julianne found this interesting tidbit on the Internet. For years, children with epilepsy have been treated with a "ketogenic diet". Think of it as an extreme Atkin's diet - which means low or no carbs and high protein/fat. Studies found that children on this diet reduced or eliminated seizures. An interesting side effect that they saw was that in some cases with children who also had brain tumors, it also reduced the size of brain tumors or kept them from growing.

The theory behind this is very interesting and without getting too mediciny, let me explain. Our body (including our brain) gets its energy from glucose in our blood. The glucose comes from the starchy foods that we eat. When our bodies are starving (ie, low glucose), it can switch over and begin processing our fat cells. This is the basic theory behind those low-carb diets - reduce or eliminate the carbs in your diet so that your body eats away the fat. Now the interesting part of some preliminary studies is that our brain cells have evolved to be able to convert fat cells to energy, but tumor cells have not. This means that if there is no glucose for the tumor cells, they just shrivel up and either die or lay dormant, while the healthy brain cells continue to process fat cells for energy. We should also point out that there are no official studies or clinical trials for this diet for brain tumors in humans.

So for the last few weeks, Julianne has been researching the study, contacting the doctor who started the study, contacting nutritionists for their feedback, and looking for recipes. Although a menu of bacon, eggs, and steak sound great to me, Isabella might not find it too appetizing. We've offered her numerous high protein/fat items and she's refused them, but frankly, she's refused pretty much everything that we've offered (including ice cream and cake). We're just hoping that's because of nausea from the chemo and that she'll begin eating shortly. But this is going to be a very hard diet to maintain - just imagine a kid not being able to have birthday cake or ice cream? But if it keeps the cancer cells from growing, it'll be worth it.

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