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supplement drink - tolerance

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I'm about to start a new round of chemo. My white blood cell count is not high even before starting, and I know it will take a hammering with the FOLFOX + Avastin. My oncologist asked me to start taking one of those nutritional supplement drinks (something like Ensure?, but it is called Impact - manufactured by Novartis). I wasn't too thrilled with the idea (I don't really need an additional 900 calories a day -- not that I shd be worried about weight at a time like this). But apparently it has building amino acids etc etc. And I do like my oncologist a lot. So I started taking it. BUT - I don't seem to tolerate it very well -- gives me a stomach ache and some nausea. Has anyone had this experience? Any advice appreciated. Thanks.

Posts: 58
Joined: Dec 2006

I make an awesome protein drink! It is kind of like a smoothie. I start off with a cup of juice: OJ, pinapple, apple etc. Then I add 2 scoops of protein powder, I use soy powder from Trader Joes. Add some frozen blueberries and 1/2 bananna. You can also add in supplements of your choice ie: flax seed oil or lecithin. NO need to add ice the frozen fruit takes care of that. And Whala an AWESOME protein drink that is very yummy!

When you are going through Chemo you really should not worry about calories, as hard as that maybe.


God Bless,


Posts: 719
Joined: Feb 2005

Hi Tara,
I don't have much experience with the manufactured supplement drinks. I tried to use a few during chemo but didn't like them...they didn't make me feel sick, though. You know, you can make your own. Do you live close to a Whole Foods Market or a similar store? The nice thing about building your own supplement drink or smoothie is that you know exactly what goes in it. I use a whey powder and the amino acid profile is really good. There are a couple of really respectable brands out there and I am sure you could make a concoction with fruit/yogurt - or whatever - that would agree with you. If you need any help, just email me. Happy to give you some hints. All the best to you and take care - Maura
There is an injection to build white blood counts...I didn't have it (I had the one for red count) but it is something like Neupogen (?sp)...maybe you can ask your doc and I am sure others on the site will know.

chynabear's picture
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 2005

I also make my own shake most every morning for breakfast. It can also be altered a bit depending on what you need more of or like.

Make milk with:
1 cup water
1 handful of almonds
2 TBSP Oatmeal (I use Steel Cut Oats)
2 TBSP Flax Seed


1 Apple
1 Banana
1 Slice Melon (I use Cantelope)
About 1 Cup Frozen Mixed Fruit or Strawberries (about 6-8 Strawberries)

You can also add Whey Protein or any other powder at this point.

Really helps me with (1) getting plenty of fruit and (2) keeping my plumbing running smoothly.

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

Wow I gotta try this!!

What's it like with the oatmeal? Never heard of that.....something new!

peace, emily

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Thanks for these replies. Very helpful. I guess I don't completely understand about amino acids. I was told that this commercial drink provides amino acids in a form which is not accessible (or not so accessible) in normal food (ie if you just eat a healthy, well-balanced diet -- as I try to do ;). But, could I get the same amino acid benefit from making my own supplement eg using whey powder or protein powder. I don't know what it is in the commercial drink that is irritating my stomach. I really prefer natural ingredients.

musiclover's picture
Posts: 242
Joined: Oct 2005

It could be the corn syrup, the sugar, the oil, etc., etc. that is troubling your stomach. Ensure is full of garbage. It infuriates me that doctors push this.

By the way, the isolated soy protein that we've been led to believe is a great way to get our protein and is in many "health" products is known to promote cancer. I heard a lecture by Dr. John McDougall who is an expert of disease and diet and was shocked. Read more about it at http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2005nl/april/050400pusoy.htm

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

hi musiclover!

Dr. McDougall is vegan right? What does he recommend as a protein powder or does he even recommend protein powders at all? I have bounced around to them all and have settled on hemp protein but I love the taste of my whey and the texture it adds to my smoothies. What does he say about whey? Nasty no-no? The hemp is awesome in regards to HIGH FIBER which is a no-brainer for colon cancer!

peace, emily

Posts: 719
Joined: Feb 2005

You will propbably receive better benefits from making your own drink. The manufactured drinks really are full of junk. You doc might be calling a complete protein (including the essential amino acids) 'accessible'...if you prefer natural ingredients and great quality protein, I would run from the commercial drink. You can do much better!! Sadly, very few docs are inclined to learn about truly good nutrition.
Take care and all the best - Maura

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Tara,

There are two shots that you can take for wbc. I took Neulasta which was once every two weeks. Others have taken the Nuprogen (sp?) which is more often. I guess it depends on what insurance will cover. I would agree with the others that it might be something in the drink. Making your own at least you know what you put in it and can delete/change things if it doesn't agree with you. Also a lot of those drinks have TONS of sugar. HUGS and good luck.

Lisa F.

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Thanks. I took Neupogen last time, and will probably end up taking it again this time. It's OK. Unlike Neulasta, the Neupogen is one shot, for several days in a row. I was able to give it to myself at home. I didn't have any negative side effects, and it did help boost my WBC. Meanwhile, I am going to have a looong talk with my doc -- As several of you have mentioned, I would much prefer making my own supplement -- once I figure out what the essential components are. Of course I'd rather skip the sugar and much of the oils -- altho I gather fish oil (omega 3) is v. useful and other may be?? So many thanks.

JADot's picture
Posts: 720
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Tara:

I've been a fairly committed vegetarian but while on chemo, I started to eat some organic chicken and fish, and that made all the difference for me. My WBC dropped, I upped my protein intake, then my WBC came up and stayed up for the remaining 4+ months of FOLFOX. I like the way your oncologist think though - nutrition over shots. I did get two shots of nupogen to boost my WBC. But I detested the way that I got 30,000 more WBC overnight, and was determined to eat my own way to health.

Why Amino Acid? Because it can be absorbed by our bodies much easier than foods in their original form, say, an egg. After we eat chicken, eggs, well, food in general, the enzymes in our body go to work, breaking foods down to constituent parts, namely, amino acids and glucose, then other enzymes resynthesize the amino acids adn glucose them into things that are us - blood, cells, skin, etc. So, by taking amino acids, you are nourishing your body with a short cut. That said, there are lots of different kinds of amino acids which we need, I don't know what the mix is in the Novartis product and what it really means at the end. I think it's much better to eat real food, and let our bodies do the magic that it does so well.

Best of luck to you. Email me if you want more detail on all this. I have a bunch of books on this.


Posts: 708
Joined: May 2004

Hmm, some of the supplements I take can bother my stomach. when I take them with fruit or vanilla yogurt I tolerate them better. I also feel a bit sick when my stomach is empty. Hope you figure out what works for you and that the chemo works great for you! Good luck. jana

2bhealed's picture
Posts: 2085
Joined: Dec 2001

hi tara!

I get some of my amino acids from my smoothie concoction too.

I agree with musiclover that soy is controversial (and I have used it).

My smoothie recipe:

1 cup blueberries (for their superior antioxident content)
1 scoop whey (for the amino acids)
1 scoop green powder (cuz I sneak it in where ever I can GREEN = LIFE)
1 scoop hemp protein powder (excellent protein and fiber)
1 T Flax oil (excellent cancer fighting food!!!)(or cod liver oil - lemon flavored)(omega- 3s ROCK!)
3/4 c water (or almond milk)

Sometimes I add a little frozen banana when I want it to be more of an ice creamy shake

Please check the sugar content on the Impact and then kindly remind your onc that CANCER FEEDS ON SUGAR!!!!!!!!

peace, emily

ps. I like the strawberry flavored whey -- it really adds even more yummy to the mix!

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