The impact of chemotherapy varies depending upon the specific medications used, the baseline health of the cancer patient as well as individual levels of resilience. However, following treatment are there several areas that would benefit from specific health restoration approaches. These include the gastro-intestinal system (specifically the intestines and the liver), the adrenal system (stress coping hormone production), the nervous system and the immune system. Specific side effects & longer term toxicities include persistent nausea and lack of appetite, bowel irregularities/irritable bowel, elevated liver enzymes (indicating liver cell death), neuropathy (nerve damage), anxiety or depression, general fatigue and body ache (adrenal/nervous system effects) and finally immune cell suppression.
The first ports of call to restoration of health post chemo are your gut and liver. Often symptoms are improved quite rapidly by a probiotic and prebiotic support program. I generally treat for candida with special probiotics as well as using high dose normal flora and prebiotics to support them. Restoration of the gut immunity via the use of colostrum or transfer factors is extremely useful and assists with systemic immune recovery. If there are persistent diarrhea or constipation issues specific herbal remedies are very useful (professional advice recommended). If nausea or lack of appetite is a problem adding a liver support program is often very useful. A gentle “detox” using St Mary’s Thistle in relatively high dose often helps both nausea and appetite. St Mary’s Thistle is a strong liver cell antioxidant and has been demonstrated in many research studies to return raised liver enzymes to normal. It is also non-toxic in very high doses. In addition, the use of digestive enzymes to support liver and gut can be very helpful, particularly if you feel persistent bloat after meals.
The adrenal system and nervous system are both severely affected by chemotherapy. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include the extreme body ache or heaviness, lack of energy, waking exhausted, waking in the middle of the night and feeling “wide awake,” lowered resilience to stress, emotionally flat or agitated and generally feeling like you are running on empty. The use of Dexamethasone during treatment makes this worse as it shuts down the adrenals via a negative feedback loop. And then add the intense and often prolonged stress of diagnosis and treatment! Adrenal fatigue is far more than just fatigue and it has far reaching effects on all body systems, particularly the nervous system. Adrenal fatigue predisposes to anxiety, depression and insomnia to name a few. Luckily there is a wonderful range of herbal medicines that help to restore the adrenal system to optimal. Known as “adaptogens” these herbs gently support recovery with few contraindications. Commonly known adaptogens include the ginsengs. (As with all herbal treatment, professional advice is recommended).
Neuropathy or nerve damage is one of the most debilitating long term toxic effects of many chemotherapeutic drugs. Numbness, tingling and pain can be severe and life limiting. Prevention is the key here as reversal is more difficult. However, several nutritional medicines, such as Lipoic acid and Activated B6, have been demonstrated to help prevent and even reverse this condition. (see National Institutes of Health, USA – Cancer Clinical Trials).
Our immune systems are quite miraculous in their ability to recover post chemotherapy; however, it is certainly in a cancer patient’s best interest to speed up this process and ensure their immunity is as strong as possible for obvious reasons. As mentioned gut treatment is an essential step in immune support as our immunity is regulated by T regulatory cells found in the gut. These same cells are also found in great numbers in the liver. This is one of the reasons I always recommend both gut and liver treatment post chemo. Other direct immune support approaches include herbal medicines such as Astragalus and Echinacea as well as medicinal Chinese Mushrooms such as Coriolus versicolor. These and many other medicinal herbs and mushrooms are extremely well researched and have documented immune benefits as well as direct anti-cancer benefits.
Start today to recover your health and vitality after chemotherapy!
McCaleb Health Pty Ltd
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