Updated: Jul 7, 2019
Chemotherapy, although it can be extremely beneficial, is one of the most toxic treatments that your body could face. Although meant for killing your cancer cells, chemotherapeutic drugs will go blindly throughout your body, killing whatever healthy cells might be in the way as well. This is a reason why individuals get nauseous, have diarrhea, are fatigued, and experience brain fog during and after treatment. Their healthy cells that comprise their organs, such as their kidneys, liver, and stomach, have been damaged and are fighting to recover and function. Often oncologists find themselves having to modify the original treatment protocol because their patients can't withstand the treatments as they are.
Although everyone experiences chemotherapy differently, there are a few simple principles you can follow to help you to tolerate treatments with less side effects and more energy. This way, you can increase your chances of receiving your full treatment as planned, and have the best fighting chance for remission.
1) Eat lots of leafy greens and bright coloured vegetables to increase your intake of antioxidants.
If you can't get enough through diet, add a super greens powder to a smoothie or glass of juice or try juicing vegetables. Antioxidants have been shown to protect healthy cells from damage caused by chemotherapy. Although it has been theorized that antioxidants also protect cancer cells, it has been shown over and over again in scientific research that antioxidants actually reduce side effects from chemo while boosting efficacy against cancer tumours. However, I would strongly caution against taking antioxidant supplements without proper professional supervision as these might interfere with your chemotherapy regimen.
2) Ensure you are consuming lots of fiber. This includes fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as flax and psyllium. Again, if you can't reach enough fiber through diet, consider supplementing with a plain psyllium fiber powder or capsule (such as Metamucil) or adding ground flax seeds or psyllium to your smoothies and salads. Fiber helps to increase the efficiency of your liver and bowels. Your liver is the main organ involved in breaking down drugs, such as chemotherapeutics, into its active and inactive forms. Your bowels are responsible for flushing the drug breakdown products out of your system. Optimally, you would be having 1-2 formed bowel movements/day.
3) Hydrate! How much? Optimal water intake is estimated to be about half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 lbs, your optimal water intake would be 80 ounces (10 cups or about 2.5 L). Drinking lots of water helps to increase the efficiency of your kidneys, which are important for flushing extra things (such as drug breakdown products, chemicals, byproducts of environmental exposure and food consumption) that your body doesn't need and that might be building up.
4) Exercise daily to get your blood and lymphatic systems pumping. Both are responsible for moving nutrients, drugs, and waste products throughout your body so they can reach their desired location. Whether that be a healthy cell or your organs of detoxification, such as the liver, kidneys, and bowels. On top of that, sweating is also a process in detoxification and can also help with the elimination of unwanted substances in your body. Some days you may not feel up to the task of exercising, but even some simple movements in a chair or a small walk could do wonders. When it comes down to it, listen to your body, especially on a bad day.
Once you've finished chemotherapy, the same four principles apply to maintain optimal health. In addition, before, during, or after treatment, we can work together to formulate a treatment strategy that compliments your lifestyle to help you manage immediate and long term side effects so that you can go back to feeling like you again.