It is a well-known thing that the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy tend to be quite severe. Unfortunately, these treatments are often crucial for prolonging one’s life and ridding the body of cancer. Cancer is one of the most dreaded illnesses in the world. This is mainly due to the fact that it has a high mortality rate (It is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide) and its treatment results in drastic side-effects. Let’s not forget about the costs (Keytruda, a cancer drug, costs $120,000 a year in the USA).
There are so many factors in our environment, diet, lifestyle, and living conditions that contribute to the development of cancer making it very difficult to prevent the condition. This is not to say that nothing can be done, as there are many steps we can take for cancer prevention. Treatment, on the other hand, doesn’t have to be so severe in terms of side-effects given that there are many clinically-proven natural options for preventing and treating them.
The most common side-effects of Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy are:
- Flu-like symptoms
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Oral Mucositis
- Skin Rashes
- Kidney and Bladder problems
- Neutropenia (Weakened immunity)
- Thrombocytopenia (Clotting disorder)
Many of these side-effects can be managed by your doctor, however, some of them can result in the need to reduce dosages while others can be life-threatening. Therefore, one should be aware of all their options. In this article, I will be discussing clinically-proven natural solutions for several side-effects of cancer therapy.
Side-Effects & Solutions
Side-Effect: Blood Toxicity (Myelotoxicity)
The most common dose-limiting problem with Chemotherapy is the toxic effect of Myelosuppression. Myelosuppression is a side-effect of chemo that suppresses the function of bone marrow, resulting in a decrease of immune providing cells (leukocytes), oxygen-carrying cells (erythrocytes), and blood clotting platelets (thrombocytes). This can cause the patient to develop anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia resulting in an increased risk of life-threatening infections, trouble with blood loss via bleeding, and difficulty in getting enough oxygen.
Solution: Wheatgrass Juice
A clinically-tested natural solution for this is Wheatgrass juice. In a clinical trial, patients with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy were given Wheatgrass juice as an adjuvant therapy to reduce myelotoxicity. It was found that Wheatgrass juice reduced myelotoxicity which can reduce the need for dose reductions and granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (GCSF) support, without reducing the efficacy of chemotherapy (see study).
You can learn more about Wheatgrass and it’s other uses in cancer treatment in my upcoming report on “Managing Cancer Treatments With Integration of Natural Medicines”. Make sure to follow my blog and social media to get an alert when the report comes out.
Side-Effect: Oral Ulcers (Oral Mucositis)
Oral mucositis is one of the most common complications of radiochemotherapy. It causes damage to the mucosal lining of the mouth, resulting in atrophy (break down of tissue) and ulcerations. These ulcers result in mild burning and pain while eating, as well as a feeling of dryness in the mouth. There is an increase in saliva production as well as viscosity (thickness). These ulcers typically appear as soft, white patches and may be accompanied by pus.
Oral mucositis usually develops 5-10 days from the start of radiochemotherapy and can last for 1-2 weeks.
Solution: Manuka Honey
A simple solution for this is Manuka Honey. An analysis of 19 randomized clinical trials found that Manuka Honey applied topically is effective in both the treatment and prevention of oral mucositis. It was able to reduce the mucositis grade and resulted in a fast and painless healing of the ulcers (see study).
This comes as no surprise since honey has been used for treating wounds and inflammatory conditions for thousands of years. Honey is being studied in relation to several benefits for cancer patients beyond that of wound healing.
Side-Effect: Nausea, Vomiting (& Fatigue)
Both chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting. Certain types of cancer can cause these symptoms as well. How and when these symptoms arise is dependant on several factors such as: the type of drug being used, the dose, time between doses, other concurrently taken drugs, intravenous treatment rather than oral, type of cancer (certain brain cancers, as well as liver and colon cancer, can result in nausea and vomiting as a symptom), etc.
There are multiple ways in which these symptoms can arise:
– Acute: occurs within minutes or hours from the start of treatment
– Delayed: occurs after a day or so on treatment and can last for days
– Anticipatory: can start before treatment begins as the patient expects it to happen.
The thing about anti-cancer drugs is they cause the body to go into a state of panic which may trigger the vomiting center in the brain due to the perception of these drugs being “foreign”. These drugs can also cause actual damage to the gastrointestinal lining itself which can also lead to nausea and vomiting.
Excessive vomiting can be harmful as it prevents a person from getting the nutrients they need and can lead to electrolyte imbalances leading the patient to feel even sicker. Therefore it should be addressed promptly.
A simple clinically-proven solution for this is Ginger. This root/spice has a long history of use as an anti-emetic for preventing and treating morning sickness, motion sickness, and gastroenteritis. In the case of cancer treatment, Ginger has been used in multiple clinical trials and proven to effectively prevent and treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as well as fatigue (see study 1, 2, 3).
I have always believed that the integration of medical sciences is the solution to cancer. Nutrition can assist in cancer prevention, chemotherapy along with surgery and radiation can help to kill tumors, and Ayurveda can support treatment while reducing side-effects of radiochemotherapy. Of course, there have been cases where Ayurveda itself has been effective, however, that is a topic for another article.
In the case of preventing and treating the side-effects of cancer treatment, Ayurveda can be highly beneficial. In fact, 2/3 of the above-mentioned remedies are part of Ayurvedic treatment. However, those are basic and simple solutions. Ayurvedic herbal formulations are far more effective at managing side-effects of cancer treatments. Keep in mind that these formulations are specialized Ayurvedic medicines that must be used with the proper supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor together with your oncologist.
One example is an Ayurvedic medicine called “Rasayana Avaleha”.
In a clinical trial, patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy that were given Rasayana Avaleha experienced a significant reduction in side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, oral mucositis, fatigue, xerostomia, alopecia, and tastelessness (see study).
Rasayana Avaleha is a herbal formulation containing:
– Amalaki (Emblica Officinalis)
– Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
– Guduchi (Tinospora Cordifolia)
– Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza Glabra)
– Pippali (Piper Longum)
– Tulasi (Ocimum Sanctum)
It is processed with rock candy and ghee (clarified butter) and pharmaceutically processed into an electuary.
The ingredients are potent immune-boosting, tissue-healing, hepatoprotective, anabolic, antioxidant, and adrenal-supporting herbs. The key ingredient, Amalaki, is a rich source of Vitamin C, which supports the healing of tissue via collagen production, assists with absorption of iron, and assists in reducing the effects of oxidative stress.
Speak to an Ayurvedic doctor about how to use this formulation.
It is important to note that there are a wide range of formulations and herbs in Ayurveda that can potentially help to manage side-effects and shorten recovery time. I will be going into more details about Ayurveda in my upcoming report on Cancer.
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(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
by Dr. Nishal R.
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