Chemotherapy brings it own special kind of darkness; it assails the body and ravages the spirit. Dealing with chemotherapy involves a healthy diet and mind.
Chemotherapy brings its own special kind of darkness; it assails the body and ravages the spirit. But there is much you can do to live well while helping chemotherapy do its job.
A strong chemotherapy management strategy consists of three parts:
- good nutrition for the vitamins and minerals needed to rebuild
- healthy cells relaxation for the immune system and mental health
- exercise for organ function, muscle tone and strength, and stress reduction
A good diet is critical when undergoing chemotherapy, but eating can be a challenge. Anticancer drugs affect all the body’s systems, causing constant, low-grade queasiness, mouth sores, constipation, and diarrhea. Dry, itchy skin, hair loss, and sleep disruptions plague patients. Chemotherapy changes the taste buds so that even favourite foods become unpalatable.
This perfect storm of side effects causes many patients to stop eating and taking in fluids. Inadequate amounts of food and water exacerbate constipation by slowing bowel activity, which intensifies queasiness. Those with diarrhea risk dehydration when fluid intake is low.
Use this time to experiment with foods to find those you can manage. A small parfait of probiotic yogourt sprinkled with granola, ground flaxseed meal, and chopped raw nuts supports bowel function while providing calcium and important trace minerals.
Soup is a good way to take in fluids. Fortify canned soups by adding whole wheat noodles or brown rice with beans, finely chopped carrots, and bits of spinach or other greens. Increase the protein with tofu, salmon, or turkey.
Add a slice of orange, lemon, or lime to water or try flavoured green teas to boost antioxidants. Take ginger to tamp down queasiness–capsules work but ginger tea, ginger ale, or even a ginger cookie gives you added calories or fluids.
…And Be Merry!
Stress reduction, relaxation, and meditation classes are regular offerings at many chemotherapy clinics. Meditation DVDs can be borrowed to use at home and many chemo patients find respite through prayer groups, therapeutic massage, reiki, reflexology, and qigong.
Book yourself for a simple facial or pedicure; they provide relaxation along with beauty. A restorative soak, complete with all-natural bath salts or a “bath bomb,” is guaranteed to lift the spirits and relax the body.
Even a short walk outdoors during daylight hours provides a dose of vitamin D and fresh air, helps maintain muscle tone, benefits bowel function, and relieves stress. A bit of exercise helps to regulate sleep patterns, too.
Keep healthy throughout chemo-therapy by making nutrition, stress reduction, and exercise as important as taking your medications. When it helps defeat that great trickster, cancer, then living well is the best revenge.