“Chemo Brain” is an all too common occurrence associated with chemotherapy. It is estimated that up to 50% of female breast cancer survivors have to deal with it. But it is not exclusive to breast cancer survivors or to women.
But what exactly is Chemo brain?
Chemo-brain is the term used to describe how the toxic chemicals used in chemotherapy often affect cognitive functions. It can show up as
- Memory difficulties
- Concentration problems
- Impaired learning ability
- Inability to multi-task
- Confusion and fatigue from thinking
Once this condition was actually acknowledged as a real phenomenon, it was initially thought that these symptoms would be short-lived and would resolve themselves soon after treatment was completed. But to the dismay of many people who completed conventional treatment, these and other equally undesired side effects often linger, with or without improvement, for months or even years.
What causes chemo brain?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the causes of chemotherapy-induced brain changes can be attributed to multiple factors including: the cancer itself, steroids used for the treatment, low blood counts, sleep problems, infection, fatigue, hormone changes, nutritional deficiencies, patient age, depression and stress.
Yet another source of the damage noticeably absent on ACS’s list of potential causative factors is the chemotherapy drugs themselves – something that we know is not only toxic to cancer cells but also causes DNA damage to various types of healthy cells. Hence the additional side effects of nausea, hair loss, low blood counts etc. As you will see further in this article, there are things we can do to protect the body and minimize effects during treatment and we can help heal this damage AFTER treatment is over as well.
The journal, Behavioral Brain Research reported on research done at the University of Illinois, using a mouse model designed to closely mimic post-menopausal women receiving chemotherapy. The research suggests that both memory and new learning are significantly impacted. Part of the research actually tracked the amount of new neurons (brain cells) created in the Hippocampus (part of the brain involved with memory) while in midst of a chemotherapy regime and then after chemotherapy was complete. Here are some of the findings
- Mice subjected to chemotherapy were found to take substantially longer to learn a new task.
- Mice receiving chemotherapy had 26% less neurons in their hippocampus
- Mice who had received chemotherapy generated 14% fewer hippocampal neurons in the 3 months following chemotherapy treatment.
Three months of dealing with a cognitive deficit, while certainly not desirable, would probably be tolerable. However, here is the thing. Three months for a mouse correlate to about ten human years. That is a long time.
What can you do about Chemo-Brain?
According to most oncologists, there isn’t anything you can do but hope you are in the population of cancer patients who have little or only short-term impairment. Or wait it out- being grateful that you are alive! I don’t agree. (Except about the part of having gratitude for your life.) Proper nutrition, improved sleep, stress management, immune boosting and detoxification can positively impact many of the previously listed causes.
What many people don’t know is that when you are done with chemotherapy, all of it doesn’t get broken down and excreted from your body. Some of that chemo gets stored in your fat cells (hint: your brain is actually made of a lot of fat). It is one of the body’s many attempts to protect you from recognized toxins. But those toxins leach out and continue to create inflammation and havoc. And if your colon and liver can’t handle the increased detoxification demands, then those toxins get reabsorbed again.
So your recovery from chemotherapy requires a three-prong approach.
- First you have to allow a certain amount of rest (physical, emotional and mental) so some reserves of energy can be restored. It does take energy to heal.
- Secondly, the body needs to be supported in repairing the collateral damage caused by the chemotherapy. This is done with proper nutrition and supplementation, tonics, and other nourishing therapies targeted for the various organs or body systems that were or are affected.
- The immune system needs to be jumpstarted.
- Your digestive track needs to be re-colonized with the right bacteria and its delicate lining needs to heal.
- Your liver, as the major organ of detoxification could use support as it has been working overtime to deal with the chemotherapy as well as other drugs, anesthesia, and so much more.
- The kidneys are also susceptible to chemo-induced damage as were your platelets and red blood cells, lymph system etc. Pretty much the whole body could use revitalization and support. This second prong is essential and often not addressed.
- The third prong is detoxification. It, too, is essential and frequently not tackled. The chemo that is stored in your fat cells and in your organs is just one type of toxin. Living cancer cells produce toxic waste and dead cancer cells are also toxic. The digestive damage induced by chemo frequently allows undesirable bacteria, fungi, and parasites to thrive in your gut and often escape into other areas of your body causing system-wide inflammation and even infection. With an already compromised immune system, this needs to be addressed.
Flooding the body with easily digested nutrition-packed foods while carefully detoxifying the liver, colon, kidney, lymphatic system, skin, and even the brain of these various types of toxins is a very powerful way to revitalize your body so that you feel better, have more energy, less lingering symptoms AND support your body in being and staying a cancer-free zone.
This is actually why I created my 7-day ReVitalize U™ retreat; so you can rest, nourish and detoxify your body in an environment and with a protocol designed to specifically support your healing and maximize recovery, energy and peace of mind. And during this retreat, I take you by the hand and walk you through every step of the program, providing all supplies and interventions. And I prepare you with the skills and confidence to continue a modified detoxification program when you get home.
For more information, click here: https://evictingcancer.com/radiance/revitalize-utm-event/
And stay tuned for article #4 in my series, which focuses on how to minimize the unavoidable damage left in the wake of radiation therapy….
PS I can’t wait to tell you all about my new ReVitalize U™ immersion event… you can check it out here:
Please write to [email protected] with any questions.
Please forward this series of articles to anyone you know who is doing or has completed chemotherapy and/or radiation. This could be life-enhancing, or even life-saving information.
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