Dealing with the Side Effects of
Chemotherapy and Radiation
Since many people use a combination of
conventional therapies with alternative, we have been asked to provide a
list of ways to deal with the side effects of chemotherapy and
radiation. Some suggestions include:
- Acupuncture can be used to help with
nausea and pain
- THC (the active ingredient in marijuana)
is useful for treating cancer pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting,
and poor appetite/wasting. It can be prescribed in pill form, while some people
find relief from smoking marijuana. However, it is illegal in most
states, but your doctor may be willing to prescribe it.
- For nausea, both ginger and
caraway seed can often help. Caraway seed can be used to make a tea
to be used after radiation treatment. To
prevent nausea, hold a slice of fresh ginger in your mouth while
undergoing therapy; if you become nauseous, chew on it. Fennel tea
calms the stomach and prevents nausea. Acupuncture or an acupressure
wrist band may also help.
- Pressure points on the wrists that can help reduce
nausea. There is a special wrist band that uses electrical stimulation of the nerves in the
wrist for this by
Woodside Biomedical Inc. in Carlsbad, CA at (888)668-6648. However, do not
use it if you have a pacemaker.
- For pain or
burning in the stomach, mix one heaping teaspoon of kudzu or
arrowroot in six ounces of water or licorice tea.
- Use imagery,
visualization and other mind-body techniques to lessen the side
effects and stresses of the cancer treatment.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid, an antioxidant, can
help with nerve death-neuropathy
- Exercise can help with fatigue, nausea, anxiety,
and a variety of other ill effects
- Banana peels can help with planters
warts. Cover the warts with banana peels for 7 days and the warts
will dry up.
- Soy Unique is a fermented soy product
that can help enhance the immune system and help increase blood
counts. It is easily digested and is very nutritious, making it
great for those who have trouble eating. It is available at http://www.naha.theshoppe.com/soyunique.htm.
- Dr. Whitaker recommends a product
PhytoTherapy, a powdered supplement formulated by oncologist
Mitch Gaynor, M.D., of the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New
York City, specifically for patients undergoing chemotherapy and
radiation. It contains milk thistle, grapefruit seed extract,
N-acetyl-cysteine and other agents that aid in detoxification, as
well as soy isoflavones, other immune enhancers, and plant extracts.
Patients state that it gives them more energy. It is available from
Healthy Directions at (800) 722-8008.
- Ganoderma can
be used as a supplement during chemotherapy or radiotherapy to
reduce side-effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, hair loss,
bone marrow suppression and risk of infection.
- Propax - www.propax.com
- Helps with fatigue associated with chemotherapy
- Spirulina helps to reduce the side
effects of radiation therapy, including weight loss
- Other immune builders, like colostrum,
ImmunoPower, astragalus, MGM3, IP6, and Transfer Factor can also help with side effects by keeping the immune system
going without interfering with the treatments.
- Chinese herbal remedies can be
helpful. Go to http://acupuncture.com/Herbology/Chemo.htm
- For hair loss, consider EVP3 from Janbe.
Vitamin E prior to beginning chemo can also help. Ice caps (ice cap,
cold cap, caps) sometimes retard hair loss from chemotherapy.
- After the chemo and radiation is over,
check with your doctor about adding antioxidants to your diet to
build your system back up. (See note about antioxidants below.)
- Some people use a zapper during
treatments to help keep their system going
- Hydrazine sulfate is an anti-cachexia drug which acts to reverse the metabolic processes of debilitation
and weight loss in cancer.
- For constipation or gas, enzymes such
as Beano, probiotics, sena, buckthorn, epsom salts, or high fiber
can help, but be sure to check with your physician. Walking also
- For anemia - B12, beet juice, and
shark liver oil can help.
- For insomnia - try melatonin.
- For pain - try acupuncture,
biofeedback, or hypnosis.
- For radiation burns, hyperbaric oxygen
therapy can help.
- For the drying effects of chemo, the
European University of Chinese Medicine recommends Z02.
- Diarrhea can also be a problem for
some patients. To help control it, try limiting the amount of fat in
- Seacure from Proper Nutrition, Inc. is
a dietary supplement derived from deep-ocean undenatured white fish
that can also help with nutrition and pain. http://www.propernutrition.com/products.html
or call 800-555-8868.
There is a belief among oncologists that
chemotherapy can be rendered
ineffective to varying degrees if the patient ingests antioxidants. They believe
this because one of the ways chemotherapy works is by introducing free radicals
cancerous tissues to destroy them. Accordingly, some cancer doctors tell
their patients NOT to take any antioxidant supplements during treatment. In
fact, some doctors refuse to treat patients who are using supplements. There are
some researchers that disagree with this and they recommend some supplementation
when undergoing chemotherapy including: CoQ10, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and kelp
(to provide trace minerals). You should talk to your doctor about this before
adding any supplements or herbs to your diet.
Two good books on this topic are:
John Boik's book Natural
Compounds in Cancer Therapy goes into all the studies that show
supplements and antioxidants and herbs may actually help chemo and not hinder
it. This is a good one for doctors to consider. An easier read is Dr. Ralph
Moss's book Antioxidants Against Cancer.
One antioxidant product called "The
Amrit Protection herbal formulas (also called Amrit®)" is a combination of
44 ayurvedic herbs. Scientific studies are available at Amrti's
A book with some very good suggestions on making
chemo and radiation less harmful to the patient and more toxic to the cancer.
Read Beating Cancer with Nutrition by
Patrick Quillin. Available at most libraries and bookstores.
The following physician offers pain management
for cancer support due
to Chemo or Radiotherapy: Walter Young A.P. in Ft. Lauderdale, FL - Phone (954)
One person's success story using herbs and alternative methods in conjunction
with chemotherapy is at http://www.healthwell.com/delicious-online/D_backs/Oct_98/cancer.cfm.
Some alternative physicians deal specifically with side effects of radiation
and chemotherapy. These include: Dr. Labriola, and
NCI - The National Cancer Institute's website has
a page devoted to side effects at http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/chemotherapy/chemoside.html.
Note: Their suggestions are not alternative, but may be helpful to those who are
being treated with chemotherapy.
WebMDHealth has an article on the
side effects of radiation therapy and how to cope with the loss of appetite,
fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns that often occur. http://my.webmd.ca/content/dmk/dmk_article_57338.
Cancer pain is discussed at http://my.webmd.ca/content/dmk/dmk_article_5963020.
Always tell your health care provider what you
are taking to be sure there are no undesirable side effects.
Chemotherapy patients should check with their doctors about taking angelica,
arnica, bogbean, boldo, celery supplements, clove oil, danshen, feverfew,
garlic supplements, excessive amounts of ginger supplements, ginkgo, onion
supplements, papain, turmeric and willow bark as these might impact some
treatments. If you believe the supplements you are taking are benefiting you, encourage your
doctor to read one of the books mentioned above.
Bill Misner, Ph.D. has written an article
titled Nutritional Interventions for Reducing the
Negative Side Effects of Chemotherapy. This article has some very
If you or a loved one has gone through
chemotherapy and radiation and you have found ways to deal with their
side effects, be sure to email our webmaster