Naturopathic Medicine After Cancer Treatment
Whether you’ve used naturopathic medicine throughout your cancer treatment or not, there are a few reasons to consider it after your treatment is over. Naturopathic methods are safe, gentle-acting approaches that can effectively manage symptoms without harsh side effects of their own. The use of these integrative therapies in cancer care is gaining recognition for their functional and preventative approach.
Long-term Effects of Treatment
Chemotherapy and radiation can have residual effects on your health, sometimes lasting years. Many people report having to get over mental fogginess, or “chemo brain”, post-treatment. Similarly, neuropathy – that tingling or burning in the hands and feet – is another common symptom that can linger. One useful strategy here is to support the nervous system with a quality B-vitamin complex containing adequate B6 and B12, an antioxidant-rich diet including lots of greens, and the addition of supplemental antioxidants like alpha lipoic acid. Herbs like Ashwagandha can also be helpful to increase energy and vitality post-treatment, and help you regain your sense of self. Certain chemotherapy drugs can also result in organ tissue damage, such as heart damage, in the long term. Once treatment with these drugs has ceased, preventative measures like using Coenzyme Q10 can support healthy heart function and reduce the risk of developing valve disorders or progressing to heart failure.
Many breast cancer patients continue with several years of hormonal therapy after chemotherapy and radiation. While necessary, these treatments can come with some not so pleasant side effects, including hot flashes, anxiety, and osteoporosis. Regular acupuncture can significantly decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. It is also quite useful in addressing anxiety and relieving aches and pains. Some herbs to consider for SERM or Aromatase Inhibitor-induced anxiety are passionflower or lavender oil capsules. And a healthy, nutrient-dense diet combined with bone-supporting supplementation can help to minimize bone mineral loss and decrease the risk of fractures in the years ahead.
Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
If you haven’t made significant changes to your diet through the course of your treatment, working with a naturopathic doctor afterwards can set you up to be in the best place possible for preventing cancer recurrence. Food is medicine – there are potent anti-cancer properties to be found in your leafy greens, omega-3 rich fish, nuts, and seeds, antioxidant-rich berries, and grass-fed meats and healthy fats.
We also know that regular exercise is the most important factor in preventing cancer recurrence. Much of the research is done on cardiovascular activity – brisk walking, jogging, and sports like tennis or swimming. I usually recommend 30 mins of moderate intensity activity 3-5x per week. However, research is now also supporting the beneficial role of strength training activities in cancer prevention. Bottom line – find an activity you love, and enjoy it regularly!
Dr. Aleksandra Gasinski, ND
Dr. Gasinski, ND is a naturopathic doctor with a focus in cancer care. She can be found at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph, ON. Call 519-265-8035 to book a free 15-min consult, or to book an appointment online.