For some people with cancer, chemotherapy is the only option and it can be life-saving. However, the treatment comes at a price, and one of the things that’s affected most is the immune system.
While chemotherapy works for some cancers, it doesn’t for others. And although chemo can help to shrink cancerous tumors and stunt their growth, it also significantly weakens the immune system and other critical systems throughout the body. This leaves patients, who already have more than enough on their plate, open and vulnerable to infections; some of which are potentially deadly.
However, there are some measures patients can take to mitigate the adverse effects of chemo or at least diminish them in some way. We’re taking a look at ways one can improve their immune system after chemo and get back on the road to recovery.
The first thing to do, as a matter of course, is to seek reliable advice from your oncologist or other doctors treating the case. There are protective pharmaceutical drugs that many doctors will prescribe to some patients. These drugs, also known as colony-stimulating factors, (CSFs), are given to some patients in an injection or via transdermal skin patches. They work to boost the immune system and prevent infections from occurring. If the immune system is especially weak, some doctors will prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to fight bacteria and fungi.
One of the things that are highly recommended for those enduring chemo is to eat healthily and maintain proper nutrition. Many people lose their appetite entirely after having chemotherapy, and that’s why it’s vital to eat and to stay hydrated as much as possible. Some doctors will send their patients to nutritionists if special dietary needs are prevalent. Some people endure tube feeding and even intravenous feeding, so the intake of calories is sufficient (in more extreme cases). Chemo patients also need to be extremely careful when it comes to eating food that is contaminated with bacteria. All food must be thoroughly cooked, and raw foods like vegetables need to be washed.
With a weak immune system, the body becomes susceptible to germs from a variety of different sources. Washing the hands regularly or using a hand sanitizer are recommended daily practices. Regular bathing and showers are also a must, and public restrooms should be avoided if possible. While a healthy immune system can handle everyday germs and bacteria, the same isn’t necessarily true for chemo patients. Staying away from garbage and cleaning the teeth are also advisable practices.
It’s recommended to seek advice from a doctor or specialist when it comes to vaccinations. However, the flu shot, given to people annually, can be a life-saver for chemotherapy patients. Flu can kill those with a weakened immune system, and the American Cancer Society recommends that the flu shot be given two weeks before the start of chemotherapy or between treatments. Some vaccinations, however, are dangerous for people who have been through chemo, and that’s why professional medical advice is always recommended.
Another crucial factor when it comes to keeping the immune system as robust as possible following chemo is signs of infection. Even otherwise minor infections can be potentially deadly for chemo patients. Symptoms such as fever, vomiting, chronic coughing, diarrhea, swelling, pain, or changes in mental ability must be reported to a doctor or emergency room and attended to immediately. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, and that rings especially true for those who have had chemo treatment.
Some clinical studies have found that CBD, short for cannabidiol (a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis and hemp) can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of chemotherapy. CBD has shown promise when it comes to treating chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain and inflammation. That’s according to a medical article posted on Foundational Medicine Review, entitled “Using CBD after Chemotherapy can diminish side effects and potentiate treatment.” As such, that article noted that “By using CBD after chemo, patients may finally have access to the chemotherapy adjunct they need.”
CBD is known to have antiemetic, analgesic, anxiolytic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s used by people from all walks of life and for a variety of different reasons. Some people use CBD for anxiety, others for insomnia, and pain. Many chemo patients opt for CBD (when given the option) over pharmaceutical solutions. The article notes, as do other sources, that research demonstrates significant effects following chemo treatments.
It’s also thought to be able to mitigate side-effects like pain and inflammation. At the same time, Neuropathic pain is one of the worst side-effects from chemo and affects up to 3 in every 4 patients. CBD is known for its pain-relieving properties and for being non-toxic. That means it carries almost no side-effects and can be used either short or long-term with no issue. Some research even goes as far as to suggest that CBD works synergistically with some chemo drugs – although this theory needs to be explored further.
It may be easy for someone who hasn’t been through chemotherapy to say. However, a positive mental attitude goes a long way when it comes to recovery. Those who mope around in bed all day tend to feel worse from chemo than those who try to keep active. While some prescription medications work for some people, eating well and getting some exercise and plenty of rest works for others.
Some people have found CBD to be a fantastic natural, non-addictive, and effective treatment to work in with the rest of their post-chemo health regimen.
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