Tips And Support For Chemotherapy Digestive Problems

Photo courtesy of Ohmega 1982 and freedigitalphotos.net
Photo courtesy of Ohmega 1982 and freedigitalphotos.net

TIPS AND SUPPORT FOR CHEMOTHERAPY DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS

Your doctor may have explained that chemotherapy targets any fast moving cells, because cancer cells are busy dividing and replicating themselves at a very quick rate.  What your doctor may not share with you, however, is that your digestive tract has those same kinds of cells – the average cell lining your digestive tract changes over daily.  So chemotherapy targets them too and this can cause a whole host of associated complaints.  The damage, usually temporary, can make you pretty miserable, so here are my best tips and support for chemotherapy digestive problems.

The first thing you need to realize is that good intestinal health is the key to surviving chemotherapy.

Are You Experiencing Any Of These On Chemotherapy?

These problems are commonly experienced while on chemotherapy: mouth sores, taste changes, aversions to certain foods (even water!), diarrhea, constipation, incontinence, nausea and/or vomiting.  None of them are very nice to endure, so keep reading!

6 Tips For Chemotherapy Digestive Problems

1. Mouth sores – This usually occurs 7–14 days after chemotherapy infusions. Salt water rinses are extremely helpful.  Here’s some info on how to do them:

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (please don’t use normal table salt, it is NO good for your health)
  • One cup of warm filtered water (warm water is more soothing and dissolves the salt quickly)
  • The water MUST NOT have chlorine in it, because that can further irritate your sore mouth, so do not use tap water unless your water comes from a well.  If you don’t have access to a filtration unit (even a Brita filter will be good enough to remove the chlorine) you can leave chlorinated water out in a wide mouth container, and in 24 hours the chlorine will have evaporated away, leaving chlorine-free water.
  • Rinse your mouth for about 30 seconds each time, and you can do this as often as you like during the day, but at least 3-4 times to be helpful.

2.  Taste Changes, Aversions To Certain Foods, Metallic Taste – Most chemotherapy drugs will cause you to lose your appetite to some degree and certain medications may cause changes to the way food normally tastes. Don’t worry, this doesn’t last forever.  Normal taste and smell usually returns two or three months after the end of treatment.  I remember I couldn’t stand the way red pepper tasted, oddly enough.  You may also have a constant metallic taste in your mouth.

Rather than eating the normal three meals per day, you might find it better to have several smaller meals when you feel hungry.  Liquid foods such as soups, fresh juices, and smoothies are often more palatable than solid foods.  Try using plastic utensils rather than metal as this sometimes helps to reduce the metallic taste.  It’s ultra important to keep up your nutrients, so concentrate on eating superfoods (contact me if you need a list).  If you find that strong odors bother you, try eating foods cold or at room temperature.

3.  Diarrhea – It is very important to replace the beneficial gut flora which is often destroyed by chemotherapy drugs.  Recent studies have indicated that taking probiotics during chemotherapy may actually protect and support intestinal stem cells which will help cancer patients survive toxic chemotherapy. 

Secondly, drink plenty of fluids and seek out foods that will help you retain or regain fluids, such as those low in fiber and high in salt, sodium, and potassium.  Avoid any alcohol, dairy products, and anything greasy, spicy, or high in fiber.  Please be aware that if you have diarrhea frequently over a long period of time, get to your doctor immediately.

4.  Constipation – I have already written a lengthy article about this: Natural Remedies For Chemo-Related Constipation.  Check it out, there are plenty of tips and advice in this article and a recipe for herbal medicine which I found extremely beneficial.

5. Incontinence –  Your doctor should be carefully monitoring your kidney and bladder function during your chemotherapy treatments.  You may experience frequent or uncontrollable urination, or an inability to urinate.   Getting the chemotherapy drugs out of your kidneys and bladder is the best defense against urinary side effects, so be sure to drink lots of filtered water and other clear liquids to flush out your system. Stay away from caffeine, it won’t help you right now.

6.  Nausea and/or Vomiting – You will be given anti-sickness injections or medications before your chemotherapy and tablets to take home with you.  You should take these regularly as prescribed, even if you are not feeling sick, as some anti-sickness drugs are better at preventing than stopping sickness once it has already begun.  I found it helpful to make a fresh ginger tea each morning.  Here’s how to do that:

  • Peel a knob of fresh, organic ginger, about 1″ in size, then slice it up and place that in the bottom of your cup
  • Pour boiling, filtered water over the ginger and let it steep for as long as you like, until it’s drinkable
  • You can also make a cold drink out of this by using a large glass refrigerator container, increase the amount of ginger you put in the jar, add boiling water, then let cool and refrigerate.  You could also add some slices of organic lemons as lemon and ginger are nice together and will give you some vitamin C too.

If you still experience nausea or vomiting, even after using your anti-sickness meds and the ginger tea, please tell your doctor as they may prescribe you a different anti-sickness drug that may be more effective. 

Two more helpful tips for nausea:  Eat a light meal prior to your chemotherapy infusion.  Concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply when feeling nauseated.  I would sit down and breathe with my eyes shut and soon found relief doing that.

Reference Articles:

http://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/cancer-information/treatment/chemotherapy/side-effects/pages/digestive-system.aspx

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-cope-with-chemotherapyrelated-digestive-pro.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/041449_chemotherapy_probiotics_antibiotics.html

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond. 

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