Chemo Brain Is The Real Deal (and What To Do About It)
Anyone going through chemotherapy understands the term “chemo brain” very well. A friend currently undergoing chemotherapy laughingly described it as: “It’s the drugs causing your brain function to go to hell in a hand basket!”
Around 2008, US researchers finally identified what might be going on. They reported that the common chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) can kill certain stem cells and their progeny that are responsible for producing the myelin sheath (the part of your brain that allows proper transmission of signals within the brain).
It can also be caused by some medications such as antibiotics, corticosteriods, and drugs that treat cancer related symptoms. The anemia that results from some types of chemotherapy can also be responsible, as well as nutritional deficiences in iron, folic acid, and vitamin B.
So it’s not your imagination! How annoying is it though? It’s like your brain just can’t get there – you know you used to know the answer but it’s just out of reach right now.
Fortunately, complementary and alternative medicine have some remedies for us.
Here are 6 of the Best Remedies for Chemo Brain
- Aromatherapy: essential oils of frankincense, sandalwood, bergamot, elemi, palo santo, orange, lavender, peppermint, and tangerine can be very helpful for chemo brain. These were my favorites and still are. You can diffuse them, inhale them directly from the bottle or put them on pulse points and breathe deeply! One of the ways they assist is by bringing more oxygen into your body and brain and clearing the synapses of chemical residues.
- Yoga and Meditation: yoga and meditation support the body, mind, and spirit, both during and after treatments. The practice of yoga and meditation offers physical, psychological, and spiritual support to the whole person and can definitely help with chemo brain.
- Bodywork: massage, reflexology and acupressure are all wonderful to help relieve symptoms of chemo brain – they increase your circulation, help you relax and detox a little from the drugs.
- Herbal teas: try teas with citrus, peppermint (also nice for the digestive system), frankincense, ashwagandha, gingko, or rosemary.
- Supplements: consult a naturopath or qualified integrative cancer provider for advice on herbs or vitamins that will improve brain function. Integrative cancer providers assess each patient individually and identify specific supplements.
- Imagery: imagery is the use of your imagination to visualize things you want to bring about in your life. Imagery for cancer patients (among many other benefits) helps to prevent or reduce nausea from chemotherapy drugs, it also helps with creativity and problem-solving abilities.
So get out there and try some new things and get rid of that chemo brain!
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