How to Detox after Chemotherapy and Radiation
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How to Detox after Chemotherapy and Radiation
If you have been through the rigors of chemotherapy and/or radiation as part of your breast cancer treatments, today’s post is for you.
Although the body does a pretty good job of detoxifying all of this on its own when you are HEALTHY, it really struggles to do this when you are not well and overloaded with chemicals and weakened from radiation.
Here is something to think about. I’ve known people who – eight to ten years after they went through chemotherapy – did their first cleanse and could smell the chemo they went through years before coming out of their bodies. So yes – our bodies do their best to get rid of all this, but as I said, after these therapies, it struggles to do so and clearly some of it may stay behind.
The Problem with Chemotherapy and Radiation, and Cancer Cells Dying Off
Chemotherapy is some pretty toxic stuff – it has to be, in order to kill the rapidly growing cancer cells. The problem is that over time chemotherapy overburdens the detoxification pathways of the liver, kidneys and bowel. It also creates an anaerobic environment (meaning without oxygen), which is exactly the environment that cancer cells love to thrive in. It is also known that breast cancer stem cells are not destroyed by chemotherapy.
Radiation is also hard on the tissues of the body, which you will have noticed from the side effects you went through. As to whether or not its effects build up in the body is hotly debated between conventional medicine and natural medicine doctors. Your radiation oncologist is likely to tell you that the daily dose you are getting is small and perfectly safe.
Because radiation sessions are recommended once per day for five days a week, for between 5-6 weeks, I find it hard to believe that there would be no cumulative effect in the body from this, and indeed we know there may be.
Studies tell us that patients aged under 30 who had multiple or repeated CT scans (which range from 1-20 millisievert or mSv), particularly in the trunk of the body, were at a higher risk for developing cancer . That doesn’t sound to me like the radiation gets cleared effectively from the body.
If you think about it, even the dying cancer cells can become burdensome toxins as they wither up and are killed from the treatments.
Things can get even more dicey if you have had lymph nodes removed because the lymphatic system is one of the body’s methods for removing toxins. Lymphedema isn’t fun at all, and it’s not too surprising that it may be the result of an overabundance of toxins – as well as an inability to properly get rid of them.
As you can see, it is vitally important to detoxify your body after going through chemotherapy and/or radiation to get that residue out of your body – and you’re going to feel so much better if you do. In this post I am going to share with you my best 11 tips on how to go about detoxing after chemotherapy and radiation. You may also want to know that I have a wonderful how-to course which effectively takes you by the hand and teaches you exactly what to do so there’s no guesswork involved – more on that in the last paragraph.
If you have been struggling with bloating, fatigue, headaches, poor memory, aching muscles, a suppressed immune system (the very thing you’re relying on to keep you well), lymphedema, even halitosis (bad breath), please know that you don’t have to be miserable from all of this. There are key things YOU CAN DO to help get you feeling better.
If You Are Still Going Through Chemo/Radiation
The important thing to remember is to NOT do any detoxing while you are going through chemotherapy and radiation, other than to drink loads of fresh juices (described below) and purified water to help the toxins wash through your body and protect your healthy cells (and no, fresh juices do not protect the cancer cells!). Incorporate some gentle exercise into your daily schedule too – this will really help you.
Once You Are Finished with Chemo/Radiation
Once chemotherapy and radiation are finished and these strong treatments have done their work, that’s the best time to detox.
One proviso though – make sure you’re strong enough to undergo a cleasing detox. You need to give yourself at least two weeks after your therapies end before undertaking any detoxing and cleansing, and possibly longer if you grew really weak from them. Consult with your physician or naturopath before embarking on a cleansing detox.
Okay, these are the things that make the biggest difference for you when you are working to detox your body.
11 Vital Things to Do When Detoxing Your Body After Chemotherapy & Radiation
1. Colonic Hydrotherapy and/or Coffee Enemas – Colonic hydrotherapy can be of assistance not only after chemotherapy but also during to help alleviate the terrible constipation that often results from chemotherapy. Your medical providers may argue the efficacy of colonic hydrotherapy – I had one nurse tell me that we are designed for wastes to move ONE way and we shouldn’t go against that – obviously misunderstanding how colonics work. I went through a course of colonic hydrotherapy post-chemo and found it to be a gentle and effective method for toxin removal. It also had the distinct effect of emotional detoxing as well. Coffee enemas are also incredibly beneficial for cleansing the colon and liver. Here’s my video about that: Coffee Enemas for Detoxing
2. Drink Plenty of Water – This is the most natural way to detox your body after radiation and chemotherapy and hopefully you were drinking plenty of water during these therapies as well. Make sure your drinking water is filtered (and preferably not obtained from plastic water bottles) to help keep you safe from herbicides, pesticides, plastic residue, drugs and the other assorted nasties that our water can often contain. I like the Big Berkey water filter. I just got one and it works really well. Put in a slice of lemon or orange to your glass for some additional flavor, cleansing qualities and antioxidant protection. Herbal teas are also wonderful to help along the cleansing process – nice ones are peppermint, ginger, licorice, fennel, lemon, tulsi, dandelion root.
3. Juicing, Juicing, Juicing – It seems like I am always banging on about the benefits of juicing organic vegetables and fruits when you are on a healing journey, but their importance for health cannot be over-emphasized. Ensure you have a great juicer though, as not all juicers are designed to keep the living enzymes within your expensive organic produce alive! See my article on that: The Benefits of Juicing for Breast Cancer – Which Juicer or Blender to Use . Fresh juices contain so many minerals, cancer-killed phytochemicals, vitamins and enzymes and can help to heal, rejuvenate cells, flush away toxins, energize us and build our blood. For ideas of what to juice, read this article: The Benefits of Juicing for Breast Cancer – What to Juice
4. Gentle Exercise – Something as simple as bouncing on a rebounder (one of those mini trampolines) for 10 minutes a couple of times per day helps to get your heart pumping, blood circulating and toxins flushing out of your body. Best done BEFORE a meal or juicing, however! When you are strong enough, do some walking, cycling, gentle hikes, dancing, yoga – all of these are great to get the body moving and detoxing and will strengthen you. Make sure you drink plenty of filtered water after exercising.
5. Fiber – Fiber helps to grab onto toxins in your digestive tract. Fiber soaks up toxins rather like a sponge, speeds up elimination, helps with cleansing. Natural fiber comes from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, however there are also plenty of fiber products on the market which you could add to your health regimen. One particularly good one is freshly ground organic flaxseed, and psyllium is another. Fiber also whisks excess estrogen out of the body!
6. Herbal Medicine – There are many herbs which will assist you in detoxing after chemotherapy and radiation and rebuilding your health. Here are some of the best ones:
Andrographis – stimulates immune system, antioxidant, liver protectant
Ashwagandha – stimulates immune system, antioxidant, liver protectant, helps nerves repair
Astragalus – stimulates immune system, antioxidant, liver protectant, heart tonic
Burdock – stimulates immune system, nourishes intestinal tract, stimulates bile secretion, anti-inflammatory, improves lymphatic flow
Chapparal – helps body detox from chemical exposure, is also anti-tumoral, antioxidant
Dandelion Leaf – promotes detox pathways in kidneys
Dandelion Root – supports digestion, clears toxins from liver and gallbladder
Echinacea – promotes immune system, assists lymphatic system
Eleuthero – modulates immune system, reduces fatigue, tonic for spleen and kidneys
Milk Thistle – liver protective, regenerates liver cells, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant
Mushrooms – reishi, maitake, lions mane, cordyceps, chaga – promote immune system, improve all systems of the body
Red Clover – helps remove metabolic wastes, improves lymphedema, blood cleanser
Rhodiola – eases stress and anxiety, calms nerves, chemoprotective
Slippery Elm – eases both constipation and diarrhea, healing to digestive tract, anti-inflammatory
Definitely do not use all of these herbs at once and seek the advice of a qualified herbalist before using any herbal medicine. Some herbs can interact with other medications you may be taking. Get the best guidance possible for your particular needs.
7. Essential Oils – Essential oils, due to their concentrated nature and natural chemical constituents, are amazing for assisting with the removal of toxic residues from the body, while at the same time helping cells to regenerate, oxygenate tissues, boost lymphatic drainage, lift your spirits, and most of these also promote the growth of HEALTHY CELLS (read between the lines there, folks). Here are some of the best ones for this:
Put a drop of essential oil into a glass of water or make a hot tea with 1-2 drops of essential oil (probably not myrrh though as it will not taste very nice). You can also breathe in a drop or two from your hands and it will be in your blood stream and working in minutes. An essential oil diffuser is also a good way to get the great benefits of healing essential oils. Make sure that the oils you are using are from a well-established company that uses organically grown plants to make their oils.
8. Eat Organic Food – While you are doing a cleanse, and working towards detoxing and keeping well and healthy, your best bet is to avoid any processed foods, sugar, carbs and grains because these will not assist the detox process. Instead, eat plenty of lightly steamed organic vegetables, salads, soups and some fruits – an excellent way to promote the removal of toxins.
9. Epsom Salt Baths – There is something so restorative about a hot epsom salt bath! Hot water opens the pores and assists perspiration to take toxins away. Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate, and it helps to generate enzymes that clean up the body. Use at least 1-2 cups in the bath. To make it a totally revitalizing experience, add lavender essential oil for its calming effects, or ginger which also helps to open the pores and is a good natural anti-inflammatory. If you don’t have epsom salts, baking soda (in the same amount) is also useful and it helps to neutralize the effects of radiation. You could also use a cup of each in your detox bath. This is another place where water filtration is important because if you live in an area where the water is highly chlorinated you are soaking all that chlorine up into your body through the skin. Chlorine may have carcinogenic potential, according to several studies    
10. Detox Your Skin Care Products – You might not think about this, but if your body and skin care products are laden with chemical toxins, you are taking all of those into your body via the skin, which is like a big sponge. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin! Using organic body products and cosmetics is really important. Fortunately, there are many good brands available now (unlike when I was going through breast cancer in 2004 when I had ONE to choose from!). Just Google “organic skin care” and your country name and you’ll likely get a long list. If you aren’t sure about specific ingredients, check with a phone app called Yuka – a free mobile app that allows you to scan the barcodes of food and personal care products and instantly see their impact on your health.
11. Rebuild Your Immune System – Since your immune system is your first line of defense against cancer and all other diseases, you must rebuild it. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments will have blasted the hell out of the very thing you are relying upon to stay well. Yes, your body may eventually do this on its own, but the process is generally quite slow and we don’t want to give any open doors to stray cancer cells (we are removing the welcome mat!). Here’s my page on how to build immunity quickly so that it’s very strong: 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.
If you are still mystified about what to do with regard to safely and effectively cleansing your body from chemo and radiation toxins (and even surgery) and would like to have the help of a couple of experts, I have created a powerful how-to course to teach you. It is a collaborative effort with naturopath Judy Seeger, the Cleanse Queen herself! For more information on this course, please see this page: Chemo Cleanse System
 Cumulative radiation exposure and estimated lifetime cancer risk in multiple-injury adult patients undergoing repeated or multiple CTs
 Assessment of the Carcinogenic Potential of Chlorinated Water: Experimental Studies of Chlorine, Chloramine, and Trihalomethanes – https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article-abstract/85/10/817/1024456
 High Organochlorine Body Burden in Women With Estrogen Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer – http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.975.5525&rep=rep1&type=pdf
 The association of drinking water source and chlorination by-products with cancer incidence among postmenopausal women in Iowa: a prospective cohort study. – https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.87.7.1168
 Case-control cancer mortality study and chlorination of drinking water in Louisiana – https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/abs/10.1289/ehp.8246169
About Marnie Clark
Hi I’m Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor turned coach. I have 20 years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I’ve been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
So it is my duty to help you unconfuse and untangle all that information, and find what works for YOU.
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