Integrative Approaches for Dealing with Chemo Brain

The frustration that stems from the mental cloudiness experienced by many cancer patients going through chemotherapy is no laughing matter.  And although many may try to make light of it, chemo brain, as it is commonly known, can be a cause of great concern when a decrease in mental sharpness leads to the inability to remember important things, learn new skills or finish tasks.  This negative impact on everyday life can also impart a great emotional hit alongside the practical issues.

It’s Not Just Chemo

Chemo brain to some extent is a misnomer.  In reality mental fog can be experienced by patients who are not going through chemotherapy treatments.  Other noted causes include:

  • The actual diagnosis of cancer can contribute to mental unclarity
  • Medications such as pain killers
  • Radiation treatments
  • Lack of Sleep/Fatigue

  • Poor nutrition
  • Low blood counts
  • The cancer itself
  • Age

Integrative Approaches to Dealing with Chemo Brain

The one positive of this condition is that in most cases it is temporary and can be managed with a few helpful tips.

Get Good Quality Sleep and Enough of It

Lack of enough good quality sleep can be a contributing factor for brain fog.

Here are some tips to encourage a good night sleep:

  1. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
  2. Turn all electronics off 1 hour before bedtime
  3. Sleep in cool room
  4. Sleep in darkness
  5. If you must have electronics in your room, keep them 2 feet away from your bed

Amp Up Your Nutrition

Incorporating a whole foods diet with key nutrients is an important step in dealing with brain fog. Goods fats need to be included in your daily diet and can be found in foods such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, walnuts and cold water fish like salmon.

Choline and inositol are important nutrients for brain health. Choline can be found in foods such as eggs, beans, flax seeds and pistachios. Foods rich in inositol include beans and cantaloupe.

Vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B12 (cobalamin) are important vitamins to include in your diet.

Food sources of B1 include eggs, salmon, asparagus, kale, cauliflower sunflower seeds, beans, lentils and brown rice.

B12 is readily available in meat and shellfish. If avoiding animal products, supplementing with B12 in the form of methylcobalamin should be considered.

Exercise

Exercise overall has many health benefits.

For brain fog, regular exercise can help to keep stress and anxiety in check and encourage a more restful sleep.

And a few other tips

From a life style perspective incorporating strategies in to your daily routine such as making lists, noting activities in to a calendar, setting reminders and challenging yourself with word puzzles and brain games can be very helpful for improving brain function.

For those who like online challenges, one of my favourite sites for brain games is BrainHQ

 


References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chemo-brain/symptoms-causes/syc-20351060

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/changes-in-mood-or-thinking/chemo-brain.html

Chemotherapy, Radiation, Surgery
Natural Strategies for Preparation
and
Dealing with Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

 

 

 

 

Try this Yummy Kombucha Cocktail!

Want a delicious holiday drink?

Try this yummy Kombucha cocktail!

Fermented foods boost our immune system, help to strengthen our bones, support weight loss and promote nutrient absorption.

Kombucha is a fermented beverage that has been enjoyed for many, many years.  It is most commonly made with black tea and sugar.  The fermenting is done with a colony of bacteria and yeast called a ‘Scoby’.

As with other fermented foods, Kombucha is high in antioxidants and it packs a punch of health benefits for the gut being rich in probiotics.

Kombucha has been studied for its anti-cancer properties.  The tea polyphenols and antioxidants found in Kombucha were shown in these studies to prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells.

You can learn more about the benefits of fermented foods in my blog ‘5 Reasons to Use Fermented Foods in Your Cancer Fighting Diet”

Fermented foods are not a common staple for many people so the versatility of Kombucha makes it the perfect fermented food to start with.fermented foods

Health up your guests over the holidays and give this recipe a try!

Kombucha Cocktail

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups Kombucha (either homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice (about 3-4 oranges)
  • 1 cup frozen cherries* (about 16-20 cherries) (raspberries or strawberries can also be used)
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or raw honey
  • Dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds and orange wedges for garnish
  • Sparkling or regular white wine (optional)

Directions:

  • Juice the oranges and place in  blender.
  • Add the cherries, the ginger, nutmeg and maple syrup.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Pour into a bowl or pitcher. Add the kombucha and stir.
  • Chill for at least an hour.
  • When ready to serve pour into wine glasses. (If you are adding sparkling wine do this now)
  • Add a few dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds (or both) and an orange wedge to each glass.

*Option: make extra kombucha cocktail and use it to make some ice cubes and add one to each glass

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18979556

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221052391200044X

 

 

 

Coping with Cancer During the Holidays

Coping with cancer during the holidays can be difficult.

As we approach the holidays, what should be a joyous time of year surrounded by friends and family, can be a challenge for both people working through a cancer diagnosis and their loved ones.

There is no point in denying it, things are likely to be different.  But with some thoughtful planning and a commitment to enjoying on your terms, the holiday season can be a special one if there is open and honest dialogue between everyone.

Tips for Cancer Patients

It’s time to plan your holiday strategy.

Shopping

Nothing shouts out ONLINE SHOPPING more than fatigue and low immunity.

Get your list together and have at it.  In the comfort of your own home tick off everyone on your list with a delivery right to your front door (or theirs!).  No crowds, lots of comfort and you minimize the chance of catching a cold or flu.

Cooking

Delegate, delegate, delegate! Spread out the cooking detail.  Consider having a potluck dinner this year.  If that’s not an option, then there are loads of places that will cater to all of your gastronomical needs.

Rest

Take the time to rest if you need it.  Heck schedule naptimes so all of your guests can build the events of the day around them.

Provide Clarity

Let your people know what challenges you may be facing during the holidays.  Say YES when you need to and don’t be afraid to say NO. They want to support you.  They love you so let them do so.

Throw your Expectations out the Window

Forget comparing to past holidays or lamenting on what you might not be able to do.  Embrace what is and try to be open to experiencing the joy of what this holiday brings.

If Someone You Love has Cancer

If your loved one has cancer understand that this can be an emotional time.  You can’t change that but there are things that you can do to support them and they pretty much line up with what I have just mentioned

Offer to help

Fatigue and just not feeling well can be so prohibitive for those with cancer.  Offer your time.  It’s the best gift you can give.  Shop, clean, cook, write Santa letters.  Do whatever is needed.

Plan events around their schedule

Plan holiday events around their schedule. Be flexible and mindful about planning things around their routine, treatments and according to the overall vitality.   And be understanding if some traditions have to be shelved for this year.

The holidays can be challenging when cancer is in your midst.  But with a little planning and a lot of love they can continue to be a joyous time of year.

 

 

 

 

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Facts & Tips for Prevention

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world⁠.

In 2015, it was estimated that approximately 26,600 Canadians would be diagnosed with lung cancer.  That is more than any other type of cancer.

In addition to this, more people die from lung cancer than breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer combined.

There are two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC)⁠.

Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 85 percent of lung cancers, small cell lung cancer about 15 percent.⁠

NSCLC usually starts in glandular cells on the outer part of the lung. This type of cancer is called adenocarcinoma. Non–small cell lung cancer can also start in flat, thin cells called squamous cells. These cells line the bronchi, which are the large airways that branch off from the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs. This type of cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. Large cell carcinoma is another type of non–small cell lung cancer, but it is less common. There are also several rare types of non–small cell lung cancer. These include sarcoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma.  SCLC usually starts in cells that line the bronchi in the centre of the lungs. The main types of small cell lung cancer are small cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma (mixed tumour with squamous or glandular cells).

Anatomy & Facts About Our Lungs

 

 

Did you know?

  • In proper anatomy our right lung is shorter and wider than our left.  Our left lung is narrower and more oblong
  • The anterior border of the left lung is marked by a deep cardiac notch while the right lung is straight
  • Our left lung is smaller than our right lung because our heart occupies space on the left side
  • Our right lung consists of 3 lobes.  Our left lung has 2
  • Our right lung connects to the trachea by two bronchi while the left lung connects to the trachea by a single bronchus

Possible causes of lung cancer

🔹Cigarette smoking causes most lung cancers.  Of note however many patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have either never smoked or are former smokers.

🔹Exposure to high levels of pollution⁠

🔹Exposure to radiation and asbestos may increase risk of lung cancer⁠

🔹Genetics

Common symptoms of lung cancer

✔️A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time⁠

✔️Constant chest pain⁠

✔️Coughing up blood⁠

✔️Shortness of breath⁠

✔️Fatigue⁠

Help lower your risk of lung cancer by incorporating the following tips

☑️Stop Smoking:⁠

Smoking is responsible for the majority of lung cancers. If you are a smoker it’s never too late to quit. For those who have been diagnosed with lung cancer, by stopping your smoking habit you can make cancer treatment more effective

☑️Limit Your Chemical Exposure:⁠

Chemicals in the workplace and at home can contribute to lung cancer

☑️Reduce Your Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke:⁠

Exposure to second-hand smoke increases your chance of developing lung cancer

☑️Consume Green Tea and Black Tea:⁠

Studies have shown that consuming Green & Black tea are associated with a reduced lung cancer risk⁠

As well as the above, proper sleep, exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies are very important habits for cancer prevention as a whole.⁠


References

 

Coping with Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome

It is certainly well within the level of expectation to have some pain and/or discomfort after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. But when pain continues for more than a few months post surgery and begins to impact quality of life, this is very likely Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS).

Studies have shown that between 20 and 30 percent of women who have breast surgery develop PMPS.

What is Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome?

Post-mastectomy pain syndrome (PMPS) is chronic nerve (neuropathic) pain after lumpectomy or mastectomy…The classic signs of PMPS are chest wall pain and tingling down the arm. Pain can also be felt in the shoulder, scar, arm, or armpit. Other common complaints include numbness, shooting or pricking pain, or unbearable itching

The exact cause of PMPS is unknown.  A strong theory however is that during surgery damage is caused to the intercostobrachial nerve.  This nerve extends from the outer edge of the breast and runs along the underside of the arm.

Treatments for Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome

There are treatments to help relieve PMPS.  This often starts with the use of ibupofen and/or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The application of topical anesthetics can be effective for treatment in many cases.

Steroid injections or local anesthetic can be helpful for those who suffer from pain around the scar area.

As well as medical interventions, Integrative therapies can also be of help for those suffering with PMPS.  These include massage therapy, reflexology and acupuncture.

Why Seek Help?

In light of the toll that cancer therapies can have on the body, it may seem somewhat trivial to question your doctor about aches and pains. But it is not.

Pain not only has a physical impact, it can also have a mental one.

Research has demonstrated that the pain women experience suffering from PMPS has been linked to fear of recurrence.  This can be a paralyzing feeling.

Depression, as well, is strongly associated with pain.

Conclusion

Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome is real.

Do not dismiss symptoms or concerns that you are experiencing.  Consult your doctor and get relief.

We must be advocates of our own health.


References

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/pain/post-mastectomy-pain-syndrome.html

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/pain/post-mastectomy-pain-syndrome.html

https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/pain-after-breast-cancer-surgery-pmps/

https://www.painresource.com/cancer/post-mastectomy-pain-syndrome-pmps/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4031190/