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Calming Side Effects: Alternative Cancer Treatments

There are various aggressive treatments for various cancers, and patient reactions can vary widely. While some people are able to go about their daily lives while receiving chemotherapy or radiation, other people experience debilitating side effects: nausea, fatigue, and pain, as well as less well-known side effects such as skin problems, constipation, and mental fog. We all knew cancer treatments were no fun, but minimizing the effects can help get a loved one through.

While medications exist to help cancer patients manage some of the worst side effects, physicians’ go-to prescriptions aren’t effective for everyone. What’s more, they’re costly, which drives the price tag of cancer care ever higher. The best insurance can have gaps in coverage, and with so many working as independent freelancers these days, the uncertainty about costs can be maddening. 

Whatever your situation, the ACA enrollment is in November. Pre-existing conditions can no longer be used to deny coverage, so finding an insurer is a lot easier than it used to be, and getting insured is key. Cancer is costly no matter what, and the added stress of worrying about the cost can be debilitating. 

Alternative treatments to supplement chemotherapy can minimize side effects. Or, under the supervision of a specialist, take the place of traditional treatments altogether. 

Natural Remedies

Cancer treatment fills the patient’s body with chemicals. They are there for a reason, but adding additional chemicals in the form of prescription medications can be simply overwhelming. Natural remedies can help soothe side effects as effectively as prescribed ones. For example, ginger has been shown to effectively calm nausea in cancer patients. Even something as simple as cryotherapy, which is the application of ice, has been shown to reduce the presence of mouth sores during some chemotherapy treatments. 

Mind and Body Remedies

There is a strong connection between our minds and our bodies, and some complementary therapies draw on this connection to ease side effects and provide relief to patients. According to the Cancer Council, meditation can be a great help by lowering “the levels of stress hormones in your body, which can assist in healing, and improves immune function.” 

Meditation can also help the patient slow down and heal. If they’re able to take the time to rest, it’ll be a great benefit. They don’t have to fold themselves into a pretzel to meditate; it can be as simple as sitting up in a chair. What’s important is following through on the intention to eat well and exercise, to make it through this with healthier habits. 

What we eat plays a major role in how we feel. Cancer patients often lose their appetites during treatment, but there are some dietary guidelines that can help manage the nausea and allow the patient to keep their physical health up. There is also research supporting a macrobiotic lifestyle as therapy. According to an article published in the Journal of Nutrition, macrobiotics involves a diet of whole foods, avoidance of chemicals and pesticides, physical activity, and “a respect for the spiritual nature of life.”

Alternative Therapies

Some patients in search of an alternative have turned to cannabis. And while medical researchers remain skeptical, cancer patients can’t stop singing the praises of medical marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound. Patients say that cannabis stops nausea and boosts appetite to combat cancer weight loss, helps them get a good night’s sleep to reduce fatigue, and eases cancer pain when painkillers can’t.

For the most part, there’s not enough data to say for certain whether cannabis can ease the burden of side effects on cancer patients. However, small studies suggest that cannabis is effective against chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, cancer pain, insomnia, appetite loss, and anxiety. The evidence is strong enough for THC’s effects against chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting that two synthetic cannabinoid medications, dronabinol and nabilone, are approved for use in cancer patients.

Over the years, cancer patients have bonded at marijuana dispensaries, where they’ve found a support community. Unfortunately, sick people were denied medicine because of the war on drugs, and they had to fight through many years of harassment from law enforcement, but attitudes have changed and CBD is federally legal and available. 

Undergoing cancer treatment is a major ordeal, and there is no way to predict how the body will respond. It is important to know what resources are available, to make informed decisions. While taking prescribed medications may be the best route for some, others may want to explore alternative treatments. Whatever they choose, always keep doctors informed.



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