How to Minimize the Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments used in the fight against cancer. However, it has some well-known drawbacks and strong side effects. Since it means that powerful chemical drugs enter our bloodstream in order to reduce the cancer cells, the consequences can also be severe.
Therefore, to improve your quality of life, here at oneHOWTO we have compiled some suggestions and tips on how to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.
Before and when you undergo chemotherapy treatment, your doctor will explain in detail all the implications and secondary effects to you. It is very possible that at this stage you will also be prescribed medication to control the nausea and vomiting, which are common when people undergo chemo. In case that is one of your concerns, our article on what to eat when you feel nauseous may help you.
Beyond the medical options, some changes in your daily habits will help you reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and thus allow you to deal with the treatment more effectively.
To avoid nausea and vomiting, one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy, you should make some general changes to your diet. These include:
- Avoid foods that are difficult to digest so that you feel much lighter and reduce the possibility of suffering an upset stomach.
- Eat less food more often, diving three meals into about six meals. This will stave off nausea and discomfort while keeping your body nourished. Opt for healthy and light foods, such as lean meats, fish and cooked vegetables.
- Stay well hydrated. Drinking cold fluids can ease nausea, so try drinking small sips of cold liquid throughout the day. Sucking ice can also help.
- If you do not want to eat, it is important to drink fruit juices or soups to keep you nourished. In addition to the lack of appetite, it is important to consult your doctor to consider the intake of vitamin supplements to help you get better.
- After eating, sit up to aid digestion.
Another side effect of chemotherapy is diarrhea due to gastric disorders caused by the treatment. The aforementioned recommendations can help prevent it. However, if you are already suffering from it, follow these steps:
- Make changes in your diet to help combat diarrhea. In our article on the best food to eat when you have diarrhea you will find appropriate food options.
- Stay well hydrated to avoid feeling weak and becoming dehydrated. Water, saline liquid and sports drinks are ideal to combat this problem.
It is also important not to take any anti-diarrhea medicines without first talking to your doctor, as it could interfere with the chemotherapy or cause side effects.
Mucositis is one of the possible side effects of chemotherapy. It's an infection which appears inside the mouth, throat and stomach mucosa, and it is manifested through sores that can become painful. If you suffer from this mucositis, here are some tips to make you feel better:
- Avoid salty foods such as dehydrated products, pickles and sausages, as they increase the burning sensation and discomfort.
- Avoid spicy foods and citrus fruits, which will only irritate the affected area.
- Choose food that is soft, easy to chew and to swallow. Try to eat lukewarm foods to prevent burning yourself and causing further pain.
- Cold liquids can help ease discomfort. Avoid very hot drinks.
It is very important to practice good oral hygiene if you suffer any symptoms in your mouth. Using mouthwash 3 or 4 times a day is recommended to prevent infection. Likewise, it is recommended to use a mild toothpaste to reduce irritation and a soft-bristle toothbrush.
During and after chemotherapy your immune system will be weakened, which will make you susceptible to suffering from infections. To prevent the spread of diseases or viruses that compromise your health, it is recommended that you:
- Wash your hands thoroughly every day, especially when sneezing, after using the toilet and before every meal.
- If there are people in your home environment with viruses or contagious diseases, you should limit contact with them and wear a face mask when they are near you.
- If you suffer a cut or a wound, it is imperative that you disinfect it properly, washing it with warm water and mild soap and then applying a strong antiseptic. Tend to the wound carefully to prevent infection; if it deteriorates, consult your physician.
Fatigue and anemia are two common side effects of chemotherapy. To alleviate these symptoms:
- Rest properly, sleeping at least 8 hours a day. If not possible, it is important to try to take small naps during the day to help you replenish your strength.
- As indicated in point 2, eating well is important, especially if you have anemia. Take a look at our article on what to eat when you are anemic to improve your health and energy.
- Stress, depression and anxiety also greatly affect your condition, making you feel tired and fatigued. Although it may seem counterproductive, staying active is important to improve your mental and physical state. Daily exercise such as walking, yoga, Pilates, meditation, cycling or swimming will release endorphins, improving your mood and reducing fatigue.
- Include some exercise in your daily life. For instance, add some physical activity to housework chores or play with children when watching over them. This will help you control your fatigue and boost your mood.
We suggest you take a look at the following article on how to recover from chemotherapy to find tips that will help you improve your quality of life and minimize the side effects of chemotherapy.
Remember that if your mood is severely affected, you can go to support groups that will help you to improve your outlook and that address your condition in a positive manner.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to How to Minimize the Side Effects of Chemotherapy, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.