The benefits of chemotherapy typically outweigh the general drawbacks, however, as a patient, dealing with the hardships of side effects can often be one of the worst experiences of the entire process. In addition, depending on the side effect, reactions can become severe enough to postpone or miss your treatments and plans. Given the anti cancer benefit of regularly scheduled chemotherapy treatments, skipping scheduled treatments is something that we as doctors much prefer to avoid. So as a patient, what do you do if chemo induced side effects begin to creep up? Effectively managing chemotherapy side effects without drugs offers a viable and evidence based option.


Common Side Effects

Side effects of many chemotherapy treatments (or other conventional cancer treatments for that matter) can become an unfortunate reality during and/or following cancer treatment care. The most common chemo induced side effects (well accepted by oncology care) that patients report to in my office are as follows: nausea, joint and muscle pain, neuropathy, hair loss, fatigue, sleep interruption, ‘chemo brain’, bowel issues, mouth sores, weight loss, and kidney, cardiovascular, immune and blood cell problems. The list of common side effects sounds daunting, and it is, however not all patients will experience all side effects of a specific drug, nor will all patients experience side effects to the same degree, or in a predictable manner. That being said, rather than waiting for these ill effects to begin causing detriment to your health, taking necessary steps to avoid them is also a prudent and wise decision to make.


Managing Side Effects Before They Arise

First and foremost, reducing the chance that you will have to deal with side effects at all can be a realistic goal. By taking calculated steps to protect yourself from the damaging effects of chemotherapy, while still ensuring effective treatment can often be accomplished through simple nutrient or natural medicine support. As an integrative cancer focused naturopathic doctor, there are tools I provide to patients to ensure side effects are either minimized or completely avoided. To know exactly what treatment support is best for you, it’s a matter of understanding your exact treatment, including all drugs that will actively be a part of your plan. Based on mechanisms of action, physiological pathways, and predicted outcomes, its often quite realistic to instil a protocol that ensures this end will be well met. Sometimes it takes a simple nutrient to help negate brutal side effect symptoms, while other times it takes a bit more of an aggressive, yet always natural and wholistic approach. Nine out of ten times, integrated medicine can help significantly reduce or eliminate chemo side effects all together, and safely.


Managing Active Side Effects

Patients often don’t have to address side effects of chemo as symptoms sometimes don’t begin early on. It’s not until a detrimental side effect or symptom quickly arises that I see patients come to me for help. In cases like this, it’s a matter of helping to ‘catch up’ with the intensity of the side effect, and ultimately striving to get ahead of the game. And although proactive measures are usually the best approach, sometimes it becomes a reality that patients need help after the fact. In cases like this (which are common), utilizing very well known (and safe) supplements and concentrated nutrients often will do the trick. I’ve had many patients come in with complaints of chemo induced fatigue, diarrhea, nerve pain, and nausea, and within a short period of time (usually days to weeks), if the side effect hasn’t subsided, then the intensity sure has. Remember that when chemotherapy is introduced to the body, it effects the majority of your cells, and it’s the damage to healthy cells that often cause much of the ill health issues. By protecting your healthy cells and improving cancer cells sensitivity to these drugs (which is realistic and doable), less collateral damage occurs, better treatment outcomes are created, and patients better ‘survive’ and endure the benefits of these drugs.


But What About Drugs To Manage My Side Effects

When it comes to your cancer care, it’s your primary oncology team that leads the way. Often times, conventional drugs can greatly help mitigate and control side effects of chemotherapeutics. As a naturopathic and integrative cancer focused doctor, I support their use 100%. Integrative (drugless) support comes in to play either before side effects arise, or if/when conventional support doesn’t help. There are situations as well where both conventional drugs and natural medicine supports can be combined together to help even more. Regardless of where a drugless approach fits into your care, rest assured that they will not negatively interact with the chemotherapies, nor cause harm or interference at all. 


I have seen hundreds of cases where cancer patients suffer beyond belief due to side effects from their chemotherapy drugs. I am ultimately a proponent of chemotherapy (and other standard of care treatments) being used as a primary mode of treatment. But when it comes to side effects, there are often few, if any drugs that can do what natural medicine can. Whether its improving immune or red blood cell counts, improving digestion, or correcting mouth sores from the effects of chemotherapeutics, the likelihood that you will manage your mid or post chemo side effect profile over the short and long term, without drugs, is definitely enhanced by including a simple yet effective integrative medical treatment to your current plan.