April 25, 2017
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People who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment frequently experience certain side effects. Depending on the individual, these may be minimal, or for some, quite debilitating. Our team at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre can help you cope with these side effects, improving quality of life and how you feel overall.
By addressing side effects that conventional treatments may cause, naturopathic treatments, physical therapies and mind-body practices allow you to tolerate these treatments more easily and continue with important therapies to help decrease progression of disease and risk of recurrence.
Nausea and vomiting are a frequent side effect of many chemotherapy drugs and some radiation treatments. It can be light, or, for some, quite debilitating, and may lead to a lack of appetite, weight loss and reduced intake of essential nutrients. To help you cope with nausea and vomiting, our integrative team may recommend natural health products, acupuncture or mind-body medicine, all of which have been found to be safe and effective in clinical trials at reducing nausea and vomiting.
- Naturopathic medicine: There are a number of treatments your naturopath may recommend to offset nausea, including for instance, ginger root and peppermint.
- Physical therapies: Acupuncture and reflexology can treat nausea effectively by using specific points on the body in the case of acupuncture, or specific points on the feet in the case of reflexology. These points have been used by practitioners for centuries to successfully and safely to diminish nausea.
- Mind-Body Medicine: Our mind-body therapists employ visualization, relaxation and yoga, to calm the nervous system, and promote a reduction in symptoms. Particular yoga poses and breath work can settle the digestive system and calm sensations of nausea.
Pain can occur as a symptom of cancer particularly if there is involvement of the bones or when organs and tissues are impinged upon. The pain felt may be acute or chronic, and may be experienced both physically and emotionally. Managing pain is a priority during cancer treatment. If left untreated, it can increase and lead to debilitating fatigue and depression. Our experienced team uses a variety of modalities to treat and control pain.
- Naturopathic Medicine: Our naturopathic doctors use natural health products, diet, and stress reduction to reduce pain. An anti inflammatory diet can be a big change for some, and is considered a lifestyle shift, but the benefits for pain reduction can be substantial. Certain natural health products contain powerful anti-inflammatory components that can diminish pain and discomfort. Our naturopathic doctors are trained to understand which therapies are safe and effective when given in conjunction with conventional treatments.
- Physical Therapies: Our physical therapists play a key role in pain management and rehabilitation by using a variety of techniques to improve mobility and to trigger the release of endorphins, our natural defense against pain. Acupuncture and reflexology are particularly helpful, as is massage. Our therapists will work on pain free areas of the body, working distally to diminish pain in the affected region. Acupuncture, reflexology and massage help regulate energy and blood flow in the body and reduce blockages that may be involved in creating or increasing pain.
- Mind-Body Medicine: Our mind body practitioners teach relaxation techniques to help manage pain more effectively. Through mindfulness, de-patterning, movement and breath-work you can change your relationship to pain, and learn coping skills to employ when necessary.
The causes of fatigue can be multi-faceted and of varying intensity. It may be a physical effect of the cancer itself or a reaction to conventional treatment. Some people experience chronic bouts of intense fatigue during treatment while others have periodic fatigue that may need readjusting schedules and regular habits. In either case, our clinicians offer nutritional approaches, emotional support, exercise programs and physical modalities which work to reduce or eliminate fatigue.
- Naturopathic Medicine: Our naturopathic doctors (NDs) work with a variety of natural health products that can help reduce fatigue and increase energy levels including melatonin, ginseng and adrenal adaptogens. Moreover, our NDs and nutritionists will recommend foods to avoid and foods to incorporate, as well as when and how much to eat during mealtimes, all of which go a long way in reducing fatigue.
- Physical Therapies: Though it may feel like you should be resting most of the time, in fact, studies demonstrate that moderate exercise can alleviate cancer related fatigue. As such, this is actually a time where exercise is often the best answer to combatting fatigue. Our exercise specialists create individualized exercise regimes that match your circumstances, and that will support a return of your energy levels.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture treatments bring the body back to balance by removing blockages and obstacles to energy flow and reducing fatigue overall. One of the main goals our acupuncturists undertake is to stimulate and harmonize the flow of energy, known as qi, through the body.
- Reflexology: In a manner similar to acupuncture, our reflexologist can stimulate energy by focusing on specific points in the foot that relate peripherally to other regions of the body, thereby decreasing fatigue.
- Massage: Our massage therapist can replenish energy stores by stimulating nerves and muscles, removing tightness, stiffness and muscle fatigue and increasing energy levels. Our massage treatments are useful for both acute and chronic fatigue.
- Mind-Body Medicine: Our mind-body therapists work with visualization, relaxation, breath work and restorative yoga poses to reduce fatigue and revitalize energy. Supportive yoga poses for example can help you to rest more deeply, while gently invigorating movement re-balances the body. An exploration and a letting go of what is so tiring can increase energy levels.
Our clinicians help you recognize your body’s signals to slow down and pace yourself. Keep in mind that learning to say “no, not now” takes practice, but is essential to your health and well-being.
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause numbness, pain, tingling or burning sensations in the hands and feet, known as peripheral neuropathy. Tingling, pain, burning or numbness results from nerve damage that has been caused by certain chemotherapy drugs, or radiation therapy, or possibly the tumor itself. Peripheral neuropathy can turn into chronic pain if not treated early on. Nerve damage can also affect balance, coordination, muscle cramping and muscle loss. Early intervention and prevention is key to minimizing and avoiding this side effect before it gets too debilitating.
- Naturopathic Medicine: Our naturopathic doctors offer natural therapies to help treat this condition, including natural health products such as glutamine, alpha lipoic acid, and capsaicin cream. These natural health products must be used under the guidance of a naturopathic doctor to ensure they do not interfere with conventional treatments and are used effectively and safely.
- Physical Therapies: Our acupuncturists and reflexologists treat by increasing blood and energy (qi) flow through affected areas, and work to reduce discomfort in both the short and long term.
- Mind-Body Medicine: Our mind body therapists provide breath and movement techniques to bring circulation and nourishment to areas affected by peripheral neuropathy, promoting a sense of calm and ease.
Anxiety, depression and other psychological stresses are often seen as natural side effects of coping with cancer. The very diagnosis itself can initiate a sense of despair and fear. These emotions and stresses impact our immune system, digestion, sleep, and concentration, as well as our overall ability to function day-to-day. Anxiety related symptoms include restlessness, fast heart rate, palpitations, nausea, poor concentration and panic.
- Naturopathic Medicine: Our naturopathic doctors educate and empower you so that you feel in control of your disease and its outcomes. Understanding and communication can in and of itself, greatly reduce anxiety and stress. Ensuring adequate time in our visits allow for concerns and questions to be voiced. Through interactive engagement and a variety of therapies, a multi-pronged treatment approach that includes the patient’s active role, is created, reducing the high levels of stress and anxiety surrounding a cancer diagnosis.
- Physical Therapies: Our clinicians employ massage, reflexology and acupuncture to decrease anxiety and stress, inducing a sense of calm and relaxation which can aid in health and healing. These therapies can be powerful tools to support the parasympathetic system and reduce perceived and physiological stress.
- Mind-Body Medicine: Our mind body practitioners teach relaxation and movement techniques to reduce the anxiety and stress associated with cancer and cancer treatment. Positive visualization techniques, yoga poses and meditation, promote a re-balancing of the nervous system and an alleviation of anxiety and stress. These helpful techniques shift you towards a greater sense of calm, and can be practiced at home on an ongoing and as needed basis.
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