You’re in remission or just finished chemotherapy and you realise that you can’t remember simple mundane things.
You leave your car keys in the car when you go shopping
You forget to turn off the gas
You can’t remember what you were saying
You can’t remember your own telephone number
You feel overwhelmed when you are in a crowd where everyone is talking at the same time
You slowly start to wonder if you are not losing your mind, Alzheimer? Dementia?
No, just what is commonly called as ‘Chemo Brain’
What exactly is Chemo Brain and how to overcome this ?
Your blood cells have been killed off and the system has been reset. Like a child you have to learn many things all over again and this can take time, even years.
Not to mention that your red blood cells will be low inducing chronic fatigue. When you are tired you cannot think normally.
Chemo brain is not the correct term. You are cognitively impaired after your treatment.
Is this reversible?
While it’s important to accept that you will never be the same, it’s also good to note that there a many things that you can do to help your brain.
1. Write things down to remind yourself what you have to do.
Only write the important things. You need to allow your brain the space to work by allowing it to remember the small things. This will act as a victory for you when you do.
2. Change your way of eating
The very fact that your body is manifesting cancer means that it is telling you there is a problem in your system. Something in your system needs to change for this problem to disappear and never come back.
Food is an input output system; what you put it, is what it puts out.
Write down what you eat on a normal day and do this for a week to determine your eating pattern.
Notice whether you have enough nutrients in your body:
Protein will strengthen your bones. Proteins are responsible for functions like growth and repair, for hormonal and enzymatic activities, they make up our antibodies, and form our muscles. There was a reason they were given their name from “proteios” – the foremost.
After we eat, proteins are broken down by digestion into amino acids. Amino acids are then absorbed and used to make other proteins in the body. Adequate protein and energy intake, on a daily basis, ensures the cycle continues.
Amount of protein (g per 100 g of food)
White rice, cooked
Rump steak, grilled
Carbohydrates will allow you body to keep hydrated and it will release the good sugars.
They are called carbohydrates because, at the chemical level, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They can be found in fruit which is good sugar absorbed by the body quickly but also in starch which is slow sugar absorbed by the body. If it is whole grain starch, it will have the same affect as Fiber.
The human body uses carbohydrates in the form of glucose. Glucose can be converted to glycogen, a polysaccharide similar to starch, which is stored in the liver and the muscles and is a readily available source of energy for the body. The brain and the red blood cells need glucose as an energy source, since they cannot use fat, protein, or other forms of energy for this purpose.
THE GLYCAEMIC INDEX OF SOME COMMON FOODS
(using glucose as standard)
Foods with a very low GI (≤ 40)
Foods with a low GI (41 – 55)
Noodles and pasta
Raw oranges/orange juice
Specialty grain bread
Foods with an intermediate GI (56 – 70)
Sucrose (table sugar)
Foods with a high GI (> 70)
Bread (white or wholemeal)
Fiber will allow your body to digest food, thus ridding it of stool.
Fruits and vegetables, also provide fibers, which are important for digestive health. It is recommended that we consume at least 25 g of fiber a day, from beans and pulses, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Dietary fiber is important for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. Fiber also helps you feel fuller for longer, can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels and can assist in preventing some diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Insoluble fiber absorbs water to help to soften the contents of our bowels and support regular bowel movements. It also helps to keep us full and keep the bowel environment healthy. Insoluble fiber is found in wholegrain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and the skin of fruit and vegetables.
Soluble fiber helps to slow the emptying process in our stomachs, which helps you feel fuller. It also helps to lower cholesterol and stabilise your blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes.
Sources of fiber
Carrot (skin on)
1 cup 6
1 medium cob
Broccoli (skin on)
Sweet potato (skin on)
30g (25 almonds)
30g (5 dried apricots)
Popcorn (air popped)
Eat these 3 nutrients 3 times a day, at every meal.
Divide your plate into 3 parts keeping the largest part vegetable based.
3. Do exercise every day
It needn’t be strenuous, it can be as simple as walking fast or swimming. This will stimulate your neurone stem cells.
The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.
Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.
4. Get enough sleep
Sleep deprivation can affect everything from cognition to attention to decision-making.
The space between brain cells expands significantly during sleep, which facilitates the clearing of the "gunk” through cerebrospinal fluid.
The lymphatic system of the brain opens up at night, and removes toxins while we are asleep.