Most cancer patients experience chemotherapy headaches, although in most cases chemo itself is not the reason for the pain. Let’s have a close look at the reason for these headaches, and what all can be done to address them.
If you’re down with headaches after or during chemotherapy, you must keep in mind that at this stage your body is undergoing so many unwelcome changes. There are so many things that can lead to intense head pain-the chemotherapy process itself, many painkillers that you need to take along the chemo, and the dangerous cancer itself, changes in eating habits, schedule, and so many other changes that happen in your body that are indirectly or directly linked to your treatment.
All these can induce chemotherapy headaches in patients. I’m discussing some important tips:
It’s important to discuss your headaches, related symptoms, and especially all changes that occur in your headache symptoms with your doctor. Never assume that you’re experiencing just another headache symptom you’ve to “live with”. Even when headaches seem temporary (they will disappear once your treatment is over), there are many tips that can help alleviate the pain. This will definitely help make your treatment more effective. But few headaches can be symptoms of many other ongoing and serious issues that need more attention.
Timing and intensity
It’s important to heed to the timing and intensity of your pain. You should check if there are any related symptoms. It’s cumbersome to keep track when you’re already sick and tired, but if you feel you know something that can help doctor diagnose your pain, go ahead and discuss this with your doctor. For example, do you feel you stay awake at night due to your headaches? Do they get worse in the evening? Is your nausea worse when you experience headache? Any clues that will help you find the best treatment.
Your headache history
It’s important for you to tell your headache history to your doctor. Have you experienced increase in the frequency of migraine attacks in the past few years? Or do you get mild tension headaches intermittently?
Drinking lots of water (at least 10 glasses in a day) can reduce your headaches. This is the cheapest and easiest headache remedy. However, if you don’t fancy water but can consume other liquids, discuss this with your doctor. Doctor is the best person to determine if you can choose something else to drink. Another interesting option is to drink one thing first, and then something else, instead of sticking to just one thing all the time.
Sometimes medications can also trigger headaches when a person is undergoing chemo treatment. This may be chemo drugs or some nausea medications (such as Zofran (ondansetron). In some cases it’s possible for your doctor to adjust the amount of chemo drugs, or you may be prescribed a different medication for nausea. Some painkillers may induce headaches. if you feel your dose is not right for you, your painkiller may start “rebound headaches”-as your body may demand more and more of the drug. Changing the medication, adjusting the dose, or even alternating your meds, may help.
Consume these foods
Salmon has lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation, regulate brain health and protect nervous system.
Other natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and marine phytoplankton.
Capsaicin present in cayenne pepper improves circulation while relieving your tension headaches. This also releases enough endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. Furthermore, if one is experiencing blocked sinuses, chili peppers can drain the blockage and reduce or eliminate the headache.
Past research shows ginger possesses amazing properties to stop migraine headaches. If you consume it in right proportion, it can easily relieve the pain due to fibromyalgia. This is mainly due to ginger’s highly potent anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
The reason why ginger holds a special place when it comes to headaches is that its peculiar spiciness burns straight to the brain. This is akin to turning the light beam to the brain. Meaning if you consume the accurate amount of raw ginger, it actually opens up the brain, drains excess mucus, and will give you all the energy you need at the same time. This is surely the important ingredient for the anti-headache recipe or smoothie!
Though small in size, sesame seeds are quite high in nutrients, especially calcium, vitamin E, and magnesium. They also boost circulation. Calcium-dense foods will also help brain function properly. So whenever you feel that pounding headache coming on, drinking a glass of whole sesame seed mill can work wonders.
These include melons, cucumber, zucchini, celery, juicy fruits, tomato, berries, and more. With hydrating foods it’s possible to restore electrolyte balance easily and it also makes it possible for your body to distribute much needed nutrition with ease.
If you drink sufficient water daily and still feel a headache, then it might be due to the lower retention of fluid you’re taking in. to ease the situation, add a pinch of mineral-rich salt to your glass of water to hydrate yourself in a more effective way.
Dark Leafy Greens
These include kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and collards. These greens are very high in iron which will help bind oxygen to quickly deliver it where needed. They are also rich in antioxidants that will start healing damaged tissue. Try taking spinach salad because it will also help reduce blood pressure and improve relaxation thus relieving the headache.
The best herbs that can ease headaches are basil, mint, sage, oregano, and rosemary. If you want to try aromatherapy, breathe in dried eucalyptus (or their essential oils) and lavender leaves as they have proven their efficacy in treating headaches.
You can also try St. John’s Wort oil as it is very helpful. Make a mixed herb presto while basking in rich therapeutic aromas might be the best, delicious and simple solution.
The slow processed whole grains will help your body stay energized longer. If you’re on a gluten free diet, you will still be able to derive the benefits from the seeds such as buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, and gluten-free oats. Keep in mind that these options can simultaneously reduce your inflammation levels and are great for overall brain health.
What’s the reason for chocolate on this list? Well, in its raw, unroasted state, it has astonishingly high amounts of nutrients. This also includes famous headache-relieving magnesium. Chocolate also has high amounts of zinc, phytonutrients, protein, phosphorus, fiber, and more. Raw chocolate also contains opiates that can replace your pain with a highly pleasant feeling.
In reality, chocolate will definitely make you happy. Just be sure to hydrate when you’re indulging in some brain-healthy raw chocolate (and that calorie-dense sugary chocolate bar available at the vending machine doesn’t count!)
It’s very common for people to take extra medication during chemo, but it’s important to maintain some balance. Doctors normally try to avoid NSAIDs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen), but you may want to try acetaminophen/ paracetamol, or a prescription medication.
It’s important to maintain a regular schedule as much as you can. If you experience migraine attacks, it would be difficult for you to manage changes in schedule and meals, and there’s not much you can do about it. You can definitely get better results by eating/sleeping/waking up/taking a short walk at a regular time. This approach can lessen your headache pain.
As with medicines, complimentary treatments may vary depending upon the patient. A ice pack or cold compress in a towel can help some people, but this approach may nor may not help you. But it’s worth a try. Two options that can help include the ThermaZone Continuous Thermal Therapy Device and ICEKAP. Massage will also help in some cases. A foot massage, or a warm foot bath, may also help in alleviating headache symptoms.
Get enough sleep during chemotherapy
It’s important you get plenty of sleep. Fear, worry, anticipation can easily interfere with sleep, and will make it difficult to stay or fall asleep. There are many non-toxic homeopathic and non-toxic herbal sleep aids, as well as many nutritional supplements, that will easily help relieve insomnia.
Homeopathic sleep aids
You can choose among many OTC formulas that promote restful night sleep if used as directed. Some of these are:
- “Calm Formula” by Boericke
• “Calms Forte” by Hyland Homeopathics
• “Insomnia Formula” by Hyland Homeopathics
Non-toxic, herbal sleep aids
Passionflower (Biological name-Passiflora incarnata)- standardized extract 2.6% flavinoids (350–450mg)
Valerian (Biological name-Valeriana officinalis)- standardized extract 0.8% valerenic acid (140–320mg)
Kava (Biological name-Piper methysticum)- 50mg standardized extract can reduce anxiety if that’s inhibiting your ability to fall asleep
Skullcap (Biological name-Scutellaria laterifolia)- Take one tsp dried herb in one cup of hot water. Drink this in the evening to calm your nervous system
Nutrient supplements also aid sleep
Flax seed oil-You need to take just one tablespoon daily. It’s essential fatty acids can tonify (support and strengthten) your nervous system.
Magnesium citrate-A dose of around 250mg
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)-You just need to take 100 to 300mg with some fruit juice (without added sugar) or some carbohydrate (for example soy milk, crackers). This important amino acid precursor to serotonin improves production of serotonin in your brain and will improve sleep quality and duration.
It’s important to maintain your gastrointestinal health during chemotherapy
Try to clear up any parasite infection or intestinal candida. Sometimes chronic gastrointestinal issues can have severe impact on your overall health and may affect recovery from chemotherapy.
Get in touch with a holistic medical doctor or a naturopathic physician to address all chronic gastrointestinal issues. I would recommend the following nutritional supplements as they can help build and protect gastrointestinal tissues and help restore the body’s nutrients stores and will help your body rebound from the toxic chemotherapies:
This amino acid is the preferred fuel vital for addressing all your upper gastrointestinal tissues. It will also prevent stomatitis (stomach inflammation) and also significantly reduces nausea associated with chemotherapy; 500mg, three times a day.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
This particular herb protects liver from various toxins generated due to chemotherapy, improving lack of appetite, nausea, flu-like achiness, and fatigue; 230-250 mg standardized extract, three times a day.
If you take an ACES (vitamin A, Vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium) antioxidant supplement just before and during your therapy, you can reduce the toxicity lf chemotherapy and boost its overall effectiveness; (Vitamin A: 24,000 IU daily; Vitamin C: 900-1000 mg 3x a day with your meals; Vitamin E: 400 IU 2–3x a day; selenium: 250 mcg daily).
Most of the vitamin K forms are derived from bacteria present in the intestines. The intestinal bacteria balance gets severely disrupted during chemotherapy treatment, and vitamin K deficiencies may create many problems with bruising and blood clotting;400-1000mcg, daily.
Whole food diet
Improve your nutrient foundation base. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat proteins (fish, poultry, white meat, soy, etc), and whole grains.
Gradually build up protein
Take a smoothie daily with frozen or fresh fruits (strawberries, blueberries, etc.), flax meal, and protein powder because it is a great source of protein and fiber and many fruit-derived bioflavinoids;20-25 gm protein powder per serving.
Increase your Fiber Intake
Flax seeds offer so many benefits that can rejuvenate and support your digestive system before, during, and even after your chemotherapy treatment is over. Being mucilaginous fiber, the fiber turns into a soothing protective gel in the digestive tract, and due to its high Omega 3 oil content, it will help in reducing inflammation along the way. It’s also a nice phytoestrogenic herb with mildly adaptagenic effect (it inhibits whenever there is any hormone excess, and will stimulate whenever there is some deficiency) exactly at your hormone receptors. This may not have any negative impact on your body or overall health if you don’t require any hormonal support but will work exactly like any soy protect if estrogen production (too little or too much) is a medical issue for you.
This is a must, but should be done under the supervision of a doctor. It will help boost vitality and energy, and improve body circulation resulting in better waste product removal.
Drink lots of fresh, pure water: 2–4 liters every day.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming juggling so many symptoms and treatments at the same time. But if you can somehow lessen your chemotherapy headache, it will definitely impact your overall treatment. If you’ve already experienced chemotherapy headache and have found something exciting has helped, do not hesitate to leave a comment!
Other Useful and Easy to Implement Tips for Relieving your Headaches
Cancer therapy may sometimes cause intense headaches, but enjoying relaxing music and a warm bath can be very helpful. Be optimistic at emotional level by relieving unnecessary stress.
Also, enjoying prescribed foods discussed in this article will definitely correct all nutritional imbalances caused by this treatment.
I’m providing a easy recipe that is based on these headache-busting principles for creating a refreshing drink that will definitely help combat headaches.
Tasty Honeydew Basil Punch
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Author: Sanjay Sharma
Yield: 3 servings
Serving Size: 15 ounces
Honeydew Basil Punch
The ingredients in this recipe will help alleviate headaches due to cancer treatments. You can also enjoy this drink as a healthy, refreshing beverage.
2 cups of watermelon or honeydew, including seeds
1.5 inch piece of fresh organic ginger
1 ½ handful of fresh mint or basil leaves
1 teaspoon of raw honey (it’s purely optional)
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup fresh coconut milk
2 cups of filtered or spring water
Cut melon or honeydew open and remove all its seeds and skin. Cut the fruit into large pieces.
Put these pieces in a blender along with all remaining ingredients.
Blend them until you get a uniform smoothie.
Pour smoothie into glasses and garnish it with a sprig of mint or basil. Enjoy!