During my chemotherapy months I definitely experienced what I called “chemo fog”.
Chemo brain or to give it it’s proper names ” Mild Cognitive Impairment – MCI ” or “Chemotherapy-induced Cognitive Dysfunction” is a real issue for some people. I didn’t suffer too badly and apart from funny stories of misplacing my husband’s shoes and finding them a couple of days later in the freezer (true story!) I was able to work around the odd foggy day.
However, for some it is quite debilitating. This frustrating phenomenon can have a significant impact on daily life at an already challenging time. Chemo brain refers to changes in memory, concentration and the ability to think clearly and process. Accompanying extreme tiredness, patients complain of a lack of alertness and energy levels, trouble with multi-tasking and decision making, retrieving words and names and general processing speed.
Brain imaging studies clearly indicate that anti-cancer drug therapies cause both acute and chronic changes in brain structure. Cell studies suggest that the symptoms are likely due to drug-induced neurotoxicity. Our wondrous bodies are constantly monitoring levels and triggering automatic responses to changes in temperatures, chemicals, concentration levels etc., etc. One such defence mechanism is the release of tiny proteins called cytokines that attack any ‘nasties’ in our body. Think of them as little cell signalling molecules that aid cell to cell communication within the immune system. They stimulate movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma. Chemotherapy drugs have been shown to significantly increase the production of these cytokines which can cause detrimental effects across the entire body.
If it seems that I’m attributing all the blame to chemotherapy drugs, I apologise. The blame lays almost completely with one thing… chronic INFLAMMATION!
Cancer itself will cause inflammation and this may result as inflammation in the brain also.
Anxiety will undoubtedly cause inflammation.
Depression causes inflammation.
Smoking causes inflammation.
Lack of exercise can cause inflammation.
A poor diet, high in sugars and processed foods will most definitely cause inflammation – as will a diet rich in meat, alcohol and dairy.
However not all inflammation is bad. Your body’s inflammatory response is essential and natural for you to heal. This response tells your body to send white blood cells and chemicals to help fight off infection or repair an injury. Prolonged inflammation on the other hand can damage your body’s healthy cells and weaken your immune system and as we have just learned…cause chemo fog/brain!!
So can we lessen the effects of chemo fog/ chemo brain?
By reducing the inflammation.
Here are my top anti-inflammatory foods…
*ADD MORE PLANT FOODS TO YOUR PLATE*
- Green leafy veg
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Salmon (wild is best)
- Bone broth