Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Chemotherapy-Induced Diarrhea (CID)

Posted in For Patients


As we mentioned last week, the reason chemotherapy wreaks such havoc on the digestive tract is that it unintentionally targets many of the fast-dividing cells that line the mouth, stomach and bowels. But as uncomfortable and harmful as chemotherapy-induced diarrhea (CID) and other side effects are, an oncologist’s first responsibility is to treat the cancer.


This is why so many patients who must undergo cancer treatment look beyond traditional medicine for relief. With the help of acupuncture, you can help your body return to its homeostatic norm, absorbing liquid and electrolytes from the bowels and into the systems that need them. To combat dehydration and the weakening of your body further, be sure to also take advantage of alternative approaches that combat the effects of diarrhea and replenish your body’s nutrients. The umbrella name for these holistic strategies is CAM.


Why CAM approaches to side-effect relief are under-prescribed


Complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), a group of therapies and treatments that include acupuncture, are both widely used and widely documented as effective, particularly in the mitigation of cancer-treatment related side effects. But they continue to go under-prescribed.


Why? A recent study intending to educate oncologists on the alternative treatments their patients are using to manage side effects like CID noted large discrepancies between the percentage of patients in studies that took took advantage of CAM treatments, and those that discussed them with their oncologists.


For example, in a collection of studies surveying cancer patients, between 38-95% of participants said they had used CAM treatments to manage the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, but only 16-40% of these participants consulted with, or were directed by their oncologists when seeking CAM treatments. This means that anywhere from 1 in 2, to 1 in 5 cancer patients is attempting to manage their own recovery through a combination of prescribed, conventional medicine, and alternative, recovery-promoting treatments like acupuncture.


Getting the Combination You Need


What we’re seeing now, is these studies that are trying to bring together the popularity, demand and already widespread use of CAM methods with the medical establishment that often turns to side-effect heavy drugs to manage negative side effects like CID.


In the case of CID, CAM methods like acupuncture and the prescription of glutamines and probiotics are particularly integral to an effective course of chemo-radiation because CID is considered a dose-limiting side effect. In other words, if you are suffering from CID, an oncologist may be obliged to halt treatment until it subsides, potentially undermining your cancer treatment’s effectiveness. As a result, Western medicine has a vested interest in integrating CAM methods into a more holistic treatment plan.


Take Charge of Your Side-Effect Management


These studies suggest that conventional Western medicine is turning to alternative methods for a more integrated approach to cancer treatment, but if you are suffering from negative side-effects like CID, don’t wait for your doctor to suggest complementary and alternative measures. Get in touch for a consultation and find out how we can help you bring your body’s systems back into balance.


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