Coming Back from Cancer Treatment: Boost Your Body’s Immunity

Boost your immunity after chemotherapy
Boost your immunity after chemotherapy

Call it chemotherapy’s double-edged sword: the same powerful drugs that kill malignant cancer cells also wreak havoc on the rest of your body’s systems. The side effects go beyond hair loss, nausea and fatigue – you may be at risk for a compromised immune system.

In fact, according to Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 14th edition, “Autopsy studies show that most deaths from acute leukemia and half of deaths from lymphoma are caused directly by infection. With more intensive chemotherapy, patients with solid tumors have become more likely to die of infection rather than underlying disease.”

If you are undergoing or have recently completed a course of chemotherapy and radiation, you can take two important steps to boost your immune system and aid recovery.

  • Diet. A well-balanced diet rich in iron is a natural way to enrich your immune system. Maximize iron absorption  by drinking orange or grapefruit juice and adding sliced tomatoes or salsa to your entrée, and avoiding coffee, tea and milk with your meals. Herbs that boost immunity include astragalus, andrographis and ginseng. And a recent study pointed to fish oil as possibly beneficial to people with compromised immune systems.
  • Exercise. Getting your strength back after cancer treatment is a long process, but exercise can help you feel like your old self again. Harvard Medical School notes that “even though a direct beneficial link hasn’t been established, it’s reasonable to      consider moderate regular exercise to be a beneficial arrow in the quiver of healthy living, a potentially important means for keeping your immune   system healthy along with the rest of your body.”