This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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Cancer & Steroids: How to Heal & Detox Your Body

If you know, you know. Steroids are a common cancer medical treatment option. They can be used in conjunction with other chemotherapy medications during and after cancer treatment. Steroids work by decreasing inflammation and the activity of the immune system. From what I understand from my own experience, the three steroids used in cancer treatment are prednisolone, methylprednisolone and dexamethasone.

Overall, steroids can be used to actually kill cancer itself, reduce inflammation, suppress the body's immune response (after a transplant for example) and reduce sickness when having chemotherapy. They can also improve your appetite and make you gain weight....sometimes this is good but not always and not in the long term. I remember during my treatments, I begged the doctors to take away the steroids but since they were part of my treatment protocol, it wasn't possible.

During my cancer treatment, I was on the dexamethasone steroid for 2 years. It was used in conjunction with chemotherapy as part of my treatment to kill cancer, but also to suppress my immune response, which is typical for leukemia and lymphoma. What no one told me was how much steroids would fuck up my body and then how long it would take me to detox them out of my body.

One of the toughest problems with steroids is trying to offset the swelling, 'moon face' and huge salty cravings. Recognizing that you will succumb to all these symptoms is a hard pill to swallow. Try and be gentle with your self-criticism, this isn't your fault.

I recently stumbled upon a fellow cancer thriver looking for advice on how to de-bloat from steroids and reduce the 'moon face' symptoms. During my own cancer experience, I was constantly (multiple times a day) looking for ways to combat steroid side effects. So here we are. Here is my advice on things that ACTUALLY WORKED for detoxing and de-bloating your body after the use of steroids.

Please keep in mind that although these things so help, it took me 2+ years of consistent holistic healing to de-puff my body. This is a commitment to your detoxing your body of poisons so be patient and kind to yourself because it is a process!

Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a technique that uses...well a dry brush to stimulate your lymphatic system and encourage movement in the body. Increased blood flow from dry brushing leads to the release of swelling and it decreases bloating. I recommend dry brushing in downward strokes away from the centre of the face/body. Skin is the largest organ of the body and typically will eliminate 10-15% of our body toxins - so we obviously need to respect it and take care of it! Because dry brushing boosts your blood flow in the lymphatic system, many naturopathic doctors will also recommend it to minimize bloating.
Read more on dry brushing here.

Facial Massages/ Lymphatic Face Roller
Similar to dry brushing, facial messages either with hands or a massage tool/roller can increase lymph drainage and reduce bloating. If you don't have a partner to help with your facial massage then it's very easy to do on yourself. MBG Lifestyle says, "Use light circles and keep your fingers glued to the same patch of skin so you move the skin itself in circles. This works with lymph because it's superficial, sits right under the skin, and responds to a more gentle touch. That will be lymph-activating. Lymph nodes stimulate facial puffiness." Jade rollers are a great facial massaging tool. You can buy them almost anywhere and use them at room temperature or chilled. The movement from these massagers will also help your skin absorb serums and creams, which is all we really want in life am I right?  
Read more on the benefits of facial massagers here.

Lemon & Hot Water
This a simple thing you can add to your morning to help with bloating. I have to warn you that during chemo this may not be as great of an option because lemons are acidic and if you suffer from mouth sores, then this may be more painful than helpful. Make sure you test it out before to see if it's right for you. For your after-cancer life, this is perfectly safe to drink. Lemons are a natural diuretic and when added to hot water, they can help reduce the salt retained in the body and help with bloating.
Read this experiment with lemon & hot water.

I feel like yoga is the cure for everything....or at least it is for me. During my second year of cancer, I was so swollen from steroids but also from potassium supplements (which I stopped taking immediately). Yoga was the only thing to help with my abdominal bloating. Certain poses stimulate your abdominal organs while other more twisting poses massage your abdomen. Both are great for releasing gas and aiding bloating.
You can find some good positions and modifications for body bloating here!

Buy Your Food Before
Steroids make you crazy-hungry. I wanted to eat everything in my sight no matter what it was. It also makes your salt cravings skyrocket so make sure you don't drive by a Mcdonald's. The best thing to help combat this is to do your grocery shopping before you take your meds. It's so so hard to eat healthy and holistic for your entire cancer experience, and I don't think you should. I believe in the 80/20 rule but steroids make it hard to stay focused. By grocery shopping before your treatments, you'll lessen the amount of junk food in your immediate reach. If you can't see it then you may not feel the urge to eat it. If you want something salty, make your own fries. If you can control the amount of salt that goes into your food then you're doing yourself a favour. Miso soup also really helps the salty cravings!

I don't think there is an exact formula to detox your body from steroids, but with time, commitment to reading food labels and adjusting your diet and personal exercise you can and will get better. I hope that some of these suggestions can help you as they helped me during my cancer experience.

Do you have any other tips for detoxing your body from steroids? Drop a comment below!


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