Your immune system may not bounce back immediately after your treatment cycle ends. Chemotherapy eradicates cancer cells in your body, but it also causes a drop in white blood cells, the backbone of your immune system. Rebuilding your immune system after chemotherapy is an important part of keeping your body as healthy as possible moving forward.
Your immune system may be weaker than usual for more than just a few weeks or months after treatment. Chemotherapy may lead to immune system complications in cancer patients, resulting in poor responses to infections or prolonged recovery times after injury or stress, noted Research Features. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to rebuild your immune system after chemotherapy. Here are a few ideas to get you started so you can feel your best after treatment.
As you begin to rebuild your immune system, take steps to protect yourself from germs. Practice good hand hygiene, washing your hands often throughout the day. Use warm water and soap (only use waterless gels in a pinch) and wash for at least 20 seconds. Hand-washing is the best way to prevent illness; your visitors and family members should be especially diligent with their hand-washing habits as well.
You can also protect yourself by limiting exposure to people who are ill. Politely remind visitors to postpone their time with you if they have a cold or illness, and anyone with an active fever should steer clear.
Get Plenty of Rest
Your body can begin the process of rebuilding its immune system if it has the time to simply rest and recuperate. While it can sometimes seem impossible with family and work obligations, make it a priority to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Listen to your body and sneak in a quick nap after work if you are feeling especially fatigued, or skip your run and try restorative yoga instead. Rest is king when your body is working hard to recover.
Move Your Body
If sleep seems elusive, or if you are looking for a way to feel more at home in your body again, get moving with a flexible exercise routine. Be gentle with yourself and your expectations by starting with regular daily walks around your neighborhood or down your favorite trail. Exercise can help decrease feelings of depression or anxiety, help with sleep, and even jump-start your immune system. Yoga is another great choice, as twisting poses throughout a restorative or gentle class can aid digestion, clear sinuses and boost your immune defenses.
Ditch the Stress
You have been through a stressful time and that extra emotional weight can further compromise your immune system. Manage your stress by continuing to work with a counselor or therapist, talking to supportive friends or family members, and attending cancer support groups. Keep communication open and honest with your oncologist, asking for medication help when you need it. Finally, decrease your stress by practicing mindfulness or meditation. Meditation apps can be a great option for beginners and are designed to help you practice this new skill.
Eat (and Drink) Well
The saying “you are what you eat” is especially true when working to build a healthy immune system. Focus on eating real foods like fruits and vegetables, passing on processed foods for now. Increase your fiber and whole grains, and drink plenty of water. Skip sugary drinks or alcohol for now, or only drink them in moderation until you are feeling your best.
Rebuilding your immune system after chemotherapy relies on healthy habits like rest, exercise and eating well. Listen to your body, talk with your doctor regularly, and feel empowered that you are giving your body what it needs to serve you.
Talk to your doctor for more ideas on how to rebuild your immune system after cancer treatment.Learn More