Chemotherapy can be lifesaving for cancer patients, but because it is very strong medication, it is rife with troubling-sometimes debilitating-side effects. Among the most common are nausea, mouth sores, diarrhea or constipation, and neuropathy (nerve pain). Pain medications, anti-nausea drugs and stool softeners are among the treatments that conventional doctors prescribe most often to manage these side effects. However, there are other options. In my patients undergoing chemotherapy, I've used several natural medicines that have proven to be highly effective while also being safe and relatively free of side effects.

It's crucial to remember that natural therapies should never be used during chemotherapy without the consent of an oncologist (medical doctor who specializes in cancer treatment). In a new study, researchers found in a laboratory trial that vitamin C rendered chemotherapy less effective—perhaps due to the vitamin's antioxidant properties, which can counteract the drug's ability to kill cancer cells. This subject is hotly debated among cancer researchers, and more studies are needed for us to understand the action of vitamin C in cancer treatment.

Meanwhile, if you are suffering from chemotherapy side effects, ask your oncologist about the following natural therapies (supplements and homeopathic preparations are available at health food stores), which have been well studied and have been shown to be effective…

Acidophilus and bifidus are probiotics "friendly" bacteria in the intestinal tract. Chemo typically reduces these bacteria, making patients more susceptible to gastrointestinal problems such as yeast infections (candidiasis).

My advice: Begin a regimen of acidophilus and bifidus supplements five days before the first chemo treatment and continue for at least one month after chemotherapy ends. A typical dose is four billion units of acidophilus and two billion units of bifidobacteria twice daily, taken with food.

Acupuncture has been shown in studies to reduce the nausea so often caused by chemotherapy. Some cancer centers now have acupuncturists on staff.

My advice: If you suffer from chemo-induced nausea, ask your oncologist to refer you to a licensed acupuncturist.

Glutamine is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps to repair and regenerate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It has been shown to reduce mouth sores and gastrointestinal irritation caused by chemotherapy.

My advice: For one minute, swish a mixture of 4 g of glutamine powder, dissolved in room-temperature water, in the mouth, then swallow it. Do this twice daily while undergoing chemotherapy. People with kidney or liver disease should not use glutamine.

Traumeel is a homeopathic therapy that helps ease chemo-induced neuropathy

My advice: Take two drops of the liquid form in one ounce of water three times daily or one tablet under the tongue three times daily during chemotherapy. Traumeel is manufactured by Heel (800-621-7644, www

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