Toxic effects of chemotherapy and how to reduce its toxicity

Tumor diseases have multifactorial origin. Some cells proliferate excessively and uncontrollably and are no longer linked to the organization and hierarchy of the complex organism. For this reason they are often difficult to treat. This difficulty justifies that the treatments currently available, despite the advances and arrival of target treatments and immunotherapy, are usually drugs with a proven effectiveness in «killing» tumor cells but at the same time have a impact on healthy cells.

Chemotherapy is highly toxic, especially affecting the most vulnerable tissues and generating side effects that reduce quality of life. The most affected tissues are those that have a higher turn-over or those that by nature have less regenerative capacity, which are:

  • The bone marrow. It is the tissue where blood cells are generated: white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. These cells are essential for immunity (white blood cells), transporting oxygen to tissues (red blood cells), and blood clotting (platelets); this is why it is very common for patients undergoing chemotherapy to have anemia, low white blood cells or an increased bleeding risk.
  • The digestive system. The digestive epithelium is meant to absorb the nutrients we ingest as well as act as a substrate and support for the gut microbiome. This complex system is essential to maintain the nutritional status of the body, ensure that it has all the resources it needs to function and ensure the absorption of nutrients needed to generate energy. Virtually all chemotherapeutic drugs have a negative effect on the digestive system and gut microbiome, generating annoying symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, burning, reflux…), as well as hindering the absorption of nutrients and energy, severely weakening the patients.
  • The nervous system, both central and peripheral and sense organs. Neurons (cells of the nervous system) are cells that are very sensitive to toxins, in addition to being the cells with the least capacity for regeneration once damaged. Some chemo drugs have a negative impact especially on the peripheral nerves generating symptoms such as numbness, painful sensation and difficulty walking given the insensitivity of the feet. In addition, most chemotherapeutic treatments have an effect on general cognitive ability (affecting the central nervous system) called «chemobrain«, which can lead to concentration and attention disorders, memory problems, vision and hearing problems.
  • The liver. The liver is the quintessential detoxifying organ. Virtually all drugs must go through the liver to be modified in order to be effective or to be transformed to get rid of them. The liver is forced to overwork, which can lead to nonspecific symptoms such as poor appetite, poor energy, poor digestion, accumulation of toxins… and in case of functional failure cause severe life threatening conditions.

Chemotherapy is necessary to treat some tumors, and we know it has toxic effects on tissues and functions, in Khuab Institute we emphasize the importance of helping the body to:

  1. Promote the elimination of toxins.
  2. Reduce the negative impact on tissues.
  3. Improve organic well being.
  4. Ensure tissue regeneration.
  5. Maintain effective and efficient immunity.
  6. Maintain the homeostatic balance of the body.
  7. Reduce the medium and long term impact of toxicity.

We understand that a multidisciplinary and holistic approach is critical to achieve these goals. At Institut Khuab we create customized strategies to accompany our patients during the most toxic treatment phases, minimizing their negative impact and promoting the highest possible quality of life and helping detoxification and regeneration between treatment cycles. In phases of rest or completion of chemotherapy treatments, we prioritize recovery, regeneration and detoxification by promoting health, organic rebalancing, the boosting immunity and the promotion of healthy habits focusing on secondary prevention.

With these goals , the strategy for each patient may be different depending on their specific needs, as well as depending on the type of treatment followed, but includes: the nutritional approach (essential to ensure a healthy digestive system in good condition and the supply and absorption of essential nutrients), intravenous treatments (necessary to ensure direct arrival to cells), oral supplementation (so that cell repair and regeneration processes can be carried out) and medical and care support and follow-up from our expert and highly qualified team, in order to detect early needs or specific symptoms that need to be addressed.

Some basic rules and habits during chemotherapy treatment:

  • Avoid intense physical activity 48 hours after chemotherapy.
  • Encourage rest while the body does not have enough energy after treatments.
  • Do not overeat before or immediately after treatment.
  • Increase fluid intake 24 hours before and after treatment.
  • Eat nutritious foods in small amounts and often before and after treatment.
  • Do not expose yourself to inclement weather condition or physical overexertion.
  • Avoid ingestion or exposure to other toxins: pollution, tobacco, stimulants…
  • Avoid emotional stress in general.
  • Take advantage of the days between treatments, once the body has recovered and has enough energy, to walk in the open air and breathe fresh air in nature.


M. Velat Ràfols, directora médica

by Dra. Manuela Velat Ràfols. Medical Director