There may be a way to protect your brain from the effects of chemo

If you’re currently taking chemo — or have ever received chemo — you know what a terrible toll it can take on your brain.

It can leave you with bouts of mental fog and forgetfulness, and they can last long after the chemo is done.

It’s a condition called “chemobrain,” and for years the mainstream has refused to take it seriously. They even accused poor cancer patients of making the symptoms up. 

Now, a study out of the University of Illinois confirms (again) that chemobrain is real — and dangerous.

And if you or someone you love is getting chemotherapy, it’s never been more important to take some simple steps to keep your brain safe.

Taming the toxic flood

You won’t hear many in the mainstream admit it. But the fact is, we’ve known about chemobrain (and just how serious it can become) for years.

Using PET scans about a decade ago, researchers got their first idea of what chemo could do when it crosses the blood-brain barrier.

That study revealed how chemo toxins not only reduce blood flow to the brain, but also alter brain metabolism.

Since then, other studies have shown that in some patients, damages such as reduced verbal memory, delayed processing speed, and attention deficit can be measured for decades.

Not years — decades.

And that’s exactly what this new research confirms.

Patients with all types of cancer have reported brain fog problems after chemo treatments. But chemobrain seems to occur more often with breast cancer patients, so researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focused their study on female mice that were bred to mimic post-menopausal women.

Mice given breast cancer chemo were slower in figuring out tasks compared to chemo-free mice. But the most important results showed up in a big way when their brains were examined.

In the chemo mice, surviving neurons in the hippocampus (the part of the brain where memory is created) were reduced by more than 25 percent.

And in the three months (the equivalent of around 10 human years) after chemo was stopped, significantly fewer hippocampal neurons were generated in the chemo group.

It was as if chemo was shutting down an entire section of the brain.

Fortunately, there may be some easy things you can do to protect yourself.

Four years ago I told you about a study where rats given chemo plus N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) scored higher on memory tests than rats that got chemo alone. NAC is an amino acid that stimulates production of the super-antioxidant glutathione.

Also, prior research has found that taking antioxidant therapy along with chemo can minimize the side effects and possibly lower your risk of chemobrain.

The knee jerk response, however, from most mainstream doctors will be to tell you that antioxidants will interfere with chemo treatments and make them less effective. But that’s been found to be not true more times than I can count.

In fact, numerous studies have discovered that patients who took supplemental antioxidants had fewer side effects and increased survival rates.

While it’s not (yet) been proven that NAC and other antioxidants help reduce or prevent chemobrain, if you’re getting chemo or you’re about to begin a chemo regimen, you should definitely talk to your doctor about these interventions.

And if he doesn’t want to talk about it, maybe it’s time for a second opinion.

“Study confirms long-term effects of ‘chemobrain’ in mice” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, August 18, 2016,