Chemotherapy Nausea –
Nausea is one of the more unpleasant aspects of chemotherapy treatment. The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and of course the amount given.
Just as everyone’s medical profile is different so too is everyone’s response to chemo treatment. Some people get major side effects and some have very little. You need to discuss with your care team any possible side effects if you haven’t yet started chemotherapy.
Nausea can seem like a purely physical reaction but what your mind expects to experience has huge implications on the intensity of nausea – or even whether you experience any nausea at all.
The first type of chemotherapy nausea
There are two different types of nausea associated with chemotherapy. Firstly there is what is called anticipatory nausea. Some patients feel nausea in anticipation of the next treatment. They have been so conditioned to associate certain triggers such as the smell of a hospital or the sight of a medical uniform that these triggers alone are enough to make them nauseas!
This is one reason we use hypnosis.
A stage show hypnotist will suggest to the subject that upon a certain trigger (such as the hypnotist using a certain word) the subject will produce a certain response (such as strongly smelling roses). So the subject experiences something that seems real without even being exposed to roses. This is exactly how anticipatory nausea works – it’s actually a naturally occurring hypnotic response. That’s how powerful hypnosis is!
Part of this hypnotic experience will teach you to relax in response to triggers that before may have automatically resulted in nausea. We aim to ‘un-hook’ these associations so they no longer prompt nausea.
The second part of nausea
The second part of the nausea experience is the physical reaction that occurs within twenty four hours of administration of the chemotherapy. This can be very mild, moderate or sometimes severe. Medications such as haloperidol may be given in isolation or in combination with other medications to prevent or treat nausea. However this can still be partly to do with anticipation.
The mind has great control over the body
Anyone can get ill but it’s also true to say that your mind has strong sway over your body.
Your brain controls nausea and vomiting. Nausea is controlled by autonomic nerves, which control involuntary bodily functions such as heart beat and breathing. Different irritants such as smells, tastes, anxieties, pain, motion or chemicals can trigger a vomiting centre in the brain to initiate the vomit reflex.
Hypnosis is a natural way of influencing autonomic functions in the brain. For example hypnotised subjects can often influence healing rates, skin temperature and pain levels. All things which are usually not under conscious control. During the focussed hypnotic trance you can really learn to calm down responses and change instinctive reactions. Yogis do this when they lower blood pressure at will or slow heart beat rate.
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