Vitamins and Supplements for Cancer Patients
There are around 1.5 million people that are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States only. There are herbs, supplements and extracts that are becoming more and more common along side the integrative medicines. The reasons being that they will help to strengthen the immune system and try to ease the side affects you can get from frequent chemotherapy and radiation.
Below is some information on vitamins and supplements used for cancer patients:
Firstly there are many supplements which may interfere with the treatment of your cancer so never approach any type of supplement before you have discussed the matter with your cancer doctor and the team that are treating you. The hospital that you are under may also have an integrative medicine division so would be a good idea to contact them to gain more knowledge about herbs, supplements for nutrition and information on the different teas available and how you can stay strong in yourself to cope with side effects from your treatment.
Secondly, depending on your own personal situation can make a huge difference on which type of supplement will suit you. Discussing this with your medical team is also a good idea, as well as any research you want to do of your own to see what you can come up with. The majority of the supplements around have not been tested in large clinical trials. So when doing your research it is so important that you make your decisions wisely, you need to be 100% sure on your choice before going ahead with it.
When you find out you have cancer one of the main things you need to try and keep up is your immune system. This can make such a huge difference in the way you feel and how your body will react to the treatment given. The relationship between both the cancer and the immune systems function is a subject not often spoken about. Tim Birdsall, ND, the vice president of integrative medicine at Cancer Treatment Centres of America as well as part of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the National Institutes of Health has claimed that the immune system is a misunderstood part of cancer treatment and is never thoroughly looked in to. Seeing as your immune system is all about destroying and unrecognised cells that enter the body it’s understandable that the cancer cells are brutally attacked by the immune system leaving it feeling drained and low. However when the cancer is only at its early stages he cancerous cells actually mimic that of an ordinary cell leaving the immune system oblivious to the fact that the body is under threat, so when the cancer cells finally show their faces the immune system is taken by surprise by the quantity and depth in which they attack the body.
Boosting your immune system isn’t part of the regular cancer treatment but it plays such a vital part in helping you to fight the cancer. Being that you are at a much higher risk to infection and disease, this also results in the white blood cells being destroyed, which are needed to fight off any abnormalities that enter your body. Tim Birdsall quotes “It is important to do things to boost the immune system and reduce the likelihood of the infection.”
Supplements for cancer include:
Vitamin D – According to recent study’s Vitamin D is one of the most researched supplements for cancer prevention and treatment. It was found in some studies in 2008 that Vitamin D was a deficiency in women diagnosed with breast cancer; however it was also shown that Vitamin D was a cause to spread the cancer and the risk of death. The National Cancer Institute went on to find there was absolutely no connection between cancer spreading and Vitamin D and cancer death. Some studies have shown great connections between Vitamin D helping to protect against prostate cancer, but there will be a constant dispute between this vitamin and whether it hinders or helps towards cancer but it is most definitely one of the most studied supplements.
Garlic – Eating lots of garlic are less likely to develop certain common cancers. This is information that has been found through research led by scientists investigating the possibility of cancer prevention properties being found in garlic eaters. It is known to boost the immune system depending on how the garlic has been processed as well as some of the actual substances within garlic have been used in a lab to fight certain cancer cells including breast and lung cancer.
Although eating garlic itself has been mentioned in studies to decrease the risk of stomach cancers and those alike, the actual supplements of garlic did not have the same effects. You would indeed need to eat both garlic and take the garlic supplements in order to have any effect.
Green Tea – Green tea contains polyphenols which are believed to have powerful anti cancer abilities. When a tumour grows it relies heavily on a network of blood cells that work fast, to keep up with the rapid growth. The polyphenols in green tea almost strangle the blood vessels in the tumour leaving it with a much harder job of spreading. In order for this effect to be had on the body you would need to drink 10 – 12 cups of the tea every day so taking green tea as an extract would be the ideal option. There are some concerns about whether the extract has contributed towards liver toxicity and that the 10 – 12 cups a day would not treat the cancer but to help towards prevention instead.
The survival rates may be helped in some cancer patients by taking the green tea extract but has said previously you would need to keep up the high consumption. The cancers that were found to be affected most through research were bladder, oesophageal, pancreatic, ovarian and cervical with all other types having mixed reviews with subsequent findings.
Mushroom Products – Asian medicine have used extracts from mushrooms for thousands of years and have proven health promoting aspects linked to them. The polysaccharides found in certain mushrooms show results towards the growth and invasions caused by some cancer cells including breast cancer.
Shiitake mushrooms have a substance called Lentinan which when used in labs showed that it can battle against cancer cells growing along with some other mushroom types promoting tumour fighting properties. The data backing these claims however is quite limited. Not many mushroom extracts have been used in human cases, mainly just among lab experiments and research.
Antioxidants – You will recognise these as being found in many different fruits and vegetables as well as some nuts grains and meats. The particles in them called phytochemicals are said to fight certain molecules of oxygen in the body called free radicals that damage DNA and provoke cancer cells.
Vitamins A, C and E, green tea, selenium and melatonin which is a hormone produced in the brain are all types of natural antioxidants so the use of the antioxidants as a prevention for cancer is both a confusing and questionable subject as in fact high doses of vitamin A and E can cause an increase in cancer just like smokers who take high doses of beta carotene will be at a higher risk of getting lung cancer.
Ginger – Feeling ill and vomiting are the two most common side effects encountered from having chemotherapy to treat cancer. They can be very serious side effects as they can cause sudden weight loss resulting in the body becoming weak and causing fatigue, this alone will make your body struggle in the battle against the cancer so having a form of supplement to help you recover from the feelings of nausea are a great help. There are a few different anti-nausea medications on the market and many cancer patients has revealed that ginger has been a major help in reducing signs of vomiting. The evidence shows that chemotherapy patients drinking high protein ginger drinks twice a day didn’t need to take any further anti-nausea medications as the ginger had done the trick alone.
Iron – Cancer causes fatigue. It’s a well-known fact, leaving the body feeling tired and drained with a lack of motivation. Some cancer treatments like radiation therapy can cause damage to bone marrow cells that produce red blood cells leading to anaemia; iron deficiency. Anaemia is caused by your red blood cells not carrying enough oxygen around your body leaving you feeling tired and low. Taking iron supplements can help with the fatigue but taking too much can also cause damage to your liver and heart, so it is important to make sure your GP knows that you are going to take iron tablets for future reference.
L-glutamine – Nerve damage is a common side effect caused by certain drugs included by many used in chemotherapy such as paclitaxel. Paclitaxel has shown in some studies that it can help with pain, numbness and tingling. The L-glutamine is taken orally so only requires minimal effort.