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The following is an excerpt from the book Definitive Guide to Cancer
by Lise Alschuler, ND and Karolyn A. Gazella
Published by Celestial Arts; June 2007;$39.95US; 978-1-58761-280-0
Copyright © 2007 DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CANCER: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH FOR TREATMENT AND HEALING by Lisa Alschuler and Karolyn A. Gazella, published by Celestial Arts;

Dietary Supplements

The world of dietary supplements can be overwhelming. The vast variety of products available and conflicting information make the supplement seas hard to navigate. To help you chart your course, we've done a lot of research and have compiled our findings in the "Integrative Cancer Care Supplement Guide". Because different types of cancer require different supplement programs, we'll provide details about specific supplements in each of the cancer overviews. There is no question that some herbs and nutrients can stimulate strong and directed immune activity, influence hormones, help balance blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation. Supplements can also be used to support optimal digestion, detoxification, and elimination. Some specific herbs and nutrients even have direct anticancer effects. And finally, for those undergoing conventional cancer treatments, certain supplements can help offset side effects.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when using dietary supplements:

  • Herbs and nutrients can interact with other drugs, so be sure to consult with a qualified integrative health-care practitioner such as a naturopathic physician or pharmacist about potential interactions and contra indications.
  • Always tell your physicians which herbs and nutrients you are taking; even if they aren't familiar with your supplements, they need to know that you're taking additional substances.
  • The quality of supplements is variable; consult with a knowledgeable integrative health-care provider such as a naturopathic physician or pharmacist about how to obtain high-quality supplements. Also look for independent, third-party validation of quality.
  • Be careful of cancer cure claims associated with some dietary supplements.
  • The science of herbs and nutrients to prevent and treat cancer is evolving quickly, so be sure to consult someone you trust to develop the safest and most effective supplement program-preferably a naturopathic physician, an integrative health-care doctor or nurse practitioner, or someone on the staff of a clinic or a hospital that consistently uses nutrients and herbs in treatment plans. Consult with this person regularly, especially whenever your conventional treatment plan changes, so that you can benefit from the most up-to-date information and receive the best support.

Oftentimes, people with cancer hope to find a supplement program that's both simple and effective -- just one or two supplements they can add to their treatment plan not only as additional dietary "insurance" but also as complementary therapy. However, because there are so very many different supplements available and, unfortunately, so many different forms of cancer, it's nearly impossible to provide simple recommendations that apply to all forms of cancer. Nontheless, there are some shining stars that have been scientifically shown to have anticancer potential and that are also generally considered safe.

It can be difficult to get enough nutrients from food due to a variety of reasons, including poor quality of the food as a result of soil depletion, food processing and packaging, or food preparation. Even those with relatively healthy diets may be deficient in certain nutrients. This issue is compounded for some people with cancer. As mentioned, cancer commandeers nutrients, leaving healthy tissues depleted. Plus, many cancer patients experience loss of appetite or have digestive or absorption issues, especially when undergoing conventional treatments. Therefore, a comprehensive multivitamin-multimineral supplement is usually a good idea. In addition, we recommend the following key nutrients:
  • Essential fatty acids reduce inflammation, support apoptosis in cancer cells, help balance hormones, and support antitumor immune activity. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil -- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- are especially beneficial.
  • Green tea interferes with carcinogenesis in multiple places, supports apoptosis in a wide variety of cancer types, exerts antiangiogenic actions, supports detoxification, and has demonstrated anticancer activity in most cancers studied.
  • Melatonin in high doses (at least 20 mg) supports apoptosis of cancer cells, reduces the signals for tumor growth, and improves quality of life during active conventional treatment.
Complementing Conventional Treatment

The majority of cancer patients use conventional medicine (surgery, drugs, radiation, or a combination of these) to treat their cancer at some point during their illness. It is vital for these people to realize that conventional medicine and healthy diet, positive lifestyle choices, and dietary supplements are not mutually exclusive (although some care must be taken to ensure that specific supplements aren't contraindicated). In fact, attention to these cornerstones of an integrative approach is absolutely critical before, during, and after conventional treatment.
  • It is safe to incorporate the previous diet and lifestyle guidelines with conventional treatments.
  • Some nutrients and herbs should not be used before surgery, and some should not be used concurrently with some chemotherapy agents or radiation treatments. For safety reasons, it is always best to keep all of your doctors and health-care providers informed about what supplements you're using . 
  • Scientific studies have demonstrated that certain herbs, nutrients, and complementary therapies can help offset side effects of chemotherapy. For instance, L-glutamine can prevent or reduce nerve damage from docetaxel and paclitaxel. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can help protect the heart from damage from doxorubicin. Ginger can reduce nausea after surgery. Acupuncture can be helpful for nausea or pain relief. Mind-body techniques such as mediation, yoga, and guided imagery have also been shown to be effective in helping people cope with cancer, its treatments, and treatment side effects.
Comprehensive Treatment

Conventional medicine has made incredible advances in the fight against cancer. However, true and deep healing is only possible with a multifaceted and integrative approach that revolves around the individual needs of the patient. We must find a way to address the whole as we consider the sum of our parts. According to Paul Reilly, ND, L.Ac., of the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center, if we change the internal environment that allowed the cancer to grow, we can change the outcome. We need to tackle cancer using integrative and appropriate body-mind-spirit techniques. An integrative treatment plan requires initiative, cooperation, and commitment from all parties involved and should always be focused on your wellness.

DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO CANCER: AN INTEGRATED APPROACH FOR TREATMENT AND HEALING by Lisa Alschuler and Karolyn A. Gazella, published by Celestial Arts;