Our society is conditioned to think in shades of black and white, especially when it comes to medicine. Many people assume that having “natural” or “naturopathic” cancer treatment means that you automatically cannot also have standard cancer care. There is a large assumption by the public and medical profession that natural and conventional treatments are incompatible. The reality is that the research shows us nothing is further from the truth. Some of the most cutting edge and progressive cancer treatment centres are now using natural and integrative treatments right along with conventional therapies. Numerous studies have shown that natural agents actually improve the treatment outcomes and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
An excellent review highlighting the safety of antioxidants with chemotherapy was published in 2008. It showed that not only were antioxidant nutrients safe and did not negatively impact the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments, they actually improved effectiveness and reduced side effects (Block et al. 2008). Another review found that vitamin C, one of the most commonly used natural therapies, has also been shown to be safe with the majority of chemotherapeutic agents and it improves quality of life by preventing damaging to healthy cells, therefore reducing unwanted side effects (Verrax and Calderon 2008). These findings where directly opposite to the commonly held belief that antioxidants counteract the oxidative mechanism of chemotherapy and radiation. Recent findings show that chemo and radiation actually don’t directly kill the cancer cell immediately but rather fatally damage it before it undergoes natural apoptosis (cell death). Antioxidants and natural plant compounds, such as curcumin, actually help promote apoptosis of cancer cells thus having a complementary effect to chemo and radiation.
One of the most common concerns patients have is that they were told by their oncologist to stop all natural supplements when on chemo or radiation. This contributes to uncertainty and confusion about using natural supplements and treatments. As discussed above, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest they are safe, reduce side effects and may even have a synergist effect. However, this does not confirm that all natural substances are safe to take along side conventional treatments. There are exceptions depending on the type of chemotherapy and other factors. There still needs to be more research done to confirm these findings. To be safe, please follow the advice of your primary physician unless you are also under the care of a regulated Naturopathic Doctor. NDs are trained to guide patients to safely choose which natural therapies are safe with each conventional treatment.
So in summary,
1) Despite conventional thought, natural therapies CAN be used in the same period as chemo and radiation. The mechanisms are synergistic is many cases.
2) Natural therapies actually can improve the anti-cancer effect and prevent side-effects.
3) There are certain natural therapies that should not be take on the same day as your chemo or radiation.
Ask your ND at pureBalance Wellness Centre to be sure in your case.
By: Dr Paul Hrkal