|Cancer & Supplements|
Nutritional Supplementation For Cancer
Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP
Unfortunately, there is no magic supplement regime you can embark on to either prevent or treat cancer. However, there is sufficient evidence that certain nutrients, phytochemicals, fatty acids, hormones, and enzymes can play a major role.
Finding the right combination of nutrients for an individual is a highly personal matter that should employ the advice of a health professional experienced in cancer treatment.
It is important to realize that cancer is a multifaceted illness with a number of potential, but no one certain, causes.
The watchword with cancer (as with all chronic diseases) is prevention.
Key preventive measures should include the following:
1. Avoiding exposure to known and potential carcinogens, e.g., radiation (including excessive exposure to sunlight), synthetic hormones, chemical dyes and additives, aromatic hydrocarbons, tobacco smoke, etc.;
2. Avoiding dietary factors that weaken the immune system, promote cellular mutation, and/or increase free radical production, e.g., excessive sugar intake, refined foods, food additives, moldy foods, foods cured with nitrites, margarine, vegetable shortening, refined vegetable oils, foods with high pesticide residues, etc;
3. Avoiding psychological factors that could increase stress; Also key in prevention is including in one's life things which serve to protect the body from the above three items -- it is impossible to live a totally "sheltered" life so to speak. Supplements are the easiest of these things to add into one's life as cancer preventives. Some supplements also hold potential as cancer treatments, either directly or as adjuncts to other therapies.
If one is faced with cancer right now and undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatment, some supplements can be employed to offset the damaging side effects often experienced.
The best supplements for cancer prevention and treatment can be grouped into a few broad categories, those being
- fatty acids
Let's take a closer look at these powerful helpers, noting their potential and proven benefits, possible dangers, and their food sources.
Antioxidants are a large category of nutritional and chemical substances that neutralize substances called free radicals.
Free radicals are the products of oxidative reactions in and out of the body.
They are, essentially, unstable molecules that will do anything to get stable. Because of this, free radicals are highly reactive compounds that will literally "steal" an electron from another molecule to stabilize themselves.
In that process, however, a new free radical is created, namely, the molecule that was "stolen" from. Upon its creation, that new free radical then perpetrates the same "theft" on another nearby molecule, and the cycle begins anew.
Its important to realize that oxidation is a normal part of life and so are free radicals. Oxidation is what enables us to get and use energy from our food and the body utilizes free radicals to detoxify harmful substances from itself, as well as to destroy invading microorganisms.
Since they are so damaging, the body maintains a sophisticated antioxidant system to hold them in check.
However, when the body's prolonged exposure to oxidative factors causes an excessive output of free radicals that exceeds its ability to neutralize them (technically called "oxidative stress"), the body is put in an increasingly vulnerable position due to the accelerated cellular destruction.
This is why it is absolutely critical for you to avoid the cancer-promoting factors listed at the start of this article: they all involve exposure to or stimulate production of free radicals in the body. Here are the principal antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals.
Vitamin A has been studied for its anti-cancer effects for decades. Vitamin A appears to inhibit what is called the "cancer promotion" stage and works by blocking certain enzymes that promote cancer growth, by inducing cytotoxicity in cancer cells, and by stimulating the immune system.
Although vitamin A is protective of all cancers, it is especially useful in preventing and treating those of the mucous membranes, e.g., lung cancer. Lung cancer in smokers, for example, is much higher in those with low vitamin A levels.
When the level increases, the incidence of cancer decreases. Increased intake of this fat soluble vitamin appears to have a protective effect against breast, mouth, bladder, colon, blood, and larynx cancers.
Additionally, the body uses vitamin A to initiate the conversion of cholesterol into various stress hormones. Stress, therefore, including the stress of illness, directly depletes levels of this nutrient.
There is no consensus of what constitutes an adequate intake of vitamin A, but foods rich in this nutrient include butter, liver, cream, eggs, all animal fats, and fish oil.
Ironically, it is these very foods that people are told to avoid because of unscientific fears about animal fats. In this author's opinion, one of the causes of our current high cancer rates is the adoption of low-fat diets by the public at the urging of public health authorities.
A low-fat diet is automatically low in vitamin A as this nutrient is only found in animal fats. A teaspoon of cod liver oil each day will supply you with a good amount of vitamin A, as well as vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids which are also involved in cancer prevention and usually lacking in Western diets.
One can also purchase fish liver oil capsules to insure an adequate daily intake. Avoid all synthetic vitamin A supplements as these are usually derived from coal tar and have been shown to cause birth defects.
Carotenes are fat-soluble plant pigments that appear in red, orange, dark green, and yellow fruits and vegetables. One of them, beta-carotene, has been extensively studied and can convert into vitamin A in the body (provided certain factors are present).
Other well-known carotenes are lycopene, alpha-carotene, lutein, canthaxanthin and zeaxanthin.
These carotenes inhibit and prevent cervical, oral, lung, prostate, colon, endometrial, and esophageal cancers.
Beta-carotene primarily works by neutralizing a particular free radical known as a "singlet oxygen species," and by preventing lipid peroxidation, which generates free radicals.
Like vitamin A, beta-carotene also enhances immune function and stimulates the release of natural killer cells (which directly attack tumor cells) and T-lymphocytes. Food sources include sweet potatoes, eggs, apricots, peaches, chard, spirulina. carrots, and tomatoes. Since the carotenes are not toxic, they can be eaten and supplemented without fear and the general rule is that too much is never enough.
According to the prestigious Nutrition Desk Reference Vitamin C protects against cancer cell growth by
- destroying free radicals
- increasing collagen synthesis
- altering DNA and protein metabolism in precancerous and cancerous cells
- preventing the transformation of precancerous cells to cancerous cells
- producing cytotoxicity in cancer cells
Indeed, epidemiological studies of vitamin C and cancer show a significantly protective effect from vitamin C in preventing and treating esophageal, oral, pharyngeal, stomach, lung, cervical, rectal, colon, and pancreatic cancers. Vitamin C blocks the conversion of nitrites, found in processed meats like bacon, into carcinogenic nitrosamines.
Drs. Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron theorized that vitamin C, by its ability to strengthen the "ground substance" of tissues (by promoting collagen synthesis) and by its ability to stimulate in cells the production of a substance that neutralizes the enzyme hyaluronidase, prevented and treated cancer.
Cancer is not only proliferative, but also invasive. It does this by secreting large amounts of hyaluronidase which dissolves the "cement" of surrounding tissues and leaves them vulnerable to attack by the progressing tumor.
By this dual action of strengthening the collagen of surrounding tissues and by inhibiting the release of the enzyme that directly attacked them, Pauling and Cameron felt justified in recommending large amounts of vitamin C in treating cancer.
Since vitamin C is a non-toxic substance and since it is the one vitamin that the body cannot synthesize, it makes good sense to include vitamin C-rich foods and supplements in our daily diets.
Pauling recommended 5-8 grams per day for an adult. This amount, however, could induce mild diarrhea in some people. 2-3 grams a day seems a safer amount, with more added if an illness or special need arises.
Like vitamin A, vitamin C is rapidly used up during periods of stress. Vitamin C-rich foods include all berries, cabbage, and most fruits.
Vitamin E helps prevent oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins in the body and stimulates the immune system to destroy tumorous cells as they are transformed into a cancerous state.
In its actions, vitamin E is more for cancer prevention than for treatment. This nutrient also is key in preventing and treating heart and cardiovascular disease.
The best food source for vitamin E is cold-pressed wheat germ oil, with raw nuts and butter as fair sources. 200-400 IUs per day is a good amount to supplement with. Vitamin E works best in conjunction with our next nutrient, selenium.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant by activating the enzyme glutathione peroxidase (discussed below).
People living in areas with selenium-poor soils have higher cancer rates than those living in selenium-rich soil areas.
It is important to use a natural source of selenium when supplementing as the non-organic forms (selenite and selenate) can be toxic at higher amounts. Brewer's yeast, whole grains, oysters, tuna, and butter provide the best sources of this mineral.
If supplementing, 100 mcg. Is a good amount to take, in conjunction with a nutrient-dense diet that supplies selenium from other foods.
Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide formed from the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid. Low levels are always found in cancer patients, as well as those affected by other oxidative stress-induced diseases such as AIDS.
As glutathione levels drop, the person gets sicker.
This is because white blood cells and the liver use GSH to detoxify poisons inside the body.
When the level decreases, less toxins are able to be eliminated leading to a build up in the body. This leads to increased white blood cell death (due to the cell poisoning itself) and liver impairment.
Glutathione, therefore, plays a role in cancer prevention and treatment. The best way to increase and maintain one's GSH levels is to include animal foods in one's diet as these contain the amino acids needed by the body to synthesize GSH.
Foods rich in the sulfur amino acids (e.g., eggs) are especially good sources. An excellent food supplement is whey protein, available in powdered form at most health markets.
Whey is an inexpensive and good tasting food supplement that has been shown to increase the body's stores of GSH. Whey also has important value for those cancer patients who are suffering from cachexia, or wasting syndrome, as its proteins are easily assimilated by the body.
The amino acid l-glutamine can also be employed in such cases. Except in cases of kidney disease, l-glutamine is a safe supplement that can help build and maintain muscle mass, as well as help with digestive problems and poor immune function. Suggested amounts range from 5-40 gms. per day.
This substance helps with free radical control by enhancing the antioxidant functions of vitamins C and E, and glutathione.
Additionally, ALA helps to recycle glutathione in the liver. Suggested amounts would be 100-300 mg per day.
A substance similar to vitamin E in its functions,
CoQ10 helps generate energy at the cellular level in the mitochondria.
CoQ10 also stimulates the immune system and helps get more oxygen to the tissues, something highly desired when dealing with cancer or heart disease. The best food sources for CoQ10 are organ meats such as heart and animal foods like beef.
Supplements are available, but they are expensive. When supplementing, be sure to take CoQ10 with a fatty food or drink as the fat enhances absorption.
There are a range of antioxidant compounds found in various plants that play a role in cancer prevention and treatment.
Herbs such as rosemary, turmeric, green tea, milk thistle, curry, and gingko biloba have been well studied for their antioxidant properties. Herbal combination formulas like Padma 28, an ancient Ayurvedic formula, have been studied as well.
Padma 28 has been extensively studied for its good effects on circulation and hepatitis. With cancer, however, research is only just beginning. Of all the phytochemicals, it is green tea that has been the most studied for its anti-cancer effects.
A compound found in the skin of red grapes, rasberries and blueberries may help induce pancreatic cancer cells to biological transform or die, a lab study has found.
The compound, called resveratrol, is produced by certain plants as part of their defense arsenal against acids. A handful of foods, including raspberries, and blueberries contain resveratrol, but it is most abundant in the skin of red grapes.
In the new study, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York treated human pancreatic cancer cells with resveratrol, either alone or in combination with radiation.
They found that the phytocemical or anti-acid resveratrol compound disrupted the activity of the cancerous or fermenting acidic cells' mitochondria, energy-producing centers needed for cells to function. Resveratrol also impaired certain cancerous-cell proteins that thwart chemotherapy by pumping drugs out of the cell.
In combination with radiation, but not alone, the compound bumped up the production of cell-transforming substances called reactive oxygen species or acid buffers -- potentially making the cancerous cells more destructible.
And, in fact, cancerous or acidic cells treated with the combination were more likely to self-destruct or transform, the study found. "While additional studies are needed, this research indicates that resveratrol has a promising future as part of the treatment for cancer," lead investigator Dr. Paul Okunieff said in a university statement.
What the results mean for cancer patients is not yet clear. Resveratrol is available in over-the-counter supplements, but there is no evidence that taking them aids cancer treatment. People undergoing cancer treatment should also not take any supplement without discussing it with their doctor first.
Okunieff and his colleagues also point out that they used a relatively high dose of resveratrol, 50 micrograms per milliliter; the concentration found in red grapes, rasberries and blueberries varies widely by type, but some fruits have resveratrol levels as high as 30 micrograms per milliliter. However, no one yet knows whether resveratrol from red grapes would affect tumors in the body the same way it does cancerous cells in a lab dish.
According to Dr. Young, a research scientist from the pH Miracle Living Center, "antioxidants such as resveratrol from red grapes, rasberries or blueberries are powerful chelators of dietary and metabolic acids that may help to prevent a cancerous condition such as, pancreatic cancer.
Controlling one's blood-glucose levels through diet, supplements, exercise, meditation and prescription drugs when necessary can be one of the most crucial components to a cancer recovery program. The sound bite -- sugar feeds cancer -- is simple. The explanation is a little more complex.
The 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, Ph.D., first discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells.
The crux of his Nobel thesis was that malignant tumors frequently exhibit an increase in anaerobic glycolysis -- a process whereby glucose is used as a fuel by cancer cells with lactic acid as an anaerobic byproduct -- compared to normal tissues.
The large amount of lactic acid produced by this fermentation of glucose from cancer cells is then transported to the liver. This conversion of glucose to lactate generates a lower, more acidic pH in cancerous tissues as well as overall physical fatigue from lactic acid buildup. Thus, larger tumors tend to exhibit a more acidic pH.
This inefficient pathway for energy metabolism yields only 2 moles of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy per mole of glucose, compared to 38 moles of ATP in the complete aerobic oxidation of glucose.
By extracting only about 5 percent (2 vs. 38 moles of ATP) of the available energy in the food supply and the body's calorie stores, the cancer is "wasting" energy, and the patient becomes tired and undernourished. This vicious cycle increases body wasting.
It is one reason why 40 percent of cancer patients die from malnutrition, or cachexia. Hence, cancer therapies should encompass regulating blood-glucose levels via diet, supplements, non-oral solutions for cachectic patients who lose their appetite, medication, exercise, gradual weight loss and stress reduction. Professional guidance and patient self-discipline are crucial at this point in the cancer process. The quest is not to eliminate sugars or carbohydrates from the diet but rather to control blood glucose within a narrow range to help starve the cancer and bolster immune function.
If you decide on chemotherapy you should also take an immune-boosting herb called astragalus. Although rarely used by oncologists in this country, astragalus is a mainstay in Japan and China, where doctors use it to protect people against the side effects of chemo.
And it's no wonder. Studies show that astragalus is a powerful immune-booster. In one study, researchers found that taking astragalus raises the body's level of interferon, a natural chemical that fights cancer and viruses. In another study, scientists found that astragalus increases T-cell function in the blood of cancer patients. In fact, their blood developed greater T-cell activity than blood taken from people who were cancer-free!
Treating Cancer with Herbs
Many of the chemotherapies used to fight cancer in modern medicine were developed from natural substances.
- Taxanes used to treat prostate and breast cancer came from yew trees.
- Vinca alkaloids, which are used to treat malignant lymphomas, are made from periwinkle plants.
- The anti-cancer drugs topotecan and irinotecan come from a component of the Chinese Happy Tree.
Scientists are increasingly focusing on plants used in traditional medicine in their search for new compounds. About three-quarters of the pharmaceutical compounds used today came from plants used in traditional medicine.
Professor Dr. Thomas Efferth from Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum in Heidelberg, for example, has begun analyzing 76 Chinese medicinal plants that are believed to treat malignant tumors and other growths. Extracts from 18 of the plants were found to significantly suppress the growth of cancer cells.
“With this success rate of about 24 percent, we are way above the results that could be expected from searching through large chemical substance libraries,” Efferth said.
Most pharmaceuticals that are derived from plants are typically from one “active” component of the plant that is then isolated and synthetically replicated. In contrast, most traditional medicine remedies use whole plants in their natural state, which is a far cry from the lab-produced cancer treatments used in modern medicine.
While herbal remedies can indeed be powerful, they are typically far safer than most medications. Still, I do not widely support using them as your primary healing approach as they rarely address the primary cause. Like drugs, herbs and other plants are frequently used as band-aids that fail to address the root cause.
However, when used wisely by someone trained in this science they can be enormously beneficial adjuncts to the healing process, and I believe that it is wise to use them. Just be careful to continue to search for the reasons that you initially acquired the health challenge.
Cancer Treatments: Chemo or Natural?
It is worth pointing out that it is very rare for cancer to only have one cause. Rather than simply being caused by a malfunction in your DNA, or a faulty gene you “inherited” from your grandmother, cancer is more typically triggered by a combination of the following:
Toxins in your environment
Often, cancer can actually be treated, and reversed, by addressing these variables through dietary changes, purifying your environment, and addressing your emotional state.
Chemotherapy is rarely the best option for cancer treatment, as it usually doesn't cure cancer or extend life, and it really does not improve the quality of your life either. Dr. Ralph Moss, who is the author of eight books on cancer treatment, has reviewed thousands of studies as part of the research for his books -- and he has not found one single good study that shows chemo cures cancer or extends life.
What chemo does do, however, is expose your body to toxins that kill all cells that multiply and divide rapidly. This includes not only cancer cells, but also other rapidly multiplying and dividing cells, such as bone marrow, reproductive system cells and hair follicles.
These are powerful drugs that present an assault on your system -- one that your body must then overcome along with the cancer. And the effects do not end right after the treatment. One UCLA study found that chemotherapy can actually change the blood flow and metabolism of your brain in ways that can linger for 10 years or more after treatment.
Preventing Cancer: 12 Tips to Live By
No one wants to battle cancer, and there is good news because you can VIRTUALLY ELIMINATE your risk of cancer and chronic disease, and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it, by following these relatively simple risk reduction strategies.
1. Reduce or eliminate your processed food, sugar and grain carbohydrate intake. Yes, this is even true for whole unprocessed organic grains, as they tend to rapidly break down and drive your insulin and leptin levels up, which is the last thing you need to have happening if you are seeking to resolve a cancer.
2. Control your fasting insulin and leptin levels. This is the end result, and can be easily monitored with the use of simple and relatively inexpensive blood tests.
3. Normalize your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil and reducing your intake of most processed vegetable oils.
4. Get regular exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks.
5. Normalize your vitamin D levels by getting plenty of sunlight exposure and consider careful supplementation when this is not possible. If you take oral vitamin D and have a cancer, it would be very prudent to monitor your vitamin D blood levels regularly.
6. Get regular, good sleep.
7. Eat according to your nutritional type. The potent anti-cancer effects of this principle are very much underappreciated.
8. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.
9. Limit your exposure and provide protection for yourself from information-carrying radio waves produced by cell phone towers, base stations, phones and WiFi stations.
10. Avoid frying or charbroiling your food. Boil, poach or steam your foods instead.
11. Have a tool to permanently reprogram the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical ones listed here, so make sure this is addressed. Energy psychology seems to be one of the best approaches like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). German New Medicine is another powerful tool.
12. Eat at least one-third of your food raw .
An alkaline plant-based diet which is high in acidic cancerous-fighting lignans may be associated with improved survival among postmenopausal women with breast cancer, according to a study presented by Susan E. McCann, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI),at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), April 12-16, in San Diego, CA.
Lignans are plant compounds found in seeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruits. In laboratory studies, lignans have been shown to impact acidic hormone levels and tumor formations. Researchers from Roswell Park and the University at Buffalo evaluated the dietary lignan intakes of 1,122 women diagnosed with breast cancer who participated in the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer Study (WEB Study) between 1996 and 2001. Lignan intake was calculated based on responses to a questionnaire that charted intake of over 100 foods.
The study found that dietary lignan intake had no relevance among premenopausal women with breast cancer. However, in postmenopausal women, those with a high lignan intake were 70% less likely to die from breast cancer.
According to Dr. Robert O. Young, at the pH Miracle Living Center, "the study suggests that certain alkaline fruits and vegetables may offer more protection than others. Postmenopausal women diagnosed with cancerous breasts who reported high intakes of lignans, which in this study were supplied mostly by broccoli, avocado, cucumbers, celery, winter squash, spinach and other leafy greens, had a statistically significant reduction in death rates."
U.S researchers have stated that comprehensive lifestyle and dietary changes including more exercise can lead not only to a better physique, but also to swift and dramatic changes at the genetic level.
Dr. Robert O. Young, a research scientist at The pH Miracle Living Center suggests, "genetic weakness and genetic strength are specifically tied to lifestyle and dietary choice. The genes of our cells remain healthy and strong and will function optimally when bathed in an alkaline environment at a pH of 7.365."
In a small study, the researchers tracked 30 men with low-risk prostate cancer who decided against conventional medical treatment such as surgery and radiation or hormone therapy. The men underwent three months of major lifestyle changes, including eating a diet rich in alkaline fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and soy products, moderate exercise such as walking for half an hour a day, and an hour of daily stress management methods such as meditation.
As expected, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and saw other health improvements. But the researchers found more profound changes when they compared prostate biopsies taken before and after the lifestyle and dietary changes. After the three months, the men had changes in activity in about 500 genes -- including 48 that were turned on and 453 genes that were turned off.
The activity of dis-ease-preventing genes increased while a number of dis-ease-promoting genes, including those involved in prostate cancer and breast cancer, shut down, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research was led by Dr. Dean Ornish, head of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California, and a well-known author advocating lifestyle changes to improve health. "It's an exciting finding because so often people say, 'Oh, it's all in my genes, what can I do?' Well, it turns out you may be able to do a lot," stated Dr. Ornish. "'In just three months, I can change hundreds of my genes simply by changing what I eat and how I live?' That's pretty exciting," Ornish said. "The implications of our study are not limited to men with prostate cancer."
Ornish said the men avoided conventional medical treatment for prostate cancer for reasons separate from the study. But in making that decision, they allowed the researchers to look at biopsies in people with cancer before and after lifestyle changes. "It gave us the opportunity to have an ethical reason for doing repeat biopsies in just a three-month period because they needed that anyway to look at their clinical changes (in their prostate cancer)," Ornish said.
According to Dr. Young, "genes and cells are not living. For if they were living they would know no death and would be physiologically imperishable. But genes and cells do disorganize and perish. Genes and cells are the organizations of living intelligent matter that is indestructible. This indestructible matter that makes up all genes and cells was first identified by a French medical doctor Antione BeChamp, in the late 19th century and is called the microzyma. According to BeChamp the microzyma knows no death but only change. The change in genes and cells is microzymian change and is initiated by lifestyle and dietary choice." See our information on Pleomorphism.
"The knowledge that organized matter, genes, and cells are all made up of intelligent indestructible microzymas and are only subject to change, based upon lifestyle and dietary choice is a significant discovery in the prevention and treatment of ALL sickness and dis-ease!
Matter cannot be created nor can it be destroyed it can only change. The body genes, cells, tissues and organs are only subject to change not death. To maintain a healthy organized state of plant, animal or human genes, cells, tissues and organs you MUST maintain the alkaline design of that microzymian matter. The healthy state of all plant, animal or human matter is regulated by a most important health factor and that health factor is the pH factor or the perfect health (pH) factor," states Dr. Young.
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