You’ve certainly asked yourself this before:
“Are natural and integrative cancer therapies compatible with conventional treatment options and why is my oncologist still against all natural antioxidants?”
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 all over the world 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. Its 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.1 Another review found that vitamin C, one of the most commonly used natural therapies, to be safe with the majority of chemotherapy drugs and it improve quality of life and reduce side effects by preventing damage to healthy cells.2,3
Unfortunately many oncologists are still holding on to the outdated concept that chemo and radiation have a “PRO-oxidant” effect, which would be undermined by the consumption of “ANTI-oxidants.” The mechanisms of chemotherapy and radiation are actually poorly understood but recent evidence shows that they may not directly kill the cancer cells immediately but rather fatally damage them before they undergo natural apoptosis (cell death).4
Antioxidants and natural plant compounds, such as curcumin (from the herb turmeric), actually may help finish the job and promote the death of cancer cells thus having a complementary effect to chemo and radiation instead of working against it.5 However, it is very important to point out that not all natural substances are safe to take along side conventional treatments. There are exceptions depending on the type of chemotherapy or radiation, type of cancer and the condition of each patient. ND’s are trained to guide patients to safely choose which natural therapies are safe with each conventional treatment.
So in summary,
- Despite conventional thought, natural therapies CAN be used in the same period as chemo and radiation. The mechanisms are synergistic in many cases.
- Natural therapies actually can improve the anti-cancer effect and prevent side-effects.
- There are certain natural therapies that should not be taken on the same day as your chemo or radiation.
Block et al. Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic toxicity: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials. Int J Cancer. 2008 Sep 15;123(6):1227-39
Vollbracht et al. Intravenous vitamin C administration improves quality of life in breast cancer patients during chemo-/radiotherapy and aftercare: results of a retrospective, multicentre, epidemiological cohort study in Germany. In Vivo. 2011 Nov-Dec;25(6):983-90
Stephenson CM, Levin RD, Spector T, Lis CG. Phase I clinical trial to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of high-dose intravenous ascorbic acid in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2013 May 14
Ricci MS, Zong WX. Chemotherapeutic approaches for targeting cell death pathways. Oncologist. 2006 Apr;11(4):342-57.
Patel BB, Majumdar AP. Synergistic role of curcumin with current therapeutics in colorectal cancer: minireview. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(6):842-6.
Dr. Paul Hrkal, ND