In the News: Integrative Medicine: Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

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Antioxidants and Chemotherapy

By Drs. Kay judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden

Published: Thursday, May. 31, 2012

Inflammation, and the use of antioxidants to put out inflammatory fires, is a hot topic these days. What do we mean by inflammation?

Inflammation is a natural and necessary response in the body whenever we are accosted by harmful germs or when we injure ourselves. When this occurs, our immune system steps in to fight foreign invaders and to bring our body back into balance so that we can heal.

Inflammatory chemicals are produced during this process, which can be harmful to our tissues, but antioxidants in our foods, such as vitamins C and E, help to quell this response and restore order to our tissues.

Inflammation can run amok, however, and cause persistent damage to healthy tissue, especially if we smoke or if we are overweight or obese. Chemotherapy drugs that are used to treat cancer also produce severe inflammation in the body, and this particular inflammatory response helps to kill off cancer cells. But it also harms healthy tissue in the process.

Many oncologists have been fearful of having their patients take any antioxidants during chemotherapy for fear that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of the chemo.

In a recent article in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Dr. Keith Block, a renowned integrative cancer specialist affiliated with the University of Illinois, discussed his review of more than 2,300 studies on the use of antioxidants during chemotherapy, and his report is very reassuring.

In summary, antioxidants often help to reduce side effects from chemotherapy, and this may allow patients to complete their full course of medication without interruption, which itself leads to better outcomes. Certain antioxidants also enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy, reduce long-term toxicity and improve survival.

Not a single study reviewed by Block showed any evidence of antioxidants interfering with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In fact, a recent article looking at the impact of antioxidants in Chinese women undergoing treatment for invasive breast cancer found that use of antioxidant vitamin supplements in the first six months after diagnosis resulted in a reduced risk of both mortality and cancer recurrence.

Other studies have suggested survival benefit in certain cancers when patients take melatonin, as well as reduced toxicity from chemo with the use of glutathione and coenzyme Q10 among others.

So, if you are affected by cancer, what should you be thinking about to protect yourself during and after chemotherapy? First and foremost, begin by eating a super-healthful, plant-based diet that is loaded with dark-colored fruits and veggies so that you maximize your intake of antioxidants from your food, which is the most powerful way to get them.

You can also consider supplementing your diet with some of the more powerful antioxidants, such as fish oil, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium, though we recommend that you meet with an integrative cancer specialist first so that you can determine which supplements are ideal for you, given your particular tumor as well as your treatment regimen.

And for those of you who have been affected by cancer, either because you or a loved one have faced this disease, there is a conference coming to Sacramento in September that you should know about. It's titled "Cancer as a Turning Point, From Surviving to Thriving," and it is a gathering of some of the best and most inspiring experts in this business.

Cancer as a Turning Point is sponsored by the non-profit organization Healing Journeys, whose vision is that everyone touched by cancer or any life-altering condition be empowered to move from surviving to thriving. This conference is usually offered in two cities across the country every year.  The conference is free to all attendees, though donations are greatly appreciated to offset the cost, and donations are also tax-deductible. For more information, and to register, go to www.healingjourneys.org.

And for more information on an integrative approach to cancer treatment, look at Block's 2009 book "Life Over Cancer" (Bantam, $28, 608 pages) or Alschuler's gem that she co-wrote with Karolyn Gazella, "The Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing" (Celestial Arts, $25, 496 pages), now in its third edition.

~ Be Well! ♥

Every Time I Hear About Someone Losing the Fight. . .

Grammy-winning disco legend Donna Summer, who steamed up the charts in the 1970s and 80s with raunchy hits like "Love to Love You Baby" and "Hot Stuff," died Thursday aged 63, her family said.

Known as the Queen of Disco, the singer whose hits also included "I Feel Love" and "She Works Hard for the Money," died in Florida from lung cancer, the TMZ celebrity news website said.

"While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can't express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time."

TMZ reported that she had kept her illness quiet, and didn't appear too sick only a couple of weeks ago, citing sources as saying she was focused on trying to finish a new album she had been working on.

It cited sources as saying Summer believed she developed lung cancer after inhaling toxic particles following the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks in New York.

 *~*~*~*~*

I am shaken when I hear about someone who has succumbed to cancer.  My first thought is 'Were they doing everything they could to heal'?

Statistics mean nothing to me because of this very point.  No one tracks what a cancer patient is doing holistically:

Are they eating the recommended cancer-fighting foods? Are they taking Anti-oxidant and Immune boosting Supplements? Do they walk 5 - 6 times a week? Are they positive and determined to capture good health? Did they surround themselves with cheerleaders and friends who lifted them up? And do they see this as an opportunity to transform into a new person with a deeper appreciation of life and love and what really matters?

Without all that, you can't tell me that 60% of xxx patients live 10 years after recurrence, and that 30% will have no recurrence, and 46 % of breast cancers will appear in the other breast... etc..  (Those are my made-up stats for argument sake). If those stats refer to people who opt to go with Allopathic medicine and nothing else, then they have their place.

Unless people are educated about the CRITICAL importance of adding Complimentary Therapies to whatever treatment plan they chose.  The anti-cancer qualities of some of the spices and foods I've discussed read like super drugs...their benefits and the work they do to unmask cancer cells, deprive them of nutrition, of outright destroy them is Ominous!  But do people, even Celebrities know about them? Not unless they seek out a CAM practitioner.

Several of the western medicine doctors I have worked with in the past 2 years admitted to me hat they only had ONE class in Nutrition during Med School!!!  I knew waayyy more than they did on that topic.  My radiologist asked me for a list of the supplements I was taking, and what the benefit of each one was.  She was the only doc interested enough to begin to explore that area. How sad is that??

Herein lies my passion.. to get the word out, to be a resource for more information, to help others increase their quality of life and God Willing their chances of beating their illness and keeping it at bay through proper nutrition and mind-body support.

Please spread the word!

~ Be Well.