Supplements that Fight Cancer!
Nutritional supplements can be a great way to correct deficiencies and promote overall wellness, but they may also be useful in preventing cancer or even in treating cancer. Modern medical research is proving that many nutrients, plant compounds, and extracts may just have important anti-cancer properties that can reduce the risk of developing cancer or even fight cancer.
If you are living with mesothelioma or another type of cancer, there may be supplements that can help you feel better, alleviate symptoms, or even promote your treatment. However, there are potential risks as well. Never use a new supplement of any type, even a vitamin, without talking to your medical team or oncologist first.
Vitamin A is an essential vitamin and it can be supplemented through fortified foods or with beta carotene supplements. Beta carotene is a substance that the body turns into vitamin A. In some studies, beta carotene supplements have proven to provide some protection against developing prostate cancer in men. Beta carotene also may provide protection against lung cancer, especially for smokers or other people with an elevated risk. Beta carotene is safer to take than vitamin A because it is possible to overdose on the vitamin.
As an essential nutrient, everyone should be aware of getting enough of this vitamin. The natural way to get it is through exposure to the sun. Light from the sun interacts with compounds in the skin to produce vitamin D. Many people avoid the sun or wear sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, so using supplements or fortified foods is important for getting adequate amounts of vitamin D. It is important for slowing cell growth, and there is evidence that vitamin D can prevent cancer or lower the risk of developing it. Researchers have also found that people with cancer have less vitamin D in their blood and that they are generally more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
Green Tea and EGCG
Green tea contains potent antioxidants and polyphenols, including one compound most often studied with relation to cancer, EGCG. Studies in laboratories have found that EGCG interferes with cell growth and division and that it may even promote the death of cancer cells. EGCG may also slow the growth of blood vessels around tumors, which in turn slows the growth of the tumor. EGCG can be consumed by drinking green tea or by using supplements.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Found naturally in fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and some other foods, omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that can be added to the diet through supplements like fish oil. Most often cited for promoting heart health, these fats may also protect against cancer, although study results are mixed. Omega-3 fatty acids are proven to reduce inflammation in the body and to protect the skin from damage by ultraviolet radiation. These properties may make the fats a useful preventative supplement against cancer. Studies have confirmed that they can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Curcumin is a compound found naturally in the root that makes the spice turmeric. Turmeric is commonly used in many Asian cuisines and as a natural yellow food coloring. Curcumin is well known as a potent anti-oxidant and is anti-inflammatory. In lab studies, curcumin has been proven to be able to slow the spread of melanoma cells. There is some concern, however, that curcumin can interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
Found naturally in the skins of red grapes, resveratrol is a polyphenol and antioxidant that may protect against cancer. As an antioxidant it can help prevent damage to cells that may trigger tumors, and it has been proven in lab tests to slow the growth of existing cancer cells. Resveratrol is also a weak estrogen-like compound, so anyone who should be limiting or avoiding estrogen may want to avoid using resveratrol supplements.
Selenium is what is known as a micronutrient or trace element because only very small amounts of it are needed in the diet. Seafood and Brazil nuts have some of the highest levels of selenium, but supplements are also available. Selenium is an antioxidant and in studies it has been found that supplementation with it can reduce the risk of developing prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers. There is also some evidence that it may reduce the risk of all types of cancer and dying from cancer.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the body that is involved in sleep. It is often used to treat insomnia and jet lag, but it may also be useful in preventing or treating cancer and treatment side effects. There is some evidence that melatonin protects against cancer, but not enough for doctors to recommend it as a supplement for that purpose. For patients being treated for cancer, though, melatonin supplements may increase survival time and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, including weight loss.
These mushrooms have long been a part of traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, and other issues. More recently they have been studied for potential anti-cancer properties. Lab and human studies show that extracts of maitake mushrooms can stimulate the immune system, which may help the body fight back against cancer. Animal studies have proven that it can slow tumor growth.
Supplements to Manage Side Effects and Symptoms
For cancer patients going through treatment, there are likely to be uncomfortable side effects, not to mention symptoms of the cancer itself. Certain supplements may be able to help manage them. For instance, ginger is a good natural antidote to nausea that can be caused by chemotherapy. Glutamine, an amino acid may relieve diarrhea and nerve pain. Probiotic supplements can also relieve gastrointestinal supplements.
Risks of Using Supplements
It is always important to talk to your doctors before trying any new supplement. There may be reasons why now is not the best time to use a particular supplement. For example, there are some nutrients and supplements that experts believe may interfere with cancer treatments, like chemotherapy. These include vitamins A, C, and E and co-enzyme Q10. Some supplements may also interact with medications you’re taking.
Another potential risk is that patients with cancer will turn to supplements purported to kill cancer cells or shrink tumors and use that instead of traditional treatments like chemotherapy. There are no medical experts who recommend this approach. Supplements should only be used as complements to treatment, not alternatives.
Nutritional supplements have an important place in wellness and medicine, even in cancer prevention and treatment. As researchers continue to uncover important ways in which these compounds and extracts can help in the fight against cancer, patients living with mesothelioma and other types of cancer have a new source of hope. If you are thinking of using supplements and alternative medicines, be sure to talk to your oncologist first. While these supplements have the potential to heal, they can also harm.
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