Vitamins And Supplements For Cancer Patients

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

When you are diagnosed with cancer, in addition to the standard medication, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, among others, your doctor will recommend you to take supplements to boost your immune system, for it to fight against cancer cells to minimise their growth.

There are vitamins and supplements proved to be beneficial to cancer patients, but you have to check with your oncologist before you take them whether they will cause side effects.

These vitamins and supplements are supposed to help strengthen your immune system and also help ease side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Maintaining a strong immune system when you have cancer helps it to be strong enough to detect and destroy abnormal cells. But unfortunately, in most situations, with the early stages of cancers, the surface markers on cancer cells are identical to those of normal cells, making it impossible for your immune system to identify them as a threat.

In addition to the failure of cells to detect early cancer cells, and due to the lower white cell counts in reduced immune system situation, you are more The beneficial supplements are include Vitamin D, garlic, green tea, mushroom products, antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, ginger, iron, and L-glutamine.

Vitamin D: It has been observed vitamin D level in the blood and the body seems to be much lower among cancer patients. It has been observed recently women who have breast cancer are deficient in vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. The study also found that vitamin D deficiency may raise the risk of breast cancer spreading, and deaths from breast cancer.

But in a large national cancer institute study, researchers found no association between blood levels of vitamin D and deaths from cancer, with the possible exception of colorectal cancer. People with high levels of vitamin D are 72% less likely than those with low levels to die of colorectal cancer.

Vitamin D levels seem to be lower among those who suffer from prostate cancer.

The thoughts among the researchers are mixed at the moment, and more researching is needed to truly understand the relationship.

Garlic: Studies have shown that people who eat lot of garlic daily are less prone to get some forms of cancer. There is still no confirmed data, but evidence suggests that garlic may be useful for cancer treatment.
Green Tea: Green tea contains polyphenols. They are believed to have powerful anti-cancer properties. They slow the growth of cancer cells, by inhibiting growth of blood vessels around such growths (angiogenesis)
However, breast cancer figures among Chinese women could be alarming where many drinks green tea. Scientists have found breast cancer rate among Chinese women who have been in the United States for more than 10 years is 80 per cent higher than their newly arrived peers. The rate among American-born Chinese women is almost the same as white women. Furthermore, in China, breast cancer rates have jumped more than 20 per cent over the past 10 years. The situation is worse in big cities. In Shanghai, for example, the rate increased by 31 per cent during this period (ref: New York: Breast Cancer among Chinese Women-By Sing Tao Daily, Rong Xiaoqing).

Drinking green tea may increase the survival rates of some cancer patients. One study on women with ovarian cancer found that women who drank green tea are more likely to survive three years after ovarian cancer diagnosis than women who do not drink green tea. The survival rates increased with higher consumption levels of green tea. Mushroom products: According to a study published in the journal of Cancer Research, wild, poisonous mushrooms growing in a Southwest China forest carry a compound that seems to be effective in helping a cancer killing drug lives up to its promise.

Dr. Kebin Liu, cancer immunologist at the Georgia Health Sciences University Cancer Center and corresponding author, explained: "The compound verticillin A sensitizes cancer cells to TRAIL, a drug which induces cancer cells, to self destruct."

It appears that verticillin A prevents cancerous cells from developing resistance to TRAIL (tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand). A major problem for cancer sufferers is acquired or intrinsic drug resistance, which accounts for more than 90% of failed treatments in individuals with metastatic disease.

Liu said: "If we can make drugs work again, more people will survive."

Patients' experience has revealed, the skill in which cancer can desensitize itself to the TRAIL. Dr. Wendy Bollag, cell physiologist at the GHSU and co-author of the study, explained: "It looks as though most cancer cells have found a way to become resistant and evade its action." By nature, tenacious cancer cells are also resistance to cell suicide, which is how TRAIL works.

They discovered that in mice, the compound alone was enough to destroy cancer cells, however, the dose required made the mice sick, which is a common issue with several cancer treatments. Though, when a lower dose of verticillin A was combined with TRAIL, they found it became more tolerable and powerful and killed cells that were previously resistant.

In addition, the researchers found that verticillin A improved the effectiveness of etoposide and cisplatin, commonly used cancer medications which are less targeted than TRAIL, but that also work by encouraging cell suicide. Liu explained: "We believe this could be a good companion drug for a lot of cancer therapies."

According to the researchers, one method in which verticillin A seems to work is by upregulating BN1P3, a gene that promotes cell death. Through a method called DNA methylation, cancer cells try to silence BN1P3, however, it seems that verticillin A alters the same method in order to activate the gene.

In Cancer Hospitals in China and Japan, patients are given cooked mushroom in their daily diet, to boost their immune system.

Lentinan, a substance found in shiitake mushrooms, has been shown in the lab to inhibit the growth of human colon cancer cells in mice. This may result from lentinan's ability to inhibit some enzymes that promote the activity of cancer-causing substances called carcinogens. Beta-glucan, a compound found in maitake mushrooms, is also thought to have tumour-fighting properties, though data on these abilities is still quite limited.
However, the studies so far have looked at how these mushroom extracts affect cancer cells in the lab, with only a few studies documenting the effects in the human body.

Ginger: Today scientific studies continue to find health benefits of ginger ranging from stress relief to improved digestion. The fiery root contains essential oils – such as gingerols and shogaols. They are good sources of magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, copper and manganese, and are rich in antioxidants.

Nausea and vomiting are two of the most common side effects of cancer chemotherapy. These side effects can be serious. Nausea and vomiting can lead to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and fatigue, which can make it harder for the body to fight cancer.

The evidence is conflicting, but a recent study found that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who consumed a high protein drink with ginger twice a day during treatment reported significantly less nausea and were less likely to require traditional anti-nausea medications.

Iron: Iron deficiency, anemia, is quite common in most forms of cancer, especially those affected with secondaries in the bone marrow. In addition chemotherapy can damage cells in bone marrow that are responsible for making red blood cells and lead to iron-deficiency anemia.

Cancer patients may need extra doses of iron. However, too much of iron intake may damage liver and heart.

L-glutamine: Nerve damage referred to as 'neuropathy' is quite common with cancer and especially after chemotherapy. Paclitaxel is a drug used to treat cancer in various organs, such as lung, ovarian, and breast cancers.
The amino acid l-glutamine has been shown in numerous studies to be helpful at preventing or treating peripheral neuropathy – pain, numbness, and tingling – associated with paclitaxel.

Antioxidants: Your body forms free radicals all the time, even when you exercise. Free radicals may be responsible for cancer. Taking antioxidants in vegetables and fruits, one can minimise the incident of cancer. However, before starting on vitamins and supplements, it is advisable to consult your oncologist.

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