Understanding the Value of Dietary Supplements and Cancer Treatment
- Soy extracts
- Red clover
- Black cohosh
- Evening primrose oil
- Dong quai
Most studies show that when compared against a placebo, there is little benefit of botanicals for menopausal symptoms. There is also an unknown likelihood that the extracts may stimulate the growth of any microscopic, residual disease.
St. John's Wort
St. John’s wort, commonly used to treat depression, should not be used by chemotherapy patients. It has been proven to increase the rate of removal of many drugs, which decreases the concentration of many chemotherapy drugs, hindering their effectiveness.
Antioxidants - Not Effective to Combat Toxicity
Chemotherapy and radiation patients sometimes wonder about using antioxidants or vitamin replacements to protect normal cells from toxic treatments. There is no clinical evidence showing large amounts of antioxidants decrease the overall toxicity of chemotherapy, and taking high doses of antioxidants may actually lower the ability of state-of-the-art radiation therapy, such as tomotherapy, to kill cancer cells.
Effects on Cardiovascular and Bone Health
When contemplating dietary changes, patients should also consider how cancer treatment affects their long term health, particularly the impact on their cardiovascular and bone structure.
Aging decreases bone density, but hormone blockers for prostate or breast cancer accelerate this bone weakening. Patients must ensure they are taking sufficient calcium, about 1 to 1 1/2 grams daily, especially in Wisconsin - where many people are Vitamin D deficient. In addition, there is early evidence that Vitamin D-like drugs may have antitumor effects, especially for prostate cancer.
For cardiovascular health, research has shown that fish and fish oil may decrease blood triglyceride concentrations, and that dietary fiber and soy decrease cholesterol. A daily glass of red wine, purple grape juice or cranberry juice also has demonstrated benefits.
Most clinicians encourage patients to concentrate on a well-balanced meal plan that provides energy and the needed combination of nutrients, rather than relying on botanical supplements and megavitamins.
Date Published: 07/26/2007