Health Column: Scrutinizing natural therapeutics for people with cancer
Free Press Health Columnist
It’s now one month from the anniversary of my best friend’s death from leukemia. The fellow is definitely on my mind and this means it is a perfect time to look at some of the recent articles in the Natural Medicine Journal about natural therapeutics for cancer.
Of course prevention is best, but sometimes a cancer (especially pancreatic, colon or blood) is discovered only when it has reached a progressed and aggressive state. When supporting someone with active cancer, we need to review what we know about what works and what doesn’t.
1. Both acupuncture and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) improve cancer-related fatigue. (Carl Hangee-Bauer, N.D., LAc, 2013 and M. Traub, N.D., 2013, respectively.) Patients who received acupuncture also reported “significant improvements in anxiety, depression and quality of life.” Note that Siberian ginseng (Panax ginseng) shows anti-cancer benefits as well.
2. Stress promotes ovarian cancer progression. It appears that the production of sympathetic catecholamines (the “fight-or-flight” response) accelerates ovarian cancers (Lise Alschuler, N.D., FABNO, April, 2013). It is a reasonable assumption that excessive stressors will generally and detrimentally promote cancer.
3. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) capsule supplementation reduces cancer-cell proliferation in breast tissue (Alschuler, 2013). For women with active breast cancer, this is a foundation of the naturopathic approach along with other bioflavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables. It suggests that green tea be drunk freely, although I do not recommend it be used with chemotherapy because it opposes the drug effects.
4. Coriolus versicolor, the most widely studied medicinal mushroom in the world, enhances longevity for patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other conventional treatments. Specifically, these patients had “a nine-percent absolute reduction in five-year mortality, which means that for every 11 treated, one additional patient lived.” (Sarah Thyr, N.D., L.M., February, 2012.)
5. Aspirin and flaxseeds reduce prostate cancer aggressiveness and mortality (Jacob Schor, N.D., FABNO April 2013 and Tina Kaczor, N.D., FABNO 2013, respectively). Dr. Schor also recognizes the challenge of getting a human male to take aspirin on a regular basis, even though it “may increase his chance of surviving for 10 years by a factor of nearly five.”
6. Chicken skin and eggs increase risk of prostate cancer recurrence. It appears that this is due to the production of chemicals known as heterocyclic amines, which are copious in fried, well-done or barbecued chicken skins. In eggs, the risk appears to be related to high amounts of the water-soluble nutrient choline, which is abundant in both eggs and prostate cancer cells (Schor, 2010).
7. Selenium, a trace mineral with anti-oxidant qualities, may actually increase the lung-cancer risk in patients who smoke (Schor, 2013). I find it highly interesting that Selenium appears to be cancer-protective if there is a deficiency present, and cancer-promoting when used in excess. (Steve Austin, N.D., Nov, 2010.) The obvious solution is to quit smoking so that selenium (and iron) can be utilized safely.
Natural medicines may offer tremendous support for people with cancer. If you have a new diagnosis, I suggest you start self-advocating now to sift through all the options for treatment. Create your “dream team” of practitioners, family and friends. This will surely help you through one of the most shocking experiences that anyone can ever have.
Christopher Lepisto, a GJ Free Press health columnist, graduated as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit http://www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.
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