October 31, 2016
If you or a loved one is suffering from cancer, it is imperative that you are aware of the side effects of chemotherapy. Being diagnosed with cancer is the ultimate shock to the system and your psyche. Once that shock has faded, make it your mission to survive the cancer and the chemotherapy. Historically, less than half of children diagnosed with cancer survived five years past diagnosis. Currently, four out of five children are cured of childhood cancers. Along with these advancements in cure rates, we have new issues with long term effects of these life saving drugs.
By way of example, children treated with doxorubicin are at increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and stroke years after finishing the chemotherapy.
The principles involved in surviving cancer and chemotherapy are rooted in understanding these medicines and their effects on your body.
Basically, chemotherapeutic drugs are poisons that unfortunately indiscriminately damage all cells in an effort to primarily disrupt the rapidly growing cancer cells. This is a sensible therapeutic goal assuming that the toxic load doesn't damage our cells enough to kill us. Medical oncologists have done an amazing job at getting better year after year at targeting the therapy and reducing the side effects and the morbidity associated with them by leveraging the combined knowledge of the nations cancer treatment centers protocols.
However, traditional oncologists have long eschewed the additive benefit of a nutritional approach to helping cancer patients. I recently learned that this outdated thinking is still alive and well while helping a patient through chemotherapy. It amazes me to this day that with so much new knowledge on how micro and macronutrients affect our cells and our micro biome that we are still having this discussion and putting all of our eggs in the drug basket. What has always been clear to me is that we need both and likely always will.
Patients exposed to methotrexate for example need to take folic acid and folinic acid to prevent the side effects of mucositis or inflammation of the mucous membranes. There are many such events that occur during the course of therapy.
It is clear that a healthy diet is the key to all cellular functions. "An inadequate diet has detrimental effects on the immune status and tolerance of treatment, as well as on various organ and metabolic functions. The effectiveness of measures intended to destroy the cancer (chemo- and radiotherapy) may be reduced, as well as the response to such therapy, while the rate of adverse effects and the risk of treatment-associated complications are increased. This in turn impacts the patient's quality of life and the prognosis. Cancer patients with deficient diets have a higher morbidity and mortality: the mortality in malnourished cancer patients is about 30% higher." (1)
Reducing inflammation is the key to all diseases and cancer is no exception. Avoiding inflammatory foods is a key to human health. Eliminating refined carbohydrates and sugars from one's diet makes complete sense when you understand cancer biology and the cancer cells love for sugar. Increasing vegetables, mushrooms and spices that have anti-inflammatory and anti cancer properties seems prudent. What is even more transparent is that avoiding processed foods that contain chemicals and pro inflammatory macronutrients is downright logical. See SPA articles on cancer here.
Feed your body right to give it the best chance of surviving the chemotherapy.
Look at Donald Abrams Integrative Oncology textbook to learn more.