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Nutrients Helpful with Cancer

Immune, Nutrition | June 4, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

cancer

Nutrients Helpful with Cancer

The development of cancer is a complicated process involving many different factors related to our age, environment, genes, diet and lifestyle. Specific nutrients and herbs, also referred to as nutraceuticals, prevent gene alterations which are associated with the development of cancer.

How cancer develops

To understand how some of these nutrients work it is important to know the mechanisms in which cancer develops in the human body. Cancer is caused by mutations or changes to our genetic makeup up within our cells.

It is our DNA which contains instructions on what functions the cell performs, including how it grows and divides. Any alterations to these instructions allows the cell to multiply in an uncontrolled way leading to cancer.
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Nutraceuticals for cancer support

Nutraceuticals for cancer supportHerbs and nutrients have specific ways in which they can prevent the development of cancer. They do this by influencing genes, centrosomes, inflammation and hormones.

Tumour suppressor genes

Think of tumour suppressor genes as the off switch which prevent normal cells from growing. These genes are regulated by a marker called p53 and abnormalities are normally found in cancerous cells.

There are a number of nutrients which assist healthy cell regulation by playing a role in p51 and p53 genes including:

  • Folic acid and B6—both these vitamins are important in regulating p53 genes and low levels increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Selenium—selenium is a crucial antioxidant nutrient in cancer prevention and support. It helps to inhibit the initial phase of cancer and alters genes which prevent cancerous cells to multiply out of control.
  • Resveratrol—found in the skin of grapes, resveratrol helps to modulate p53 and induces cell programmed death in abnormal cells.
  • Green tea—catechins found in green tea are powerful antioxidants which activate the p53 tumour suppressor gene.

Centrosomes

These microtubules regulate the cell division cycle—the stages which lead up to cell division. They do this by pulling the chromosomes apart by wobbling at high frequencies. If this process is defective, chromosomal instability can occur and is a characteristic feature of most cancers.

Nutrients which play a key role in centrosomes and chromosome replication include calcium, folic acid, zinc and vitamins A and D.

Inflammation

The attenuation of inflammation is an important component in cancer prevention & treatment. Inflammatory markers which are released during the inflammatory process have been suggested to aid tumour development and stimulate its growth. Anti-inflammatory nutrients such as curcumin from turmeric, bromelain, quercetin and omega-3 can decrease the progressive effect of inflammation in cancer.

Immune system support

Immune system supportOur immune system keeps our body healthy by detecting foreign cells and pathogens such as parasites, bacteria and viruses. 

If there are abnormalities in the immune system this can allow cancer cells to develop and spread to other locations in the body.

Nutrients which are helpful in assisting people with cancer include antioxidants, zinc and vitamins C and D.

The medicinal mushrooms shiitake, reishi and coriolus are high in polysaccharides which boost immune cell production, reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy and enhance tumour infiltration by immune cells.

Angiogenesis

This is the process in which new blood vessels are formed. Limiting this process is of critical importance as tumours rely on increased blood supply to deliver nutrients to fuel their growth. Naturopathic medicines which have an antiangiogenic action include resveratrol, proanthocyanins from grape seed, garlic and selenium.

Hormonal factors

Certain cancers such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, cervical, testicular and prostate have a hormonal influence. For oestrogen and progesterone stimulated cancers, such as breast cancer, cruciferous indoles such as indole-3-carbinol help the body to eliminate harmful oestrogens and induce cell death in breast and cervical cancer cells.

Other nutrients which regulate hormonal balance include phyto-oestrogens in soy, red clover and flaxseed.

In prostate cancer, saw palmetto, and zinc are of assistance as they induce growth arrest of prostate cells and inhibit an enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase which contributes to the development of prostate cancer.
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Mitochondrial function

Mitochondria are the energy producing powerhouses within our cells and their dysfunction has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Nutrients that assist mitochondrial function include coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, carnitine and B vitamins such as niacin.

These are also potent antioxidants which help to reduce the damage caused by reactive oxygen species (free radicals that damage to DNA, RNA and proteins).

Integrated treatment

Taking supplements in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment requires the approval of your naturopath and oncologist. If you are currently undergoing chemotherapy consider the following nutraceuticals to maximise the benefits:

Glutamine is an amino acid which can decrease tumour size by 45% when taken in conjunction with chemotherapy. The infection rate also dropped dramatically to 3%, compared to 100% without glutamine. The recommended dose is 18,000mg for the three days prior to treatment.

Some nutrients have been found to improve the effectiveness of certain cancer medications and this includes vitamin C, quercetin, gotu kola, indoles and rosemary.

Garlic, rhodiola and rosemary contain properties which protect the liver during treatment and hawthorn and co-enzyme Q10 reduce heart damage from the side-effects of Herceptin and doxorubicin. Glutathione and selenium reduce the toxic effects of cisplatin on the kidneys, brain and bone marrow.

Caution: Always check with your health care provider before taking any supplemental medicine to make sure it is right for you.

The bottom line

Although many different factors are involved in the development of cancer, having optimal levels of nutrients is one important area to address. Nutraceuticals have the ability to prevent abnormal cell proliferation, protect our genes, boost immunity and can aid traditional treatments.

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References

Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Wardle J, Sarris J (2014). Clinical Naturopathy 2e: An evidence based guide to practice. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Kuo CT, et al. Folic acid inhibits COLO-205 colon cancer cell proliferation through activating the FRα/c-SRC/ERK1/2/NFκB/TP53 pathway: in vitro and in vivo studies. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 9;5:11187

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26056802

Xue YQ, et al. Resveratrol oligomers for the prevention and treatment of cancers. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:765832

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24799982

Rahmani AH, et al. Implications of Green Tea and Its Constituents in the Prevention of Cancer via the Modulation of Cell Signalling Pathway. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:925640

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25977926

Stark AMadar Z. Phytoestrogens: a review of recent findings. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2002 May;15(5):561-72

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12014514

Gullett NP, et al. Cancer prevention with natural compounds. Semin Oncol. 2010 Jun;37(3):258-81

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20709209

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