Immune, Nutrition | June 4, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
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.
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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Herbs and nutrients have specific ways in which they can prevent the development of cancer. They do this by influencing genes, centrosomes, inflammation and hormones.
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:
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.
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.
Our 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.
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.
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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Mitochondria are the energy producing powerhouses within our cells and their dysfunction has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.
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).
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.
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.
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