By: Dr. Lindsey Josephson, ND, Tri-Cities Cancer Center
The war on cancer is typically fought with some combination of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. These three tools have come a long way over the years at becoming more effective and causing less collateral damage. Like any war, the war on cancer is best fought with allies. The value of nutrition, chaplaincy and others have long been known in cancer care. Oncology has another powerful ally in the form of Naturopathic Medicine. Naturopathic Medicine uses a wide variety of therapies such as herbs, high dose nutrients, diet, lifestyle and exercise factors for the treatment of a wide variety of illnesses, particularly the chronic lifestyle-based diseases that have become so prevalent in the United States.
In the case of cancer care, natural therapies work best when used in conjunction with conventional therapies. Naturopathic co-management of cancer can:
• Improve outcomes of the treatment
• Reduce side effects of medication or radiation therapy
• Speed healing after surgery
• Improve quality of life both during and after treatment
• Reduce risk of cancer recurrence
• Reduce long term damage to organs related to cancer treatments.
Bastyr University has conducted many studies on the benefits of adding naturopathic therapies along with conventional therapies. The benefits are so striking that many large cancer treatment centers around the Pacific Northwest are beginning to either incorporate naturopathic practitioners or partner with other organizations that can provide that service. Starting in October 2017, your Tri-Cities Cancer Center is one of those organizations!Bastyr University has conducted many studies on the benefits of adding naturopathic therapies along with conventional therapies. The benefits are so striking that many large cancer treatment centers around the Pacific Northwest are beginning to either incorporate naturopathic practitioners or partner with other organizations that can provide that service. Starting in October 2017, your Tri-Cities Cancer Center is one of those organizations!
A few words of caution here. The first caution is that all natural therapies that have benefits when used properly can cause harm when used improperly. Even turmeric and high dose green tea extract, if used during the wrong protocol, can cause harm. For this reason please do not start any natural therapies without consulting with myself or another physician who is familiar with their use in cancer. The second caution regarding natural therapies regards their use as stand alone therapy. The research on naturopathic therapies has established its best used in conjunction with conventional therapies. In fact one of the biggest benefits of adding natural therapies to conventional is the increased ability of the patient to tolerate dose dense chemotherapy. The research has not yet identified any reproducible protocols for using natural treatments as stand-alone therapy. I realize that the internet abounds with claims that such exists. Those claims are either loosely based on early evidence then exaggerated or simply the medical miracle story of an individual that used a therapy and achieved incredible results that are not reproducible.
Although you should not start taking any herb or supplement during your cancer treatment without consulting your doctor, there are things that you can do now to improve your cancer treatment.
1. Exercise – Exercise is the single best thing you can do to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Bonus – it also improves energy, mood and sleep. How much exercise is best? Any exercise is better than none so start where you are then increase as you feel able. Once you start feeling the benefits of exercise you can start working toward 1 hour per day.
2. Eat vegetable and fruits – Both fruits and vegetables have cancer protective action. Shoot for 9 servings daily with the majority of that coming from vegetables.
3. Eat mushrooms – Any type of mushroom will work but shitakii has particularly good research behind it. In the case of breast cancer, white button mushrooms have a mild aromatase inhibiting action.
4. Avoid sugar and refined starches – Cancer loves to eat sugar and refined starches.
5. Manage stress – Stress has been associated with every chronic disease there is including development of cancer. Fortunately there are many different ways of managing stress so everyone can find at least one that fits for them. Some popular options are meditation, yoga, exercise, journaling, talking to a friend, and laughter. The tools for fighting the war on cancer are ever expanding. New research comes out daily on how natural and conventional therapies work together. As we know more, we are better able to match conventional and natural therapies to win the war on cancer.
For more information on a naturopathic consult, please contact Joan Stewart, Clinical Services Coordinator, at (509) 737-3450.