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Naturopathic Medicine Should be a First Resort, Not a Last Resort July 14, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

With any treatment plan the goal is to always use the least invasive therapy first before considering more aggressive invasive therapy. This makes it more likely that the health concern can be effectively treated without harming the patient. If someone has a mild infection that can be easily treated with a well tolerated low dose oral antibiotic then it makes sense to use this prior to trying high dose intravenous antibiotics that are more likely to cause complications. This rationale is common sense.

When faced with a diagnosis of cancer, patients are often overwhelmed with information and this can scare them into immediately resorting to the most aggressive treatment plan possible and in the process natural therapies are dismissed out of fear. In many cases, only after all conventional options have been exhausted do they seek integrative care. This is not the ideal time to integrate natural therapies into the plan as the bodies immune system is often severely weakened at this point in time. Naturopathic medicine should be integrated into the plan from the first day of diagnosis.

I am not in any way suggesting that patients should be avoiding conventional care. The evidence is clear, patients do better when they have an integrative health care team. This means that conventional and natural therapies are used together in a synergistic manner. After consulting with their oncologist, some patients are left with the impression that there is no evidence to support any therapy beyond what is being recommended. This could not be further from the truth. These therapies have hundreds of peer reviewed studies and depending on where you are in the world they can be the standard of care. In many major cancer centres in the USA, naturopathic doctors are now working in hospitals along side medical oncologists and patients are doing better as a result.

Naturopathic medicine can be very effective at supporting the immune system and reducing side effects during conventional cancer therapies. You can do all the chemotherapy in the world but if you do not have a functioning immune system to clean up the metabolic mess then it will not be a successful plan. This is where naturopathic medicine excels and it should be used from day one. It is not unusual for me to have patients at my office using the strongest and most toxic chemotherapy that medicine has to offer, and they breeze through it with minimal side effects.

It is critical to recognize that you must have professional guidance when developing an integrative treatment plan. Do not take advice from friends or the internet and start taking a supplement because you heard it was good for cancer. Not all cancers are the same and there are legitimate interactions that you must be aware of. Only a naturopathic doctor who works with oncology will be able to help you develop a targeted and effective treatment plan that is indicated for your unique health circumstances. Working with a naturopathic doctor also makes it possible to have true integrative care where multiple health care practitioners are working collaboratively on your case.

You do not have to take these supplements in secret. If you desire an integrative treatment plan then your naturopathic doctor should be making an effort to reach out to your oncologist to inform them about what you are taking. When oncologists are provided with information about what you are taking and why, they are often happy to work collaboratively. Both naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine have a lot that they can offer patients. The ideal treatment plan does not have to be one extreme where the other healthcare practitioners are completely disregarded. The most effective plan is a collaborative integrative plan that is developed based on the best available scientific evidence. Integrating naturopathic medicine with conventional medicine should be every patients first resort, not their last.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

Evolving Treatment Plan February 25, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Chemotherapy, Healing, Supplements.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

It is not unusual for patients to develop a treatment plan with their medical doctor or naturopathic physician and then remain on the same plan for many years. Of course there are times where the developed plan is optimal and in these cases there is no need to modify the plan. However, as the unique health circumstances of a patient evolve over time, so must the treatment plan. A plan that was optimal 5 years ago, may no longer be relevant or indicated now. This is why it is important to regularly follow up with your naturopathic physician to make sure that the developed plan is still the best treatment plan for you.

A great example of this is in the context of integrative cancer care. If a different chemotherapy is used, then clearly a follow up is indicated to make sure that there are no contraindications and that the plan is still safe and effective. If there is an upcoming surgery, whether it is related to cancer or not, there are simple changes that can be done to help you heal faster from that procedure. There are also times where a plan must be modified based on the particular symptoms that a patient is having. For example, prior to radiation there are naturopathic therapies which can be used to reduce side effects and enhance the effectiveness of the radiation. I would highly recommend these supports prior to initiating therapy but if specific side effects of radiation start to surface then we can add additional supports to address these concerns.

It seems obvious to point out that treatment plans must be modified to address your current health circumstances. But this is something that patients tend to forget in the chaos of life and appointments to various health care practitioners. Naturopathic doctors will take the time to go through your entire health history and modify the treatment plan accordingly.

Although your treatment plan should be dynamic, you also must use each therapy long enough to have any reasonable chance of having a therapeutic benefit. A common problem with many patients who self-prescribe supplements is that they constantly change the plan based on advice from friends or by looking at popular trends on the internet. This presents several obvious concerns which ultimately results in a more expensive and less effective plan. If you are taking many different supplements then there is no way of knowing what is actually working. By consuming large numbers of supplements this starts to interfere with the absorption of clinically useful quantities and the interactions between these supplements can hinder effectiveness of the plan.

The bottom line is that if you are taking a very long list of supplements then chances are that you do not have an optimal treatment plan. If this is the case then I would suggest that you seek a naturopathic doctor who can help you to eliminate supplements, not add to the list. At my practice I spend a significant portion of my time helping patients to simplify their treatment regimen and make it more targeted for their specific health concerns.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

Pre-Sale Discount Ending June 30 June 29, 2015

Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Integrative Cancer Careintegrative cancer care vancouver

                                                                                                                                                 Just a reminder the presale discount for Dr. Adam McLeod’s new book, Integrative Cancer Care: The Power of Being Informed, ends tomorrow on Tuesday June 30, 2015! This book describes evidence based natural therapies that are available and how they can be used in an integrative cancer setting. Become an informed patient and get involved in your own healing.

Presale discount: $20 tax included

Regular price: $24.95 plus tax

Order your copy today through the online bookstore.

http://dreamhealer.3dcartstores.com/Integrative-Cancer-Care-The-Power-of-Being-Informed_p_20.html

The Dangers of DHEA June 15, 2015

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cancer Treatment.
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DHEA Cancer

Written by: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is often described as a wonder drug that is used by patients interested in its anti-aging effects. As we age the levels of DHEA in the blood start to decrease so the logic was that if patients were given this hormone then they would be able to partially reverse the aging process. There is evidence to suggest that indeed it improves many of the characteristics that we associate with aging.

Supplementation with DHEA is not safe for everyone as it is strongly associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer1,2. In response to this risk, supplement companies began to produce a molecule called 7-keto DHEA, which is a metabolite of DHEA. This was considered a safer alternative to DHEA because it does not break down into estrogen or testosterone4. It is true that when patients take 7-keto DHEA there is no statistically significant increase in hormone levels but this does not make it safe to use with breast cancer.

I have personally seen several patients with active estrogen positive breast cancer who were prescribed 7-keto DHEA by a medical doctor. This is a dangerous combination and it is reckless to prescribe this medication in this clinical situation. 7-keto DHEA is not safe for any patient with estrogen positive breast cancer. There are a number of obvious biochemical reasons for this contraindication. First of all there are absolutely no studies which indicate that this is safe with estrogen positive breast cancer. Secondly, just because the estrogen levels are not elevated does not mean that the estrogen receptor is not being stimulated.

Normally the receptors on the surface of a cell are only stimulated by a few specific molecules. The estrogen receptors are notoriously promiscuous. What this means is that they are stimulated by many different molecules as well as estrogen. One of those molecules is 7-keto DHEA. In other words, even though patients do not have elevations in estrogen levels the estrogen receptors are being directly stimulated by the 7-keto DHEA3. As far as the cancer cells are concerned, they will act as if they are being stimulated by estrogen even though the actual levels of estrogen remain unchanged.

In one study it was conclusively shown that 7-keto DHEA (aka 7-oxo DHEA) is a low affinity ligand activator of estrogen receptors. The estrogen activity in these cancer cell lines were significantly elevated compared to the controls. In this same study, the cancer cells (MCF-7 breast cancer cells) that were treated with 7-keto DHEA grew much faster than the controls. This simple study certainly raises concern about the use of this supplement in cancer patients. It is clearly misleading to state that 7-keto DHEA has all the positive effects of DHEA without any of the negative effects. This is simply not how our cells operate on the biochemical level.

Another obvious concern is that 7-keto DHEA is essentially structurally identical to DHEA. This means that its overall shape is so similar that it will stimulate estrogen receptors the same as if it was DHEA. The estrogen receptors on cancer cells cannot tell the difference between 7-keto DHEA and DHEA. As far as the cancer is concerned it is the same thing. Of course the DHEA will not stimulate these receptors as strongly as estrogen but they still increase the activity which is the complete opposite of what you want to do with estrogen positive breast cancer. Conventional cancer therapies work very hard to reduce estrogen activity as much as possible because this activity acts as a signal for these cancer cells to grow5.

It is important that more patients become aware of this serious concern because it is difficult to sift through the mountains of information on the web. Unfortunately, there are still doctors that are prescribing this medication to estrogen positive breast cancer patients. The simple explanation that estrogen levels are unaffected does not mean that it is safe. Biology is much more complex than simply monitoring the level of a few arbitrary hormones in the blood. There is significant cross talk between these different pathways in cells and this well understood biological concept also applies to the clinical setting.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author.
He currently practices at his clinic, Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic, in Vancouver, BC where he focuses on integrative oncology.

References:
1) Tworoger, S. S.; Missmer, S. A.; Eliassen, A. H. et al. (2006). “The association of plasma DHEA and DHEA sulfate with breast cancer risk in predominantly premenopausal women”. Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 15 (5): 967–71.

2) Key, T.; Appleby, P.; Barnes, I.; Reeves, G. (2002). “Endogenous sex hormones and breast cancer in postmenopausal women: reanalysis of nine prospective studies”. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 94 (8): 606–16.

3) Michael Miller, Kristy K., et al. “DHEA metabolites activate estrogen receptors alpha and beta.” Steroids 78.1 (2013): 15-25.

4) Lardy, H; Kneer N, Wei Y, Partridge B, Marwah P (1998). “Ergosteroids II: Biologically Active Metabolites and Synthetic Derivatives of Dehydroepiandrosterone”. Steroids 63 (3): 158–165.

5) Janni W, Hepp P. Adjuvant aromatase inhibitor therapy: Outcomes and safety. Cancer Treat Rev. 2010; 36:249–261.

DCA and Cancer March 9, 2015

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Integrative Medicine.
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By: Dr. Adam McLeod , ND, BSc

Several years ago there was a huge buzz in the media about Dichloroacetic Acid (DCA) and its use in cancer1. The public was outraged that DCA could be an effective cancer therapy and that the government showed little interest because DCA could not be patented. The drug companies ignored any evidence related to this therapy because without a patent it was simply not a profitable venture. Fortunately, some private researchers raised enough money to continue studies into this simple yet effective therapy.

DCA was initially used for lactic acidosis, a condition where the blood has high levels of lactic acid. The DCA inhibits the enzyme pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase which causes a major shift in metabolism from fermentation to oxidation in the mitochondria2. In other words, it forces the mitochondria in cells to become more active. This is relevant to cancer because the survival of cancer cells depends on the mitochondria being dormant. The mitochondria are capable of triggering cell death in abnormal or damaged cells. Cancer cells are grossly abnormal and they often depend on the mitochondria being inactive.

The ultimate goal of this therapy is to activate the mitochondria and allow them to trigger cell death in the abnormal cancerous cells. The DCA will certainly help to activate these pathways but it is essential that patients also exercise. By regularly doing aerobic exercise you are also stimulating the mitochondria. The excessive energetic demands during exercise trigger the mitochondria to be more active and burn oxygen. DCA when combined with exercise significantly increases the consumption of oxygen by the mitochondria which is an indication that the mitochondria are being further activated5.

It is essential for cancer patients (not just patients on DCA) to do aerobic exercise if they are physically able to. It does not matter what that type of exercise it is, just as long as it is a moderate aerobic exercise that you are able to do on a regular basis. There is an overwhelming body of evidence which clearly shows that cancer patients who regularly exercise simply do much better than those who do not. It is possible that this mitochondrial activation could be one of the reasons for this.

Most of the research seems to indicate that DCA is more effective for cancers that are localized in the nervous system3. Although it can be used for other types of cancer, it is less indicated for cancers that do not localize to the nervous system. A very common side effect from chemotherapy is neuropathy4 and DCA should be used with caution if there are any signs of neuropathy. There are no known drug interactions with DCA except for the drug Lasix which is a diuretic. Overall DCA is a very safe therapy and there are many studies that demonstrate the safety of this therapy.

The bottom line is that DCA is an effective therapy when used appropriately. It is not a cure on its own but DCA can be a major part of an effective and comprehensive integrative cancer treatment plan. It can be administered either orally or intravenously. The oral dose is typically 15-20mg/kg and it is cycled 2 weeks on followed by 1 week off. It is extremely important to have the appropriate neurological support during this therapy. DCA is known to cause significant neuropathy and you must be monitored by a physician who is experienced with the use of DCA. Common neurological support includes NAC, Thiamine (B1) and ALA. It is essential that you consult with a Naturopathic physician who focuses in oncology to know what neurological support is best suited for you.

A Naturopathic doctor that works with oncology will take the time to look at your case and will write you a prescription for DCA if it is truly indicated. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References

1) “Cheap, ‘safe’ drug kills most cancers”. New Scientist. 2007-01-17. Retrieved 2014-08-23.

2) Stacpoole PW (1989). “The pharmacology of dichloroacetate”. Metabolism 38 (11): 1124–1144. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(89)90051-6. PMID 2554095

3) Michelakis E D, et al. Metabolic Modulation of Glioblastoma with Dichloriacetate. Sci Transl Med 12 May 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 31

4) Abramowski MC. Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain. J of the Advanced Practitioner in Oncology. 2010;1:279-283.

5) Ludvik, Bernhard, et al. “Effects of dichloroacetate on exercise performance in healthy volunteers.” Pflügers Archiv423.3-4 (1993): 251-254.

Cancer: Know your enemy December 4, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Cancer;know your enemy

By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc

Chemotherapy is an effective tool at killing cancer cells when it is used appropriately. The biggest challenge is knowing which drug is best suited for an individual’s cancer. Over the years we have learned that certain cancers tend to be more vulnerable to specific chemotherapies. This has resulted in specific protocols being assigned to patients in a “cookie cutter system”. For example, if you have hodgkins lymphoma you are given ABVD1. If you have non-hodgkins lymphoma you are given CHOP2. This model is currently the standard of care with cancer treatment but it is clear that this is not the most effective way to treat cancer.

It is true that certain cancers tend to be susceptible to certain chemotherapies but these generalizations are not universally correct. There is an incredible degree of variation between cancer cells in different people. Genetic variations are significant even between different cells within one tumour in an individual3. In fact, very often there is a protocol different than the standard chemotherapy regimen that would be more effective4. Unless tests are done there is no way of knowing which protocol will be the most effective. It is essential to run these tests first and have a clear rationale for the chemotherapy protocol rather than testing on the patient through trial and error.

There is no question that targeted cancer therapies are the future of oncology. It is very important for patients to realize that we already have the ability to do this. Personalized cancer therapy is available but it is rarely encouraged by oncologists due to the costs. Although these tests are often not covered, they can be done privately for approximately $4000.00.

The older chemotherapy protocols involve using extremely toxic compounds that target any cell which is growing rapidly. In recent years there have been major advances in drugs that target specific pathways in cancer cells5. Before using these targeted drugs effectively it is essential to know which targets the cancer cells are vulnerable to.

When a surgery or biopsy is performed on a cancerous mass it is essential that the sample be sent to a lab that runs these personalized genomic tests. The cancerous cells will be tested against hundreds of different types of chemotherapies and clear evidence will be obtained about which drugs the cancer is actually susceptible to. This vulnerability of the cancer is determined by an actual test on the cells rather than making generalizations based on the type of cancer. As these tests become more affordable it will inevitably become the future standard of care because it is so much more effective than the current standard model.

This is something that patients need to ask for before the surgery. You cannot ask for it to be done afterwards because the cells will not be adequately preserved. This service is rarely offered to patients and few are even aware that this is an option. You need to specifically ask for the cells to be sent to a lab that runs these tests.

Personalized cancer therapy gives patients many additional treatment options. If they do not tolerate the initial chemotherapy regiment well or if the cancer becomes resistant to the first line therapy, then there is a potential “Plan B” that is effective based on molecular evidence. By running this test it will give your oncologist data that justifies the use of a protocol, which may deviate from the current standard of care. The data will give a distinct molecular profile of the cancer that allows a customized treatment plan to be developed for you.

If this customized approach is something you are interested in doing make sure you speak to your oncologist. Any naturopathic doctor who works with oncology on a regular basis will also be familiar with these tests. Contact your local naturopathic doctor to see if this test is right for you.

Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author http://www.dreamhealer.com

He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, BC where he focuses on integrative oncology.http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1) Bonadonna G, Zucali R, Monfardini S, De Lena M, Uslenghi C (1975). “Combination chemotherapy of Hodgkin’s disease with adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and imidazole carboxamide versus MOPP.”. Cancer 36 (1): 252–9

2) Fisher RI, Gaynor ER, Dahlberg S, Oken MM, Grogan TM, Mize EM, Glick JH, Coltman CA Jr, Miller TP (1993). “Comparison of a standard regimen (CHOP) with three intensive chemotherapy regimens for advanced non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”. N Engl J Med 328 (14): 1002–6.

3) Ross, Douglas T., et al. “Systematic variation in gene expression patterns in human cancer cell lines.” Nature genetics 24.3 (2000): 227-235.

4) Strickland, Stephen A., et al. “Correlation of the microculture-kinetic drug-induced apoptosis assay with patient outcomes in initial treatment of adult acute myelocytic leukemia.” Leukemia & lymphoma 54.3 (2013): 528-534.

5) McDermott, Ultan, and Jeff Settleman. “Personalized cancer therapy with selective kinase inhibitors: an emerging paradigm in medical oncology.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 27.33 (2009): 5650-5659.

Mistletoe the Parasite October 1, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Health.
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Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that directly derives almost all of its nutrition from other flowering plants. By parasitizing other plants, they have a competitive advantage over many other forms of life because they do not have to compete in soil for their water and nutrient needs. This description of mistletoe sounds surprisingly similar to how cancer operates. When you look at mistletoe growing on a tree it looks very much like a tumour. Cancer gets all of its nutrition from other cells within the human body and it has a competitive advantage because it does not abide by the same rules as other cells in the body.

It turns out the mistletoe can be used to effectively treat cancer, even in advanced cases1,2,3. In North America this is often considered a “fringe treatment” yet if you go to Germany this is a mainstream therapy that is well established by the scientific community. The use of mistletoe dramatically reduces the side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. The effects are so dramatic that some countries have already made this the standard of care for cancer treatment. The use of mistletoe as the new standard of care was of huge financial benefit to these countries because of the significant decrease in complications from chemotherapy and radiation.

Although there are several different ways to administer mistletoe, the most common is regular subcutaneous injections. This involves the use of small insulin needles and injecting the mistletoe just under the skin. After injecting the mistletoe lectins the immune system immediately begins to attack the injected fluid resulting in a small red rash around the injection site. This immune activation is an excellent outcome in the context of cancer. By activating the immune system at the site of injection it consequently activates the immune system in the entire body.

Mistletoe has been shown to stimulate increases in the number and the activity of several types of white blood cells4. Immune-system-enhancing cytokines, such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor -alpha, are released by white blood cells after exposure to mistletoeextracts5,6. Other evidence suggests that mistletoe exerts its cytotoxic effects by interfering with protein synthesis in target cells and by inducing apoptosis7.

Just like any cancer therapy it is essential that it is used in the right context. When this therapy is used there will initially be a swelling of the tumour, this is a consequence of the immune activation. If there are any detectable masses contained within the skull, then clearly swelling is not desirable. Mistletoe therapy is contraindicated in patients that have any detectable mass in the brain. It also must be used with caution on patients that are are cachexic and malnourished. The sudden release of cytokines associated with immune activation can worsen the malnourished state.

Mistletoe therapy only costs approximately $250 dollars per month and it can be used in conjunction with other medical therapies. I regularly use mistletoe with my patients at the clinic and it is an effective cancer therapy when used appropriately. On a regular basis I see patients improve when they use this therapy as part of a comprehensive integrative cancer therapy. Contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to see if this is the right therapy for you.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1. Mistletoe. In: Murray MT: The Healing Power of Herbs. Roseville, Calif: Prima Publishing, 1995, pp 253-9.

2. Samtleben R, Hajto T, Hostanska K, et al.: Mistletoe lectins as immunostimulants (chemistry, pharmacology and clinic). In: Wagner H, ed.: Immunomodulatory Agents from Plants. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser Verlag, 1999, pp 223-41.

3. Hajto T, Lanzrein C: Natural killer and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity activities and large granular lymphocyte frequencies in Viscum album-treated breast cancer patients. Oncology 43 (2): 93-7, 1986.

4. Büssing A, Regnery A, Schweizer K: Effects of Viscum album L. on cyclophosphamide-treated peripheral blood mononuclear cells in vitro: sister chromatid exchanges and activation/proliferation marker expression. Cancer Lett 94 (2): 199-205, 1995.

5. Hajto T: Immunomodulatory effects of iscador: a Viscum album preparation. Oncology 43 (Suppl 1): 51-65, 1986.

6. Hajto T, Hostanska K, Frei K, et al.: Increased secretion of tumor necrosis factors alpha, interleukin 1, and interleukin 6 by human mononuclear cells exposed to beta-galactoside-specific lectin from clinically applied mistletoe extract. Cancer Res 50 (11): 3322-6, 1990.

7. Mengs U, Schwarz T, Bulitta M, et al.: Antitumoral effects of an intravesically applied aqueous mistletoe extract on urinary bladder carcinoma MB49 in mice. Anticancer Res 20 (5B): 3565-8, 2000 Sep- Oct.

“My oncologist said that it doesn’t matter what I eat.” May 22, 2014

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, Cancer, Diet, Dreamhealer, Healing, Integrative Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Research.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hon)

I see a lot of patients with cancer at my clinic. The vast majority of my patients tell me that their oncologist bluntly told them that it doesn’t matter what they eat during their chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Some of these oncologists are so ingrained with this belief and they give zero dietary advice because they are convinced that diet will not make a difference.

As a molecular biologist this rationale made no sense to me. During these aggressive therapies every cell in the body is under an enormous amount of stress. The metabolic demands on your cells are obviously increased so that they can survive in the presence of these toxins. If the metabolic demands are increased then they clearly need nutrients to supply this demand. There is a big difference in the nutrient content of a Twinkie compared to an apple. Logic dictates that this difference in nutrients should make a big difference when your cells are bathed in chemotherapy and radiation in an effort to kill cancer.

Could all of these oncologists be wrong? They are very educated and if they feel so passionately about role of diet (or lack thereof) in cancer then surely there must be a scientific reason for this. I decided to look at peer-reviewed articles that study how diets affect patients during chemotherapy and radiation. It turns out that this attitude from oncologists is not based on logic or scientific fact. The evidence is clear; diet makes a big difference when patients are on chemotherapy and radiation. Oncologists who claim to be practicing evidence based medicine need to stop telling patients that it makes no difference because this is not what the evidence shows.

Many studies have been done on humans and rats, which clearly show positive affects from diet during chemotherapy. When given a diet that is rich in nutrients, rats are able to tolerate significantly higher doses of chemotherapy and radiation1,2. This is consistent with the ultimate goal of keeping your cells strong so that chemotherapy can be better tolerated by the patient. A recent article in the journal “The Oncologist” breaks down the different mechanisms as to how caloric restriction can enhance the effects of chemotherapy and radiation3. The conclusion of their research is: “Caloric restriction by fasting is likely an effective method to potentiate the cytotoxicity of chemotherapy and radiation therapy because of the overlapping induction of molecular profiles, and it may also provide a beneficial means of improving the overall health and metabolic profiles of patients. At this time, clinical trials evaluating caloric restriction as a complementary therapy in the treatment of cancer are warranted.” Caloric restriction is a method where the patient maintains their nutrient status while decreasing the number of calories that they are ingesting. Pilot trials have been completed on the ketogenic diet and how it affects the quality of life in advanced cancer patients. The results clearly show that specific diets can improve quality of life in these patients4. These are just a few examples of how different diets can impact your health during chemotherapy.

Diet alone is not a cure for cancer but when used properly it can help patients maintain their nutrient status during chemotherapy and radiation. I know that oncologists sincerely want the best for their patients and I have great respect for the work that they do. However, when they are asked about diet it is probably better that they say, “I don’t know” rather than “Don’t waste your time with diets because it won’t make a difference.” Unfortunately, oncologists do not get any training in nutrition and its role in cancer therapy. Their lack of training in nutrition is very apparent when you consider their position on the subject despite the evidence showing that it can be an effective tool6.

The bottom line is that diet does make a difference as this is what the evidence shows. There is no question that a healthy balanced diet will make it easier for patients to tolerate chemotherapy and radiation. Even though many of these patients have low energy levels during chemotherapy it is important to point out that research indicates patients are willing and able to adhere to specific diets during chemotherapy5. Anyone who eats a low quality diet will have lower energy and consequently a lower quality of life (recall the movie “Supersize Me”). This is common sense and this concept obviously applies to those who are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. It is not uncommon in my practice for patients to be going through chemotherapy and radiation with minimal side effects because they are nutritionally supported during this process. If you eat a high quality diet under the supervision of a Naturopathic doctor (ND), then your cells with be better nourished to deal with the stresses of cancer and the aggressive treatments associated with cancer.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, First Nations Healer, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author http://www.dreamhealer.com

He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1)    Bounous G, Le Bel E, Shuster J, Gold P, Tahan WT, Bastin E. Dietary protection during radiation therapy..  PubMed PMID: 807995.

2) Richard F. Branda, Zhuan Chen, Elice M. Brooks, Shelly J. Naud, Thomas D. Trainer, John J. McCormack, Diet modulates the toxicity of cancer chemotherapy in rats, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, Volume 140, Issue 5, November 2002, Pages 358-368, ISSN 0022-2143

3) Champ, Colin E., et al. “Nutrient restriction and radiation therapy for cancer treatment: when less is more.” The oncologist 18.1 (2013): 97-103.

4) Schmidt, Melanie, et al. “Effects of a ketogenic diet on the quality of life in 16 patients with advanced cancer: A pilot trial.” Nutr Metab (Lond) 8.1 (2011): 54.

5) von Gruenigen, Vivian E., et al. “Feasibility of a lifestyle intervention for ovarian cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy.” Gynecologic oncology 122.2 (2011): 328-333.

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