Immune Stimulating Naturopathic Cancer Therapies
One of the hallmarks of cancer is the ability of cancer cells to evade destruction by the immune system.
Even more insidiously, cancer can co-opt your own immune system, and trick it into inhibiting the production and function of immune cells.
Both actions allow tumors to develop, proliferate and metastasize. For those reasons, it is important for people with cancer to maintain competent immune function in order to improve their outcomes.
Conventional therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy have been found to weaken and suppress the immune system.
In fact, one of the most common reasons that chemotherapy is halted is due to low white blood counts (most often a white blood cell called a neutrophil) commonly known as neutropenia.
Many individuals receive white blood cell boosters while undergoing conventional care to help maintain their white blood cell count - often this is done to prevent infections.
Clearly, it's important to maintain intact immune function while undergoing conventional therapy to fully take advantage of their anti-cancer effects.
Many naturopathic therapies such as the use of botanicals, nutraceuticals, IV’s, injection therapies, and even targeted diet adjustment have been found to have a profound impact on immune function.
Because the immune system is such an integral component of cancer prevention and treatment, it is always something we address in association with cancer. Each person we see is assessed on an individual basis to decide which immune-stimulating therapies are right for them.
Read on to see just a few of the avenues that our physicians use to modulate immune function. If you’re curious how we could improve the function of your immune system naturally, please schedule a consultation with one of our physicians.
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist commonly used in opioid and alcohol addiction. It blocks the opioid receptor preventing these substances from attaching. However, it is used at significantly higher does during these situations (50-150 mg vs 1.5-4.5 mg) hence when we use it, it is called low dose naltrexone.
At low doses, naltrexone reversibly and transiently binds (for 3-4 hours) to the opioid receptor. The body senses that it has low levels of opioids and so increases the production of endogenous opioids also known as endorphins and enkephalins.
It also upregulates the number of opioid receptors in the body and the sensitivity of these receptors. Many of our cells, including immune cells, have opioid receptors on their surface.
One of the endorphins produced is known as Opioid Growth Factor (OGF) or Met-enkephalin. OGF binds to the Opioid Growth Factor receptor (OGFr) that is found on many cells.
Once bound it has a multitude of effects. The use of LDN has been found to:
Inhibit cellular proliferation
Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
Balance the TH1 and TH2 immune response
Enhance the function of cytotoxic T and natural killer cells
Increase the number of dendritic cells
Increase the levels of T-helper/CD4 immune cells.
This is beneficial in many conditions which include autoimmune disease and other inflammatory conditions as well as cancer.
There are numerous studies and case reports of the benefits of LDN in patients with cancer. A combination of LDN and ALA has been used to good effect in the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer and LDN has been used as a monotherapy for a person with lymphoma.
LDN has been found to have efficacy in ovarian, breast, colon, renal, neuroblastoma, glioblastoma, and squamous cells carcinomas.
It exerts its effects by directly inhibiting cancer cell growth, inhibiting angiogenesis, and stimulating the immune system.
Use of LDN has also been found to reduce the side effects of common chemotherapies such as cisplatin.
To see if low dose naltrexone might be beneficial in your situation, please schedule a consultation with one of our physicians.
One of the frequent reasons we prescribe mistletoe therapy is due to its immune stimulatory effects.
When first beginning therapy, mistletoe activates the innate/nonspecific immune system.
Continued use of mistletoe stimulates the adaptive immune response and pushes the immune system towards a Th1 response which results in the induction of cytotoxic T cells and memory T cells. This may result in long-term immune stimulating effects towards cancer.
The main immune stimulating effect of mistletoe has been found to be stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC’s). It also increases the number and function of natural killer cells. Furthermore, it stimulates the production of hematopoietic progenitor cells.
Over time, mistletoe has been found to train the adaptive immune response and increase levels of CD4+ T lymphocytes.
Mistletoe has also been found to protect immune cells from the cytotoxic effects of chemotherapy. Subsequent injections have been found to increase the levels of T-lymphocytes.
Studies have found that over time, the body may become desensitized to the effects of mistletoe therapy and increasingly higher doses are needed to provide the same benefit.
At Naturopathic Specialists, we have developed a protocol which maximizes the immune response from mistletoe while minimizing the need to continually increase to higher doses.
Botanicals have a long history (thousands of years) of being used to prevent and treat infections, cancer, and autoimmune disease. Much of this has to do with their interaction with the immune system.
In modern times, the exact mechanisms by which many of these botanicals act has been studied and identified. This is beneficial to our patients because we can tailor botanical formulations to meet their specific needs.
Botanicals can have multiple different functions and impact the body in a multitude of ways at the same time.
This often allows us to formulate complex botanical formulas that address multiple needs at once. Botanicals can impact the immune system in multiple different ways. For instance, they can:
Stimulate the immune system
Modulate the immune system
Act as antimicrobials
Stimulate lymph flow
Decrease inflammation, and much more.
Since botanicals interact with the body in complex ways it is imperative that you seek guidance from a physician before beginning to use them as part of your treatment.
This is especially important if you are taking pharmaceuticals or undergoing conventional cancer care since botanicals can interact and, in some cases, interfere with many common pharmaceuticals.
To speak with one of our doctors about the use of botanicals in connection with your care plan, click here to contact us.
Nutraceuticals are products containing isolated ingredients which have health-promoting benefits.
Most nutraceuticals are based on nutritional products (hence the “nutra”) and are often derived directly from food. Most of the products that you can obtain from a health-food store (we are talking about capsules in bottles) can be, at least loosely, considered nutraceuticals.
The problem here is that although they may have a fancy label most products on the shelves cannot make health-related claims. Some labels may bear a name that is suggestive of what it may do for you, but that can be misleading.
Finding the correct dosing can also be an issue. Many products readily available to the general public are produced in capsule sizes and suggested dosages that may be too small to produce an intended or desired effect.
Additionally, combining one nutraceutical with another may cause unexpected or unwanted effects.
Knowledge about mechanisms of action, product combining, achieving the desired effect, and creating a sufficient dosing schedule is a complex calculation.
We advise that people speak with their physician before attempting to develop a plan involving nutraceuticals on their own.
Furthermore, since many nutraceuticals are derived from food or botanicals, our physicians will often discuss or prescribe a diet therapy to complement or enhance the encapsulated products. Dietary strategies which enrich for specific nutrient components combine well with nutrition-based targeting agents, such as nutraceuticals and can often deliver a broader range of supportive agents, holistically.
With the help of a skilled physician, nutraceutical protocols can be highly effective. If you're interested in maximizing the benefits of nutraceuticals as part of your care program, feel free to contact us.
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