Supportive Naturopathic Cancer Therapies
We have many different patients come through our door at Naturopathic Specialists. Some do not wish to undergo conventional cancer care. However, many plan to or are undergoing conventional therapy. In this case conventional therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are doing the heavy lifting and providing stronganti-cancer activity. Depending on the case, we may see that it is more indicated to provide supportive care to these patients. Supportive care can include:
- Preventing and treating the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- Improving wound healing and recovery time during surgery
- Enhancing the immune system
- Decreasing inflammation
- Enhancing quality of life
Conventional therapy usually has one goal in mind which is to get rid of cancer. Usually the conventional medical world does not focus on treating and supporting the whole person. This is where naturopathic philosophy and care excel. By employing different modalities, we create treatment plans that is personalized to our patients’ needs. Some of the modalities we commonly employ to best serve our patients:
- IV therapies
- Lifestyle therapies
- Manual therapies
- Frequency specific microcurrent
IV therapies can be used for a multitude of reasons. We wrote about the anti-cancer benefits of IV therapies here (link). IV therapies can also be used to help support patients. Conventional therapies such chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can deplete essential nutrients from patients. They can also compromise digestive function preventing the proper absorption of these much-needed nutrients. IV therapy allows for us to bypass the digestive system and deliver these nutrients directly to the cells. One of the other benefits of IV therapies is that we tailor IV’s directly to your needs. This allows us to truly personalize treatment for your needs.
Some of the nutrients that are typically depleted via conventional therapies are magnesium, zinc and b-vitamins. Depletion of these nutrients can lead to common side effects of chemotherapy such as neuropathy. Higher doses of these nutrients can also be used to support patients. Zinc is essential to immune function and can be used to bolster the immune function (13). Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body. Depletion of it can lead to a myriad of side effects therefore replenishment is vital. B-vitamins are essential to numerous functions in the body and depletion can lead to neuropathy, anemia and other conditions. Therefore, it is important to maintain adequate levels to ensure proper functioning of the body.
One of our most commonly used supportive therapies is IV vitamin C (IVC). At high doses IVC is used for its anti-cancer action which you can read about here (link). At lower doses IVC is used as supportive treatment. It is used to improve wound healing and prevent infection after surgery. It is used to reduce fatigue and stimulate the immune system after radiation therapy. It is used during chemotherapy to prevent and reduce side effects as well as enhance the efficacy of some chemotherapies (5-7).
Vitamin C has been found to improve quality of life by reducing fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite and pain (1-4). Additionally, many patients report an improvement in physical, social, cognitive and emotional functioning after receiving IVC (1-4). Patients regularly undergoing IVC infusion also report an alleviation from the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, depression, bleeding, and dizziness (3). As stated above, we also use IVC to help stimulate the immune system (8-12).
Diet and nutrition is fundamental to your anti-cancer protocol. Research is finding that diet can play an important role in cancer care. This includes cancer prevention and treatment. One of the first things many patients do after diagnosis is change their diet. There is a lot of information online regarding oncology and diet. Much of this information is contradictory. This leaves many patients confused and afraid to put anything into their mouths. Furthermore, much of the dietary advice online is non-specific to your situation including your type of cancer. At Naturopathic specialists we have done the research, so you don’t have to. We put together personalized dietary recommendations for all of our patients that take into account their unique physiology, their type of cancer and the treatments they are undergoing.
Personalized cancer diet
Our goal at Naturopathic Specialists is to keep you healthy and strong while you undergo your journey with cancer. One of the cornerstones of our approach to your treatment is diet. We believe that everything you put into your body has a direct effect on your health. At Naturopathic Specialists we consider a whole food, anti-inflammatory, diet the most beneficial way of eating whether you have cancer or not. Ideally this diet should be plant based and consist mainly of minimally processed whole foods. It should also contain organic vegetables, fruits, grass fed protein, wild caught fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and omega 3 rich sources of fats. This is in stark contrast to the way most people in North America eat, also known as the “Standard American Diet (SAD)”. At Naturopathic Specialists we believe that every person is unique. Therefore, each person’s diet should be individualized and unique to them. We use a whole foods diet as a template and then make individualized recommendations based on numerous different health parameters.
Fasting is a time-honored tradition that stretches back across human history. Examples of fasting can be found across all cultures on the planet. Our ancestors knew that there were numerous benefits to fasting. However, in modern society the thought of fasting is unfathomable to most. Fasting restores homeostasis to the body and upregulates cellular repair mechanisms.
Research has proven that fasting results in a plethora of health benefits. Some of these benefits include decreasing blood glucose, reducing inflammation, regeneration of the immune system and increased cellular repair (1). When it comes to oncology it has been found that fasting while undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can improve the efficacy of these treatments and decrease their side effects (2-4). Fasting while undergoing chemotherapy can help alleviate common side effects such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (3,6). One of the reasons for this effect is that fasting has been found to protect normal cells while stressing cancer cells. This is called the “differential stress response” and through this mechanism cancer cells are more susceptible to anti-cancer therapies. Fasting may have anti-cancer activity as it has been found to induce cancer cell death while reducing growth factors that have been linked with increased cancer cell proliferation(2,5).
Fasting is not for everyone and is contraindicated in some instances. We advise that anyone wishing to undergo a fasting mimicking diet do so under the supervision of a healthcare provider trained in the use of the diet. If you have any medical conditions it is best to be monitored while undergoing fasting. There are specific blood tests that should be run before beginning the diet to ensure you are an adequate candidate to undergo the diet. Furthermore, since the diet is low in calories it is important to be monitored while undergoing the diet.
The ketogenic has numerous different applications based on its wide-ranging effects on the body. We commonly use the ketogenic diet as a supportive therapy in patients with cancer as it has been shown to reduce the side effects of conventional treatment while enhancing the effectiveness of them (1-3). The ketogenic diet has been found to reduce or slow the progression of cachexia (4). Other beneficial aspects of the ketogenic diet include its ability to lower blood glucose levels (9), reduce inflammation (7) and decrease IGF-1/ inhibit mTOR (5-6) all of which can stimulate tumor growth. A ketogenic diet has also been found to enhance immune function (6,8) which is also important in patients with cancer. For more information on the benefits of a ketogenic diet check out our blog series on it here (link). We also have videos of the doctors at our clinic talking about the ketogenic diet here (link).
Acupuncture is a facet of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is one of the oldest medical systems on the planet. It is estimated to be over 2500 years old. In the state of Arizona, naturopathic physicians can perform acupuncture and we receive numerous hours of training in it as part of our curriculum in school. Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of symptoms and conditions associated with cancer as well as cancer treatments. More and more acupuncture is being recognized as a safe and effective adjunctive treatment by the conventional oncology world. It is used in many major cancer centers throughout the Unites States such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Acupuncture as defined by the National Institutes of Health is ““a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical locations on the skin by a variety of techniques. The most studied mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points uses penetration of the skin by thin, solid, metallic needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.” (1) The mechanism of action of acupuncture is currently unknown, but it is hypothesized that it works by stimulating and modulating the neurdoendocrine system (2).
In traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture points are chosen based on a TCM diagnosis. Different points are located on different meridians that run throughout the entire body. Qi flows along these meridians and blockages along meridians can lead to disease and dysfunction. Using specific acupuncture points stimulates the flow of Qi which in turn harmonizes the meridians alleviating disease and promoting health.
Acupuncture has been found to treatment many common symptoms associated with cancer as well as conventional cancer care. It has been found to alleviate chemotherapy as well as surgery induced nausea and vomiting(3-5). In some cases it works better than commonly prescribed medications. A common side effect of many chemotherapies is neuropathy. For many patients this is a long-term side effect of chemotherapy. Acupuncture has also been found to help alleviate chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (5-8). Another common side effect of conventional therapy is fatigue. Acupuncture has been found to help alleviate fatigue in patients undergoing both chemotherapy and radiation therapy (9-13). Many women with hormonally driven cancers are placed on hormone blocking therapies and due to this experience intolerable hot flashes. Acupuncture has been found to alleviate hot flashes in women on these therapies (15-16). Acupuncture has also been found to help reduce cancer related pain, improve xerostomia, improve white blood cell counts, reduce insomnia and improve wellbeing (5,14).
There are numerous applications of acupuncture and treatment is more successful when it is tailored towards you and your specific symptoms. At NS we use acupuncture as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Frequency Specific Microcurrent
Naturopathic Specialists offers Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) as an exciting adjunctive treatment for nerve, muscle pain and many other conditions. FSM utilizes specific frequencies and micro amperage current to address over 200 common conditions. Micro amperage is in millionths of an amp and is so small that there is not enough current to stimulate sensory nerves which is why it is generally not felt. This is what separates it from traditional electrical stimulation devices that utilize sine wave and cause muscle contraction and stimulation. Micro amperage current is the same kind of current your body produces on its own within each cell. You can tell it is running by watching the conductance meter on the machine and some patients can feel a sense of warmth as circulation is improved to the area.
The frequencies used in microcurrent are electromagnetic pulses per second measured in hertz and in this case are on two channels. The frequency specific to addressing or neutralizing the condition is placed on channel A. The frequency to address the tissue affected is placed on channel B. The frequencies used in FSM are all less than 1000 Hz. Clinical application and study with frequency specific microcurrent has been found to address many common conditions. There can be no claims made for the effects of the frequencies until research has documented their effects. Current evidence is based on reports from patients and physicians noting results in the clinical setting. The exciting part is as we learn more clinically the application of FSM becomes endless. The other benefit is that there is generally no side effect or discomfort with the treatments.
At Naturopathic Specialists we have observed great improvement with neuropathy, adhesions, general nerve pain, lymphedema as well as endometriosis with FSM. The amount of treatments it takes to elicit relief varies, but most patients feel something within the first few. Typical protocols for addressing issues usually last a number of weeks but vary based on the individual outcomes. To schedule an appointment to try frequency specific microcurrent please contact the front desk.
Pelvic Manual Therapy
At naturopathic specialists we have developed a pelvic care program for our patients with cancer. Many patients who have been treated for gynecological cancer, prostate cancer and bladder cancer have long term side effects such as incontinence, pain, gastrointestinal dysfunction, decreased sexual function among many other symptoms. Dr. Stefanski, who runs our pelvic care program, has specialized training in pelvic physical therapy, Maya Abdominal Therapy and Holistic Pelvic Care™. She will create an individualized treatment program for you that will help reduce and eliminate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Risk Reduction Education
One of the tenants of naturopathic medicine is Docere which translates to “To instruct, teach, or point out”. We take this tenant very seriously at naturopathic specialists and we educate every patient who walks through our door. Much of your consultation time is spent being educated on your physiology, your illness and potential treatment options (both conventional and non-conventional). Another tenant of naturopathic medicine is prevention. Although many patients come to our clinic with a diagnosis we believe it is never to late to practice preventative medicine. In the realm of oncology this can include preventing recurrence of cancer.
When we educate our patients on risk reduction we focus on 5 pillars of health. These 5 pillars are aspects of your life you can change today which will immediately have an overall beneficial impact on your health. The first aspect we talk about is diet. Diet is important in the prevention and treatment of disease. What we put in our body is just as important as what we avoid putting into it and we speak at length on diet to each of our patients. The next aspect we touch on is movement/ physical activity. Westerners live a relatively sedentary lifestyle compared to our ancestors this leads to many negative health consequences. Many of our patients cannot perform conventional exercise and so we teach individuals about what forms of movement can benefit them. Americans wear sleep deprivation as a badge of pride, but research is finding there are many health detriments to lack of sleep. We educate our patients on the benefits of sleep and teach them about sleep hygiene to ensure they can get the most restful sleep possible. There are numerous health benefits to reducing stress and improving social connections. We counsel our patients and teach them stress reducing techniques that focus on reducing stresses both internally and externally. We also educate our patients on the many benefits of social connections and how a strong social support network can greatly improve welling. The last area that we educate our patients on is reducing exposure to environmental carcinogens, both natural and synthetic. Many compounds can act as carcinogens which can both lead to the development and recurrence of cancer. We educate our patients on how to avoid exposure to these harmful compounds.
Ozone is a reactive form of oxygen that contains three oxygen atoms (O3). Because it is highly reactive it is much more likely to interact with other molecules. Ozone’s ability to give up one of its oxygen’s so that it can become more stable is what provides a therapeutic benefit to patients. The use of ozone extends back 150 years where it was used to sterilize surgical equipment and water. The first article published on the medical use of ozone was in 1892 where it was used to treat tuberculosis (1). In Germany, much of Europe and South America ozone is used regularly as a medical therapy.
Ozone therapy causes a myriad of effects on the body. It acts on numerous pathways causing multiple cascading events. Ozone enhances the metabolism of oxygen in the body which in turn increases the production on ATP (2). Exposure of the blood to ozone causes an increased release of oxygen to tissue and increases blood circulation (3). Exposure to ozone upregulates our bodies natural antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione (2). Ozone therapy has been found to modulate the immune response depending on the dose and route of administration (7,10). It causes a low grade level of oxidation which upregulates the release of certain signaling molecules that stimulate the immune response (7,10). Ozone therapy can also reduce inflammation in the body. By causing a low level of inflammation it upregulates certain pathways in the body that lead to an overall anti-inflammatory effect (7,10). Studies have even indicated that ozone potentially inhibits cancer cell growth (10). Ozone can also be used as an anti-microbial and research show that it can destroy bacteria, virus, yeast and protozoa (2,7,10). Research is just uncovering the many uses of ozone therapy. There are some contraindications to ozone therapy and a consultation with one of our doctors is needed before beginning treatment.
**Infographic: Other uses of ozone therapy
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (8)
- Coronary and peripheral artery disease (10)
- Bacterial infections (10)
- Age Related Macular degeneration (3)
- Diabetes and diabetic ulcers (3, 10)
- Neurodegenerative diseases (3)
- Skin, oral and mucosal infections (7,3)
- Back and knee (2, 3)
- Limb Trauma (5)
- Wound healing (9)
- Headache relief (4)
- Chronic hepatitis C (10)
- Hypoxemia and Lung disease (6)
- Herniated disks (3)
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