Supplements That Have Helped Me Live Well During Chemotherapy, Part 1

80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

LIVING WELL WHEN YOU’RE BEING POISONED…AN OXYMORON?

Well, I’m down to 3. Three more rounds of chemo to go. All in all, it has not been as bad as I anticipated (I’m knocking really hard on some wood here). Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been pleasant by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve managed to live life without major changes and with very little downtime. I have worked 3 days per week without calling in sick. I’ve been able to run/walk through it all, allowing myself more rest on chemo weeks. I’ve shuttled kids back and forth, cooked, shopped, gone out with friends, and kept my sense of humor. The only major casualty has been cleaning, but honestly, if you had looked at my house on any given day since…well,.forever, you would have thought that I was born with a disease that didn’t allow me to pick up a rag.

dirty-house-3

CHEMO IS TOUGH, BUT THERE ARE THINGS THAT CAN HELP

I know that all this may be a matter of sheer luck, and that chemo affects everyone differently. But I think that there are things we can do to stack the deck in our favor and get through it with more strength and fewer bad days. As you know if you’ve been reading some of my previous posts, I have been using a few tricks here and there to minimize the toxicity and side effects of chemotherapy. If you missed it, you can see a picture of me icing my hands and feet during my last Taxol infusion to prevent nail discoloration and neuropathy. And you can check out my recipe for an L- glutamine chemo cocktail here.

SUPPLEMENTS I TAKE AND WHY

Since I started chiropractic school 10 years ago,the field of nutrition and supplementation has been a passion of mine. The idea that we can alter body chemistry and possibly disease states through natural means is amazing to me. I have attended hundreds of hours of seminars on these topics, and I never tire of reading about them. Yesterday we went on a family trip to Gatlinburg, TN, about a two-hour drive. Just for fun, I read notes and research studies from a cancer symposium put on by the Institute of Functional Medicine. Can you say “science geek”?

nerd girl

What follows is a list of supplements that I have taken during chemotherapy with Adriamycin/Cytoxan and now Taxol. Some of these are just part of my everyday program, and I will continue to take them after I have finished treatment. Others are especially important for each type of drug. I’ll point this out as we go along.

REQUIRED DISCLAIMER

I am very happy to share what I have learned with you, but I completely respect your decision not to use any supplements if that’s what you have decided is in your best interest. This is a very individual decision. I’m not telling you that this regimen is a cure for cancer or that it will help everyone. I’m just telling you that I feel that it has made a difference for me, along with other lifestyle choices, which I’ll go over in a future post.

EVERYDAY SUPPLEMENTS:

Fish Oil- 2400 mg per day, but may double- very good for cardiovascular health and may help with depression- Bonus: eases constipation if you are prone to it

Cranberry Extract- 950mg/day- as estrogen levels drop in menopause and/or during chemo, women are more prone to UTI’s; I haven’t had a UTI since I started taking this 18 months ago- Bonus: high in anti-oxidants to reduce inflammation

Multivitamin- Go high quality here- you want the serving size to be at least 4 caps/day because you can’t absorb the nutrients all at once. I choose no iron because it is tough on the GI tract and I have read studies about cancer cells utilizing iron at a higher rate than regular cells. Also, choose one with “methyl” before the name for folate and B12. Some people can’t absorb regular forms. Bonus: you will make up for a crappy chemo diet and get some extra energy

Magnesium- 500mg before bedtime or less if you get loose stools- most people are deficient in this mineral and it is a required co-factor for countless chemical reactions. Bonus: eases constipation and helps you sleep better

Note: I take Cal/Mag/Zinc occasionally but only every 3rd night or so. I have read that Calcium is not as beneficial in supplement form as once thought, but I am still researching this one. I’ll get back to you.

Vitamin D- ***6,000mg/day (need to do a baseline level before dosing) This is the holy grail of supplements in my book. Get your level tested ASAP. If you are fighting cancer, your level should be at least 50 ng/mL and preferably around 70. I could write an entire post about the functions of vitamin D, and I think I will in the near future.

Probiotics- Did you know that a large percentage of your immune system lives in your gut? Probiotics keep that gut healthy by providing beneficial bacteria and preventing the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. This is a crucial supplement for chemotherapy. Adriamycin is an antibiotic which will destroy the normal gut flora. Buy a high quality, refrigerated probiotic. I am using Jarrow “ultra Jarrowdophilus” with a 50 billion colony count. This has been a lifesaver for my GI health and regularity.

Stay tuned tomorrow for supplements that I have incorporated specifically for chemotherapy.

 

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17 thoughts on “Supplements That Have Helped Me Live Well During Chemotherapy, Part 1

  1. Great post. Based on my reading of the scientific literature I’m taking similar things. Vitamin D is hugely underestimated for
    its diverse range of actions, particularly on neuronal function and repair. I found fish oil increased my platelet clotting time, so am using chia seeds as a source of omega 3 instead (added bonus of protein, magnesium, fibre). Cranberry juice to prevent UTIs, particularly since cytoxan causes irritation to bladder epithelium. A good probiotic yoghurt, not just to maintain good gut flora, but because research has shown systemic immune cell benefits from probiotic bacteria. I also like avocado for natural anti-inflammatory effects. I believe these sorts of things really make a difference. I put up a post about this yesterday http://lessonsfromstemgirl.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/weekly-photo-challenge-fresh/
    I picked up a beautiful new juicer today, so am looking forward to learning and playing with juice combinations. Have you been juicing at all? Any suggestions?
    I look forward to hearing some of your other tips. Thanks!

    • Thank you! I actually thought about you the other day when I was reading the research studies in the car. I thought that you were one of the few people who could also call that fun:) Excellent addition about probiotics and immune function. Ironically, as I was checking out at the grocery today, I saw some packets of chia seeds on sale. I grabbed a few and will start using them; thanks for the tip. I haven’t done any juicing yet. I’d love to know more about your favorite recipes. By the way, I saw your “fresh” post. Beautiful!

      • Thanks for your comment re my “fresh” post. I’ve christened the juicer – had to clean the window and fly screens afterwards….not a good idea to throw in the oranges without quickly putting the plunger in to push them down. And then I overflowed the jug the juice was going into…what an unholy mess! Hopefully I learnt a lot from my first experience. I’ve bought the ingredients for various combinations this week….don’t quite have the courage to go all green yet, but hopefully will work up to that.
        Saw this article during the week, which I thought was interesting regarding history of supplements and how views change through experience.
        http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/the-vitamin-myth-why-we-think-we-need-supplements/277947/

      • I started this reply and it disappeared, so sorry if you get it twice. Green juice..ugh..I don’t know about that one. I got some at the hippie grocery store a while back and it left a bad taste in my mouth, so to speak.

        I hear you about supplements. There’s a lot of conflicting info out there. As you well know, people can make studies say whatever they want to. It’s all in how you include statistics. The studies on vitamin E and beta carotene were later shown to have flaws. I agree with you that it would be best to get most of your nutrition from food, but I don’t see this happening for most people. If they eat vegetables at all, they are probably getting them from a hot truck that traveled across the country, leaving most of the nutrients on the interstate somewhere.
        Or, they are sick and tired from chemo and not up to fixing a healthy meal.
        I do have a fairly healthy diet, but I know that I am not getting my quota of fruits and vegetables every day during treatment. So..I have chosen some supplements, based on extensive reading, that I feel will address specific side effects, provide general immune support, and prevent as much collateral damage as possible from the “cure”.
        I’ll be reevaluating my program once I’m out of active treatment and doing some tweaking. I don’t advocate massive doses of anything at any time.
        If you’re interested, there are a couple of great books that I think you’d enjoy. One is by Keith Block, the most respected integrative oncologist in the country. This is his website http://www.lifeovercancer.com/. The other book is a science geek’s delight: ‘Integrative Oncology’ by Donald Abrams and Andrew Weil. Tons of research.

    • Hi there! My oncologist and I have kind of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement. He only asked that I be careful and not take too many herbs, whatever that means. I did my research and feel confident in what I’m taking. But I know that some people lack that confidence and don’t feel comfortable challenging the status quo, and that’s ok. I think it all boils down to making choices that work for you. I just always encourage people to think for themselves and do their homework.

      • I’m taking curcumin, algae based omega 3, DIM, and vitamin D. I have to get my vitamin D level checked though, so I’m only at 2000 mg a day for now. 🙂 What will you be taking after your treatments?

      • I’m definitely going to add DIM and maybe indole 3 carbinol, or I3C, which is the same idea as DIM. Especially if I veto Tamoxifen. I take a supplement called Vitanox from Mediherb which has green tea, curcumin, rosemary, grape seed extract and some other things. High in antioxidants and very anti-cancer. I’m still working on a few other things and doing research. How’s the sleep coming?

      • The sleep is still a bit erratic, but I have found it better to up the Melatonin and dump the Benadryl at bedtime. Thank you for that suggestion!

        I doubled it to 6 mg. I read conflicting things on the dosage. I’ve read some people take as much as 20 mg!.

      • True about the melatonin. The dose used in cancer studies is actually 20 mg. I can’t imagine taking that much, but they say you should build up gradually. I’m a lightweight!

  2. Pingback: Supplements for chemotherapy « Cancerfighter’s Weblog

  3. I found a great place that sells a liquid multivitamin that has a fulvic/humic acid base(and it tastes good!) It’s called Mother Earth Labs. There is a lot of info on fulvic and humic acid on the website. Also I have read that 95% of the population is iodine deficient and that the thyroid, breast tissue etc all compete for the minuscule amounts of iodine in our diet. The professionals will tell you that you have enough iodine in your diet but I don’t trust what they are telling me. Also I learned that cancer cannot grow in an alkaline environment so check your ph levels, most people are too acidic. Fulvic acid and humic acid help the body absorb vitamins.

    • Thanks for the info; I’ll do some research. I do take iodine supplements, 2 mg per day. My acupuncturist says that from a Chinese perspective, iodine unblocks stagnation of chi, which can lead to disease.

      • That’s great that you are taking iodine, not many people do. I recently read that there is a link between breast cancer and iodine deficiency. The oral iodine is almost impossible to find in a drugstore. I had to order online.

        There is a Chinese study on fulvic acid(aka Wujinsan) that links it to shrinking thyroid tumors. When I first read about fulvic and humic acid I went to Barnes And Noble in town and found absolutely nothing about it there. I went to Whole Foods to find it and the clerk who worked the section never heard of it. I had to do a lot of research online. I think a lot of people hit the internet in search of answers when they are hit with the cancer diagnosis. The founder of Mother Earth labs had a brain tumor and used fulvic and humic acid to treat it. My search led me to her website. I’m bought some supplies there to try out. I have a lot of respect for Chinese medicine, they don’t leave any stone unturned.

  4. Hey, I also took a milk thistle seed supplement to help with the liver function. After taking it for 2 weeks, my liver enzymes went back to their normal range after being elevated because of the chemo. 🙂 AND – very good point about Vitamin D – I was not tested until AFTER chemo at a naturopathic doctor where they found I was severely deficient – so now I take 10,000 IUs a day until it is back to normal.

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