Can a pill really prevent a breast cancer recurrence? Some people actually scoff at the notion that supplements really do much good at all in disease prevention. Lest we forget, many of the most popular pharmaceutical drugs in history come from natural substances. For example, digoxin, a drug commonly used to treat heart conditions, comes from the foxglove shrub. And that lovely Taxol you’ve enjoyed at your oncologist’s office? Yep, it comes from the Pacific Yew Tree. So, is it really a stretch that we can harness the power of nature in a kinder, gentler way to help us win the war on cancer?
I’m not naive enough to think that I can take a few vitamins to keep the beast at bay. No, this will require a multi-pronged approach to change the internal terrain that allowed the cancer to flourish in the first place. Think about it. Your immune system is designed to do two things very well, seek and destroy foreign invaders, whether they be bacteria, viruses, or cancer cells. The fact that you developed cancer means that something went terribly wrong with that system. What was it? Nobody really knows…it could have been a genetic error, an environmental insult, stress, poor diet, or all of the above.
So, when I think about my strategy to win this war, I think globally. And a large part of that strategy is the supplement protocol that I have come up with through hours of research and conversation with doctors and other survivors. Since taking a butt-load of pills is no fun, I have tried to select only those that come up repeatedly as beneficial for cancer prevention. Sorry, it’s still at least half a butt-load. But I consider this a life insurance policy, and it’s worth a little inconvenience in my book.
**Vitamin D: the superstar of cancer prevention; a building block and co-factor for countless reactions in the body. If you’re actively fighting cancer, shoot for a level around 80-85 ng/mL. For prevention, an ideal range is 60-80. Please check your levels at baseline and monitor regularly. Vitamin D can be toxic in excess, but this is rare. I’m pleased to say my level is now 62 ng/mL after taking 6,000 IU per day for months. Your dosage will vary based on your starting level and how much sun exposure you get.
**Green Tea Extract: one of the most studied substances for cancer prevention; works at the metabolic level; may be involved in programmed cancer cell death, preventing cancer blood vessel formation, protecting DNA from damage leading to uncontrolled proliferation, and more. Super anti-oxidant. I take 1,000 mg twice per day.
**Curcumin: see above; better absorbed in a formula containing black pepper; I take 500 mg twice per day. Take this with food, and watch for stomach upset/heartburn. I have developed some unexplained mild burning in my stomach, so I’m going to take a break from this for a week or so and see if it is the culprit.
**DIM: I’m going to be honest here; I’m still working with this one. I think it’s very important, as it funnels estrogen metabolism down benign pathways instead of cancer-causing ones. However, since my estrogen is very low already, it seems to drive it too low. Give it a shot. Nature’s Way DIM Plus has great reviews.
**Iodine: Iodine has proven to be a great thing for the breasts; it prevents and reverses fibrocystic changes that lead to breast cancer. As a bonus, it helps with hot flashes. I use 2 mg per day as Prolamine Iodine by Standard Process. If you’re leery of taking this, you can have an urinary iodine loading test done to see where your levels are, but many experts (look up David Brownstein) feel that most people are deficient.
**Echinacea Premium: I use this brand by Mediherb because it is of such high quality. Not all Echinacea is created equal, and since this is the foundation of my immune support, I want only the best. 2-4 per day, depending on how depleted you are.
**Mushroom Complex: Be sure it contains at least Turkey tail mushrooms, which are the most researched, but Reishi, Maitake, and Ganoderma are also great. Host Defense is the brand used in clinical research, but it is pricey, so get it on sale.
Food-Based B-Complex: I use Emerald Labs brand because it is all natural (many synthetic B’s are made from coal tar and other really nasty substances) and contains the methyl forms of folate and B12. Methyl groups are crucial for detoxification pathways (think liver health and estrogen metabolism). One per day.
Buffered Vitamin C with bioflavonoids: I use Ester C. Anti-oxidant and immune support. 1,000 mg twice per day.
Fish Oil: Buy a quality brand and keep it refrigerated, as fish oil will go rancid quickly and can cause more harm than good. 2-3 grams/day. This supplies Omega 3 fatty acids, which are generally in very short supply in the American diet.
Wild Yam Complex: Forget cancer for a minute, this is all about me.This has been a God-send to control hot flashes. It is from Mediherb and contains a blend of herbs, including a little St. John’s Wort for mood. Please check any drugs you are taking for interactions, as St. John’s Wort will affect many. Between this and Iodine, I have zero hot flashes.
Everyone is different, and this approach may not be possible or desirable for some, but I feel that in an age where people regularly pay $4.00 for a cup of coffee and think nothing of it, I’m willing to suck it up and make my health a priority.
No, you can’t swill liquor while smoking and eating chocolate cake because you take these supplements. But that’s a post for another day:)