Cancer patients randomly use different plant derived natural supplements to deal with the side-effects of chemotherapy, boost their immunity and improve their well being. Random use of natural supplements can be harmful since it can interfere with the chemotherapy and cause side-effects like increased liver toxicity.
Almost every indigenous culture has their own form of alternative or natural medicines that have been used for treating different ailments for centuries. Whether it be Chinese herbal medicine or Ayurvedic medicine from India or simply just that bitter spice which some mothers mix with milk and make their children drink when sick, the use of natural supplements is more popular now than ever before. And this is even more amplified when it comes to cancer patients. In fact, recent scientific research has listed over 10,000 plant-derived natural compounds with several hundred of them having demonstrated anti-cancer properties. However, if paired with a specific sub-group of patients with a specific cancer type taking certain chemo drugs, these same natural supplements can either synergize and make the therapy effective or actually harm the cancer treatment and even magnify the negative side effects.
Can random use of natural supplements in Cancer be harmful?
Selection of the right natural supplement to take along with a specific chemotherapy in distinct cancer types is essential to avoid adverse consequences like liver toxicity (hepatotoxicity). Liver toxicity happens when one’s liver is damaged due to a chemically driven reason. The liver is a vital organ in the human body that filters out the blood and detoxifies any harmful substances. Unfortunately, some chemo treatments are known to cause liver toxicity but doctors monitor patients closely to get the benefit of the chemo while avoiding significant liver damage. In this context, taking any random natural supplement without the knowledge that it can further exacerbate liver damage, can be detrimental to the patient. In a study done by researchers published in the Frontiers of Pharmacology analyzing how natural products intervene with chemo, they found evidence for some natural products ‘evoking acute hepatotoxicity via interaction with chemotherapeutic agents’ (Zhang QY et al, Front Pharmacol. 2018). However, if these same natural supplements were to be customized and scientifically paired to a specific combination of chemotherapy and cancer type, they could be used to improve the chemo effect and the well being of the patient.
This does not at all mean that cancer patients should stop taking natural supplements. Synthetic medicine may never be able to beat raw natural ingredients that when paired correctly with the right chemo drugs for the correct cancer type, can lead to beneficial effects and improving the odds of success for the patient. Also important is for the patient to inform the doctor of all the natural supplements they are taking while on chemotherapy and if ever experiencing severe side-effects, they should immediately inform their physicians so that the adverse events can be addressed right away.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.