Random use of plant-derived natural supplements by cancer patients alongside their chemotherapy may harm your cancer, as it may accelerate the progression of specific cancers, interfere with the effect of the chemo or worsen the side-effects. Natural supplements can help if matched scientifically based on cancer and chemo characteristics.
Natural plant-derived products from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices are thought of as nutritive and promoting good health, and consuming concentrated doses of these natural supplements with a ‘more is better’ notion is never considered to be harmful. Perhaps this is why a high percentage of cancer patients take natural supplements on the side, either because of the advice of family members or on their own account, to help in their cancer therapy. And often, this is done without informing one’s physician because who could possibly think that a natural supplement could harm your cancer or increase the toxicity of anything in the body.
How do Natural Supplements Harm Your Cancer?
However, the reason why plant-derived natural supplements are so effective and helpful in alleviating so many illnesses is because of their ability to interact with specific targets, pathways and mechanisms in the body, and this same interaction can prove to be detrimental if used in the wrong combination with the prescribed chemotherapy for the cancer indication. Therefore, even though a synergistic and informed usage of plant-derived natural supplements can greatly increase the chance of survival in cancer patients, here are the top three reasons why uninformed pairings may actually worsen the cancer and its effects.
1. It May Accelerate the Progression of Specific Cancers
- Every cancer type has unique molecular characteristics. Based on the specific cancer subtype, the same natural supplement can either work against the tumor or severely enhance its growth by interacting with some of the direct chemical pathways dominant in the tumor.
- There has been recent interest on whether a keto diet, one with a very low intake of carbohydrates and high intake of fat, can aid in enhancing chemotherapy. In summarizing the effects of the various studies, researchers from the Paracelsus Medical University found that while this diet proved to have an anti tumor effect for most cancers, they found evidence of pro-tumor effect for kidney cancer and melanoma (Weber DD et al, Aging (Albany NY). 2018).
- Without concrete knowledge of the cancer characteristics, one can never know for sure exactly how a specific plant-derived natural supplement will interact with the cancer.
2. It Can Increase the Toxicity and Reduce the Effectiveness of One’s Chemotherapy
- Since chemotherapy is a cytotoxic therapy, meaning that it is actually toxic to the body’s cells which is what helps it induce apoptosis in cancer cells, the benefits of plant-derived natural products can prove to be hugely counterproductive in this case because they can decrease the toxicity of the chemo drug which will not help reduce the tumor in the long run.
- In addition, natural supplements also have the ability to magnify the horrible side effects that chemo drugs cause.
- A study done by researchers from the China Medical University in Taiwan found that the supplemental usage of St. John’s Wort, a medicinal herb, with chemo drug MTX “significantly increased the systemic exposure and toxicity of MTX” (Yang SY et al, Toxicol ApplPharmacol. 2012).
3. Avoiding Cancer Treatment Completely May Not be Beneficial
- Contrary to popular belief that natural options are better treatments for many diseases, cancer is not something that should be treated solely with natural products and alternative therapy.
- In a 2018 study done by researchers from the Yale School of Medicine on the use of alternative medicine in cancer, they found that people who only use alternative therapy have a 2-3 fold higher chance of dying early than people who are on conventional therapy (Johnson SB et al, J Natl Cancer Inst. 2018).
- Without technological advances in medicine the life expectancy would be half of what it is today, so patients need to stop being wary and paranoid and should go through conventional cancer therapy, with informed and guided use of plant-derived natural supplements as an addition and not a substitution.
At the end of the day, the benefits that a well synergized plant-derived natural supplement and a chemo drug can have on a cancer are unparalleled, but for this patients have to consult their doctors because as the research shows, random natural product usage in cancer patients can prove to be harmful.
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.