Nutritional supplements like Ashwagandha have many health benefits and are being widely used by cancer patients and those at-genetic-risk of cancer. But, is it safe to take Ashwagandha supplements for all types of cancer and without considering any ongoing treatments and other lifestyle conditions? A common belief but only a myth is that anything natural can only benefit me or do no harm. As one example, the use of grapefruit with certain medications is not recommended. Another example, the use of spinach with some blood thinning medications can cause adverse interactions and should be avoided. For cancer, nutrition which includes the food and natural supplements has been shown to influence outcomes. Hence a frequently asked question by cancer patients to dieticians and doctors is “What Should I eat and What Should I Avoid?”.
Taking nutritional Ashwagandha supplements can benefit cancer patients with Endometrial Carcinoma on Cyclophosphamide treatment. Similarly, taking nutritional supplement Ashwagandha can benefit healthy individuals who are at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene KIT. But avoid taking nutritional supplement Ashwagandha when at genetic risk of cancer due to mutation of gene VHL.
The takeaway being – your individual context will influence your decision if nutritional supplement Ashwagandha is safe or not. And also that this decision needs to be constantly revisited as conditions change. Conditions like cancer type, current ongoing treatments and supplements, age, gender, weight, height, lifestyle and any genetic mutations identified matter. So a legitimate question for you to ask for any recommendation of food and natural supplement is how it is related to your individual context.
Nutritional supplements – vitamins, herbs, minerals, probiotics, and other specialty categories are increasing. Supplements are high concentrations of active ingredients which are also found in different foods. The difference being foods contain more than one active ingredient at lower diffused concentrations. Remember that each of these ingredients has its own science and biological mechanism at molecular level – hence choose the right combination of supplements like Ashwagandha based on individual context and conditions.
So the question is should you take the supplement Ashwagandha? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene VHL? Should you take it when at genetic risk of cancer for mutation of gene KIT? Should you take Ashwagandha supplements when diagnosed with Endometrial Carcinoma? Should you continue taking Ashwagandha supplement if you change the treatment Cyclophosphamide? So a general explanation like – it is natural or it increases immunity may not be acceptable and sufficient for choosing Ashwagandha.
Cancer remains an unsolved problem statement. The improved availability of personalized treatments and monitoring of cancer via blood and saliva have been significant factors to improve outcomes. The earlier the intervention – the better the influence on outcome. Genetic testing has the potential to assess cancer risk and susceptibility early. But besides regular monitoring in most cases there are no therapeutic intervention options available. After diagnosis with cancer such as Endometrial Carcinoma, the treatments get personalized to tumor genomics and factors like staging of disease, age and gender. During cancer remission (after treatment cycle is complete) – monitoring is used for assessment of any relapse and accordingly decide next steps. A large majority of cancer patients and those at-risk do take nutritional supplements like Ashwagandha.
So the question is that are all genetic mutation risks and types of cancers to be considered as one when deciding the use of Ashwagandha? Are the biochemical pathway implications of genetic risk for cancer due to mutation of gene VHL the same as due to mutation of gene KIT? Are the implications of taking Ashwagandha supplement in Endometrial Carcinoma the same as any other cancer type?
Ashwagandha – A Nutritional Supplement
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known commonly as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry and winter cherry, is an evergreen shrub with yellow flowers, native to India and North Africa. The roots and the orange-red coloured fruits of ashwagandha have been used traditionally in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years and are considered to have medicinal properties. Following are some of the potential health benefits of Ashwagandha:
- May help reduce blood sugar (B Andallu and B Radhika, Indian J Exp Biol., 2000)
- May help reduce stress, depression and anxiety (K Chandrasekhar et al, Indian J Psychol Med., 2012)
- May help improve brain and cognitive functions (Dnyanraj Choudhary et al, J Diet Suppl., 2017)
- May help reduce bad cholesterol (B Andallu and B Radhika, Indian J Exp Biol., 2000)
- May strengthen muscle activity (Ashwinikumar A Raut et al, J Ayurveda Integr Med., 2012)
- May have anti-inflammatory effects (Abudubari Sikandan et al, Int J Mol Med., 2018)
- May have diuretic effects (B Andallu and B Radhika, Indian J Exp Biol., 2000)
- May help boost fertility in men (Abbas Ali Mahdi et al, Evid Based Complement Alternat Med., 2009)
Ashwagandha supplements contain many active ingredients including Withaferin A at different concentration levels. The molecular pathways which are regulated by Ashwagandha include Vitamin D Signaling, Post Translational Modification, Stem Cell Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress. These cellular pathways directly or indirectly regulate specific cancer molecular endpoints like growth, spread and death. Because of this biological regulation – for cancer nutrition, the right choice of supplements like Ashwagandha individually or in combination is an important decision to be made. When making decisions on the use of supplement Ashwagandha for cancer – do consider all these factors and explanations. Because just as true for cancer treatments – Ashwagandha use cannot be a one-size-fits-all decision for all types of cancers.
Choosing Ashwagandha Supplements for Your Cancer
The reason there is no easy way to answer the question “When should I avoid Ashwagandha for Cancer” is because “It Depends!”. Just like the same treatment does not work for every cancer patient, based on your individual context the Ashwagandha may be harmful or safe. Along with which cancer and associated genetics – the ongoing treatments, supplements, lifestyle habits, BMI and allergies are all factors deciding if Ashwagandha should be avoided or not and why.
1. Will Ashwagandha Supplements benefit Cancer Patients with Endometrial Carcinoma undergoing Cyclophosphamide Treatment?
Endometrial Carcinoma is characterized and driven by specific genetic mutations like PTEN and PIK3CA leading to biochemical pathway changes in Vitamin D Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, JAK-STAT Signaling, Small Molecule Transport and MAPK Signaling. A cancer treatment like Cyclophosphamide works through specific pathway mechanisms. The goal is to have a good overlap between the treatment and cancer driving pathways for a personalized approach. In such a condition any food or nutritional supplement which has a compatible effect to the treatment or reduces the overlap should be considered. As an example, Ashwagandha supplements should be considered for Endometrial Carcinoma along with the treatment Cyclophosphamide. Ashwagandha supplement impacts pathways/processes like Vitamin D Signaling and PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling which either obstruct drivers of Endometrial Carcinoma and/or improve Cyclophosphamide treatment effect.
2. Are Ashwagandha Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with VHL Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
Different companies offer panels of genes to be tested for assessing genetic risk to different cancers. These panels cover genes associated with cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, prostate, and gastrointestinal system and others. Genetic testing of these genes may confirm a diagnosis and help guide treatment and management decisions. Identification of a disease-causing variant may also guide testing and diagnosis of at-risk relatives. VHL is one of the genes generally available in panels for cancer risk testing.
VHL mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Post Translational Modification, Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress, Stem Cell Signaling, Hypoxia and Growth Factor Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Ashwagandha should be avoided when the genetic panel identifies mutation of VHL for Kidney Cancer. Ashwagandha impacts pathways/processes like Post Translational Modification and Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress and creates adverse effects with VHL and related conditions.
Foods to Eat After Cancer Diagnosis!
No two cancers are the same. Go beyond the common nutrition guidelines for everyone and make personalized decisions about food and supplements with confidence.
3. Are Ashwagandha Supplements Safe for Healthy Individuals with KIT Mutation Associated Genetic Risk?
KIT is one of the genes available in panels for cancer risk testing. KIT mutation causes biochemical pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling, PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling, RUNX Signaling, JAK-STAT Signaling and RAS-RAF Signaling to get impacted. These pathways are direct or indirect drivers of cancer molecular endpoints. Consider taking Ashwagandha supplements when the genetic panel identifies mutation in KIT for Gastric Cancer and Hematological Cancer. Ashwagandha supplement impacts pathways/processes like Stem Cell Signaling and PI3K-AKT-MTOR Signaling and creates a supportive effect in those with KIT mutation and related conditions.
* Other Factors are also included like BMI, Treatments, Lifestyle Habits
The two most important things to remember are that cancer treatments and nutrition are never the same for everyone. Nutrition which includes food and nutritional supplements like Ashwagandha, is an effective tool which can be controlled by you, while facing cancer.
What food you eat and which supplements you take is a decision you make. Your decision should include consideration of the cancer gene mutations, which cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.
The nutrition planning for cancer from addon is not based on internet searches. It automates the decision making for you based on molecular science implemented by our scientists and software engineers. Irrespective of whether you care to understand the underlying biochemical molecular pathways or not - for nutrition planning for cancer that understanding is needed.
Get started NOW with your nutrition planning by answering questions on the name of cancer, genetic mutations, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, habits, lifestyle, age group and gender.
Personalized Nutrition for Cancer!
Cancer changes with time. Customize and modify your nutrition based on cancer indication, treatments, lifestyle, food preferences, allergies and other factors.
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.