By Adam McLeod, ND, BSc —
Naturopathic medicine has a wide range of tools that can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine to effectively treat cancer. Many people have this underlying assumption that naturopathic treatments are not “evidence based” because otherwise their oncologist would have recommended them. The truth is that many of these therapies are extremely well documented by scientific studies and the mainstream scientific community does not dispute their effectiveness. The bottom line is that cancer patients do better when they have an integrative health care team and naturopathic doctors are an integral part of this team.
When dealing with a complex condition such as cancer it is very important to thoroughly review the entire health history of the patient, not just the diagnosis of cancer. It is essential that as physicians we actually take the time to listen to what the patient is saying. This allows us to develop a custom treatment plan for that individual which addresses the unique circumstances of that patient. Naturopathic doctors are experts at taking the time to listen to the patient and developing a treatment plan for each unique patient.
Chemotherapy and radiation are effective therapies and often it is a race between the death of the cancer cells and the death of healthy cells. Making sure the healthy cells are supplied with adequate nutrients allows patients to endure these harsh therapies with fewer side effects. Very often patients who are adequately supported with the appropriate nutrition and supplements will be able to tolerate additional rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Ultimately, if healthy cells are more likely to survive, this helps stack the odds against cancer cells.
Patients are often reluctant to take any supplements during chemotherapy and radiation because of potential interactions. This is a legitimate concern because there are many negative interactions if the wrong supplement is used. Any naturopathic doctor who regularly works with cancer is well aware of these interactions. When the appropriate supplements are used there are profound benefits to cancer patients. These supplements are well supported by scientific evidence and they have been consistently demonstrated safe when used in the right context. This is why the blanket statement of “avoid all supplements” is simply incorrect. It is absolutely essential that you have professional guidance from an experienced naturopathic doctor when you are picking supplements.
The mainstream medical community is slowly becoming more open to collaborating with naturopathic doctors because the evidence for the benefits of an integrative approach to cancer care can no longer be ignored. For years naturopathic doctors have been using high dose IV vitamin C as a cancer therapy and traditional medical doctors considered it to be a nonsense therapy. Recently they have changed their attitude and oncologists are jumping on to the vitamin C bandwagon. There is no doubt that when used appropriately this can be an effective integrative cancer therapy.
Patients who undergo this therapy tend to experience less significant side effects from the chemotherapy. IV vitamin C can vastly improve quality of life by increasing appetite, raising platelet counts, easing fatigue, and reducing pain. When patients are supported by the appropriate nutrients and supplements, the side effects from chemotherapy are less intense. Studies consistently show that at these high doses, vitamin C is toxic to cancer cells while protecting healthy cells from the adverse effects of chemotherapy. The evidence indicates that IV vitamin C is effective when used in conjunction with chemotherapy rather than as a stand-alone therapy. This is just one example of many different effective natural cancer therapies available. There is much more to integrative oncology than simply IV vitamin C.
There is no question that there is often a strong emotional component to cancer and this must be addressed for optimal healing to take place. Patients will often be able to directly connect the formation of their cancer with a stressful event in their life. This is not an imaginary connection; there are biological reasons why emotional stress can trigger the formation of cancer. Stress can cause cancer. It is important to point out that this is not a hypothetical concept. This is a statement that is well supported by scientific evidence. The link between cancer and stress is well established and is not debated by the scientific community. Many people are not aware how significant this connection is as medical doctors often disregard this connection despite the body of evidence. Naturopathic doctors not only address the physical components of health; they will also take the time to address the emotional and spiritual components that simply cannot be ignored in patients with cancer.
If you know someone with cancer, make sure you let them know about the potential benefits of seeing a naturopathic doctor who focuses on cancer. There are so many amazing tools that naturopathic medicine has to offer and the public needs to be aware that these therapies exist and that they are effective.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a naturopathic doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) molecular biology, First Nations healer, motivational speaker, and international best-selling author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology.