Dr. Alschuler is the current president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She shares with us their mission to bring wellness and health-creating concepts into government healthcare reform. America’s need for physicians on the front line to work with patients’ whole health is also a topic of conversation. Dr. Alschuler has also written a seminal book about integrative cancer care and shares that work with us as well as her clinical practice that focuses on integrative cancer care. Dr. Alschuler has faced cancer personally and her experiences resonate with her patients and those who read her book.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, conventional doctors typically recommend surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. Latest development: A growing body of research shows that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies benefit cancer patients in a number of ways, such as by reducing the toxicities and other adverse effects of conventional cancer treatments. Integrative cancer centers can now be found at major US medical institutions, such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.*
AN ATTACK ON CANCER CELLS
Normal cells divide in a predictable and orderly fashion—for example, in the growth of a fetus or in the healing of wounds. When the DNA within cells is damaged—due to genetic abnormalities, for example, or lifestyle factors, such as smoking or getting too much sun exposure—the cells may become cancerous. The cornerstone of integrative cancer care is to mobilize the body’s natural ability to stimulate apoptosis— the death of cancer cells. Most patients still require surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. The integrative component—including dietary changes and the use of supplements simultaneously with conventional treatments—improves the patient’s odds of living a longer and healthier life by altering the body processes closely linked with cancer. IMPROVED IMMUNITY The immune system is the first line of defense against cancer. For example, natural killer cells produce an estimated 100 biochemical poisons that attack foreign proteins, including those on the surface of cancer cells.**
Load up on antioxidants. The average cell is subjected to 10,000 daily assaults from free radicals (unstable, negatively charged molecules that can harm DNA), and the resulting damage can overwhelm the ability of immune T cells (including natural killer cells) to destroy cancer cells. Recommended: Antioxidant-rich fresh produce (at least five servings daily) and supplements, such as vitamin C (1,000 mg to 2,000 mg daily), selenium (100 mcg to 200 mcg daily) and zinc (30 mg to 45 mg daily). Take mushroom extracts. When scientists recently reviewed the results from 31 randomized clinical trials in Japan, Korea and China,they found that the use of mushroom extracts (which contain a chemical compound that stimulates the immune system to destroy tumors) significantly improved survival rates for patients with malignancies of the stomach, colon, esophagus or breast. A widely recommended medicinal mushroom is Coriolus versicolor…or its chemical compound, PSK. Typical dose: 3,000 mg daily.
All cells have hormone receptors, molecular sites where hormones attach and cause biochemical reactions. One of the primary reactions is growth, which can be dangerous if a cell is cancerous. Hormone-dependent cancers—such as some forms of breast cancer as well as many ovarian and prostate cancers—are most likely to be stimulated by certain hormones. But other cancers, such as malignancies of TK and TK, are also influenced by hormones, particularly estrogen and cortisol, that compromise immunity or directly stimulate the growth of tumor cells. My advice… Consume phytoestrogens. The estrogen-like compounds in plants (phytoestrogens) can reduce the potentially carcinogenic effects of estrogen in the body. Phytoestrogens occupy the estrogen receptor sites, thereby preventing the body’s estrogens from binding to those sites. Foods such as soy and flaxseed are rich in phytoestrogens. Amount TK Caution: Women with a previous or current diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer should talk to their doctors before consuming high doses of phytoestrogens—because in such cases, they may trigger the growth of estrogen-dependent cancer cells.
Eat leafy greens. They promote the health of hormone-producing glands, including the thyroid gland, and support the liver’s detoxification of hormones. Recommended: At least one cup of leafy greens daily. Eat organic. Many of the herbicides and pesticides used in commercial produce have strong hormonal and genotoxic (damaging to DNA) effects that can increase the risk of getting or having a recurrence of cancers of the breast, kidney, lung, prostate and blood (such as leukemia).
Exercise regularly. It regulates the body’s production of cortisol and other stress hormones, which, if elevated for too long, have cancer-causing effects.
The body is constantly removing potentially carcinogenic toxins, such as benzene (a solvent). Most detoxification takes place in the liver. About 30% of Americans are known as “slow detoxifiers”—with or without cancer.
One of the best herbs for detoxification is green tea. It supports the liver’s elimination of toxins. Drink TK cups of green tea daily.