Most of the time, if you are a cancer patient and receiving treatments, you are advised by doctors to not take any vitamins or supplements. This is because many supplements can interfere with cancer treatments, hindering the process of recovery.
Yet, many people still seek out herbs, teas, nutritional supplements that can help them cope with the adversary side effects of treatments as well as strengthen their immune system.
Nowadays, cancer treatment falls into three main categories: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. There are numerous problems with each of these types of treatment. For example, they are not effective for certain types of cancers or for cancer in advanced stages. They also incur severe side effects. The common anticancer drugs today are toxic to cancer cells, but also to normal cells. This cell toxicity (known as cytotoxicity) acts specifically at the time of cell division. The drugs have a powerful effect on cancer cells, which proliferate by dividing with excessive frequency. However, many of the 60 trillioin cells in our body – not just the cancer cells – are undergoing division. Newly generated cells replace old cells in an ongoing cycle. Hair root cells, cells of gastrointestinal tract, and blood cells are also cells in which the rate of division and replacement is particularly rapid, so these are especially vulnerable to anticancer drugs. The hair is not as significant, but the gastrointestinal tract and blood are fundamental systems that support vital activity. Therefore, important healthy cells are damaged by chemotherapy. Side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss, a decrease in the digestive absorption function as well as a decrease in the functioning of the whole body centered around the immune system, because of damage to blood cell production in the bone marrow.
Choosing a nutritional supplement wisely not only helps promote the production of white blood cells (which are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders) but also inhibits more cancer cells from forming without destroying healthy growing cells.
You may ask, why not just eat the mushrooms whole? Mushrooms are composed of large molecules and have a spongy quality, so digestion is not always optimal. One significant component in healing mushrooms is β-glucan (beta glucan). This substance has a very large molecular size, so large that some scientists thought it might even be too large for human body to absorb. Further breakdown by the culturing process makes the nutrients in mushrooms more absorb-able and therefore more readily available to the body.
Extracts from mushrooms have been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years.
For example, polysaccharides (phytochemicals) from the Ganoderma lucidum mushroom have been shown to inhibit the growth and invasiveness of some cancer cells in the laboratory, including certain forms of breast cancer.
Other fungal varieties that may exhibit anti-cancer activity include reishi, shiitake, maitake and coriolus or turkey tail, mushrooms.
Lentinan, a substance found in shiitake mushrooms, has been shown in the lab to inhibit the growth of human colon cancer cells in mice. This may result from lentinan’s ability to inhibit some enzymes that promote the activity of cancer-causing substances called carcinogens.
A popular mushroom-based functional food/supplement is AHCC (active hexose correlated compound). It was developed as a food product that could be used as a therapeutic aid for lifestyle-related diseases, including liver diseases and diabetes, in particular, and its creators had high expectations for its use in supporting immunity in cancer patients.
Although the anticancer action expected from AHCC and the anticancer drugs are the same, their mechanisms of action are exactly the opposite. Part of the anticancer activity demonstrated by AHCC involves reviving the normal cells. Above all, AHCC has become recognized for its ability to activate the immune cells that destroy cancer cells, including white blood cells and lymphocytes. AHCC is also known for improving the body’s inherent immunity. AHCC revives the body from its core, and there are no side effects from AHCC.
Some of the benefits of AHCC to cancer patients include: improvement of immune surveillance, reduction of the side effects of anticancer drugs, life-prolonging effect of using AHCC in conjunction with anticancer drugs, prevention of hair loss from chemotherapy, protection of the liver from damage caused by chemotherapy.
Fucoidan is sulfated viscous polysaccharide, a main component of brown seaweeds. There has been more than 1400 research studies on this natural compound on PubMed that shows Fucoidan’s suppressive effects on cancer cell growth.
Our body’s cells have an average life of about three months, then they die. This phenomenon is called Apoptosis. However, cancer cells do not trigger Apoptosis because the cell structure is damaged. They only grow and metastasize. Fucoidan induces these cancer cells to under Apoptosis.
To defeat cancer cells, NK cells (the representative body immune cells), T cells, macrophages, and other immune cells have to be activated. By increasing these immune cells and by increasing the Fucoidan supply, they will suppress and remove the cancer cells.
When cancer cells become more than 2mm in diameter they rapidly grow by making new blood vessels from the capillaries nearby. Fucoidan prevents cancer from making new blood vessels and inhibits the cancer from spreading to other organs.
Also, the result of many studies has shown that people who have ingested Fucoidan experienced reduction of side effects from anticancer treatments such as chemotherapy. This happened mainly because Fucoidan enhanced their immune system. By boosting the immune activity, fucoidan may help prevent a drop in the white blood cell counts and it will alleviate the pain caused by chemotherapy. When Fucoidan is taken along with some of the chemotherapy drugs, the side effects are alleviated. Therefore, the anticancer drugs can be used for long term without causing strong side effects. The combination of Fucoidan with the anticancer drugs can compensate for the disadvantages of chemotherapy in numerous ways.
Since Fucoidan barely has any adverse side effects due to its nature as a nutritional food, it does not interfere with the effects of anticancer drugs.
Green tea contains substances called polyphenols that are believed to have powerful anti-cancer abilities. Cancerous tumors rely on fast-growing networks of blood vessels to sustain their rapid growth rate. Green tea compounds may possess the ability to help slow or prevent this rapid growth.
Because it would take the equivalent of drinking 10 to 12 cups of green tea each day to obtain the cancer-fighting levels of green tea compounds, it is recommended that cancer patients take green tea in extract form. Be aware, there are some concerns about green tea extracts and liver toxicity. Also, a recommendation of 10 to 12 cups of green tea per day would be for cancer treatment, not cancer prevention.
Drinking green tea may increase the survival rates of some cancer patients. One study of women with ovarian cancer found that women who drank green tea were more likely to survive three years after ovarian cancer diagnosis than women who did not drink green tea. The survival rates increased with higher consumption levels of green tea.
Drinking green tea may also help prevent certain cancers. Preliminary research suggests a possible protective effect against bladder, esophageal, pancreatic, ovarian, and possibly cervical cancer, even with as little as 3-5 cups a day. Evidence for breast, stomach, and lung cancer is mixed: studies have conflicting findings.
Dietary supplements are not supposed to cure cancer, so do not have high expectations that your cancer will be gone within a few months of use. However, they possess great anti-cancer properties and therapeutic properties that may be beneficial for cancer patients who undergo cancer treatments.