The best way to get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that we need is through the foods we eat. Sometimes, however, we need additional support – that’s where supplements come in. For some nutrients, it’s difficult to eat enough of certain foods to get as much as you need year round, or you may have a health condition that requires high doses of certain nutrients that are not readily available through foods.
Medicinal herbs provide another layer of support for the body’s natural healing mechanisms, to fight cancer naturally.
Although many supplements are available off the shelf, you should always consult with a health care practitioner to determine which supplements are best for you.
Potential anti-cancer effects of natural hormones as well as compounds found in foods have been the focus of extensive nutrition-based medical and preventive health care research.
Vitamin D is an important hormone in every cell of the body, and essential to a balanced immune system. Sunshine is a great source, but those living in the Northern hemisphere may not get enough sun during the winter months to support optimal Vitamin D levels. Don’t resort to tanning beds, as those can contribute to skin cancer. Only a few foods such as fatty fish, fortified milk, eggs and mushrooms contain substantial amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements may reduce risk of all cancers, especially cancer of the breast and colon, and it shows promise in reducing pancreatic cancer risk.
Vitamin C is often used in high doses to eradicate tumours, and has been identified as an anti-cancer agent that can also boost immune response. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, reducing unstable free radicals of oxygen, nitrogen, and sulphur. It also enhances the activity of another key antioxidant, Vitamin E.
Vitamin E, in addition to its antioxidant properties, has been shown to reduce risk of prostate cancer in smokers, perhaps because higher cancer risk associated with greater cellular oxidative stress allowed the study to reach statistical significance in smokers . In a review of studies of different designs, despite mixed results vitamin E appears to slow cancer development or induce cell death in pancreatic, breast and colon cancer.
Coenzyme Q10 is an important antioxidant that our body produces naturally. Deficiency has been linked with various cancers, and a 2021 study found that low CoQ10 levels were strongly associated with higher lung cancer risk.
Herbs and Foods for Cancer Prevention
Herbs play a role in cancer prevention in several ways. They can improve immune function and detoxification, and help the body and mind to cope with the everyday stresses of life, including cancer. Other herbs act as direct anti-cancer agents, slowing or stopping cancer growth and progression.
Panax ginseng has been used for centuries throughout East Asia (particularly Korea, China and Japan) to treat a wide variety of conditions including inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and bacterial and viral infections. Modern research reveals its role as an anti-cancer agent, and shows that its antiviral action can also reduce cancer risk. For example, the Hepatitis B virus is a common contributor to liver cancer. Thus, protecting against viruses can also reduce risk of some cancers.
Curcumin isn’t just for curry. This golden-coloured herb has been used for centuries in ancient Ayurvedic (Indian) and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has strong anti-inflammatory effects and supports the immune system, which partially explains its anti-cancer effects. It can kill cancer cells in non-small-cell lung cancer, suppress breast cancer cell growth, and is an effective part of prostate cancer treatment. Promising results have also been seen in brain tumours and pancreatic cancer.
Mushrooms are great for stir-fries – and for cancer prevention! Medicinal mushrooms are an ancient medicine, used across the globe for a wide variety of conditions. Many are now available in supplement form as capsules or powders. The most powerful medicinal mushrooms include Reishi, Turkey Tail, Shiitake and Maitake. Here are a few mushrooms that have been extensively researched.
Reishi mushroom has been called the ‘mushroom of immortality’ and is a traditional cancer treatment in Asia. Its powerful anti-cancer effects have been demonstrated both alone, and in combination with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Lion’s Mane mushroom has a strong supportive effect on the immune system, and has demonstrated anti-tumour properties.
Chaga mushroom has been used for centuries throughout Russia and many Baltic countries for cancer treatment, with positive results against colon cancer cells, and tumour growth.
Supporting Toxin Removal
Certain supplements and herbs may bind toxic metals, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Agents that support the detoxification of the body and help with the removal of toxic metals, pesticides and other potential cancer-causing substances include chlorella, spirulina, activated charcoal and bentonite clay. Detoxification protocols are best done under the supervision of a healthcare professional.