I cannot count the number of times someone has asked me what supplements I take. This is a tough question to answer. If there’s one thing every woman must understand about ovarian cancer, it’s that each of our bodies is different, so each of our cancers is unique, too. What works for me may not work for you – and in fact, taking the wrong combination of supplements can hurt you. But finding the right combination of supplements can be life-changing.
So what advice do I give? It’s boring but real: Talk to your doctor. And while that may not be what you wanted to read, I will share advice on how to talk with your doctor about supplements.
The fact is, supplements haven’t gone through the rigorous randomized clinical trials doctors depend on when they’re advising patients on what has been proven to work.
“We’d love to have every supplement and every herb researched against chemo but it’s not financially possible,” explained Dr. Chasse Bailey-Dorton, Co-Medical Director for Survivorship & Integrative Oncology at Levine Cancer Center’s Integrative Oncology Clinic in Charlotte, N.C. “We don’t know if a supplement or herb will make chemo more toxic, so we have to follow what’s safe.”
She talks with patients every day about integrative approaches to healing and prefers the word integrative rather than holistic. “I’m here to let the oncologists deal with the cancer and I deal with everything else – psychosocial issues, stress, fatigue – in an evidence-based way that’s not harmful.” But she’s not naïve. “We know patients are doing this [e.g., taking supplements], they’re just not telling their doctor.”
Highly respected medical institutes like the Mayo Clinic approach supplements carefully. Its guidance on using lycopene, for example, calls for more research.
“Some research suggests that the risk of ovarian cancer may decrease with intake of some pigments. However, the potential benefit of lycopene supplementation is unclear. Although lycopene intake has been linked to lower risk of ovarian cancer in premenopausal women, other studies found negative results. More research is needed before conclusions can be made.”
Dr. Nalini Chilkov, a doctor of Oriental Medicine, has dedicated her career to helping patients fighting cancer heal their bodies through natural approaches and use of herbal medicine. As she explains on her website, “Herbal Medicine, also called Botanical Medicine or Phytomedicine, refers to the use of plants, seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers for medicinal purposes in the treatment and prevention of disease.”
“Many patients seeking non-toxic approaches choose botanical medicines under the care of a seasoned professional herbalist,” she shares. Dr. Chilkov cites an estimate from the World Health Organization that 80 percent of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary health care. But she cautions: “Herbal supplements are best taken under the guidance of a trained health care provider.”
If you are just diagnosed, going through treatment or trying to keep your body healthy after treatment, Dr. Chilkov has some great PDF files you can download to help heal your body. Remember, talk to your medical professional before starting any supplement program. These are some basic, easy steps of where to begin!
Her website, IntegrativeCancerAnswers.com, has some great recipes for cancer-fighting meals that are easy to make at home, as well! Remember, healthy eating, lots of water, sunshine, exercise, meditation and supplementation can lead to a much happier body, making you happier in your fight against disease. 🙂
Stay well, my friends!