Natural Cancer Cures
I do not advocate that alternative cancer treatments replace traditional cancer care. However, this in-detail article will explore potential natural cancer cures that are either urban myths or possible alternatives (or adjunctives) to standard care. These practices are what you probably should be doing in addition to receiving traditional therapy. My belief and that of other experts in functional medicine is cancer cannot be completely cured, but rather properly managed. Although it may not seem like good news, it is. With integrative care, we “manage” diabetes, coronary artery disease and now, amazingly enough, diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Cancer is a metabolic and immune dysfunction disease. Despite patients being called “cured” after no recurrence in 5 years, unless they take action to prevent the physiologic conditions which gave rise to their cancer, they will likely have a recurrence, another type of cancer or a metabolic or autoimmune disease. Before we discuss natural cures for cancer or ways to augment existing cancer regimens, let’s talk “truthiness” (thank you Steven C.) about the “cancer industry.”
The truth about Chemo and Radiation
Spending on cancer chemotherapy totaled $107 billion worldwide in 2015. It’s projected to exceed $150 billion by 2020, reflecting the adoption of newer, more expensive therapies, according to a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. This is quite the profit-maker, with annual spending increases far exceeding any GNP. In fact, the total increase for 2015 was 11.5 percent from the previous year, on a constant dollar basis. Each course of treatment, on average, has become longer and more expensive in the last five years, with the U.S. topping the world in chemotherapy pricing. The average course of treatment is over 100 thousand dollars and growing.
The profits are split between Pharmaceutical companies, Administrative Medical companies and Oncologists, who can purchase these drugs wholesale and sell them at retail prices to their patients. I am going to withhold judgment and just take a good, hard look at the facts regarding what else can be done.
How well do chemotherapy and radiation work?
There are three groups of patients who benefit from traditional cancer treatment. Those are men with testicular cancer, children with leukemia, and those with some types of lymphoma. Believe it or not, for every other type of cancer, the numbers are only slightly better than they were in the 1970’s. Most experts feel the reasons for this are (1) neither chemo or radiation kills cancer stem cells and (2) many drugs are being approved with dismal “survival numbers” because there is simply no chemotherapeutic alternative. An example is the use of Gemzar for advanced cancers. This cancer drug has been found to extend survival time of pancreatic cancer patients, for example, a mere 2 months. The promise of immunotherapy for cancer gives me hope; a physiologic way to fight cancer cells. Meanwhile, let’s review what we can do now to turn the odds in your favor.
When can Alternative Cancer Treatments Help?
If you don’t have cancer and are reading this article, know that you can (for the most part) prevent cancer by just doing a few, simple things. You can review the steps for cancer prevention after you read this article or just apply what you read here to your everyday life. Healthy habits now, more than ever, are necessary for life. I will not address things you already know such as not smoking, drinking in moderation, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and using sunscreen. Let’s discuss the dietary choices which are specifically for those who have cancer. Much of what I will be discussing will apply to everyone; however, I’m not suggesting that we all follow such strict and regimented recommendations in our everyday lives. Although, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, either.
It’s not enough to eat an anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet for optimal health once you are diagnosed with cancer. It has repeatedly been shown sugar feeds cancer, so the first step is to cut all forms of sugar from your diet immediately. This includes high fructose corn syrup, grains, and starchy carbohydrates, too. It’s also beneficial, in my opinion, to maintain a nutritional ketosis diet for the rest of your life. There is so much evidence in favor of a ketogenic diet that it’s overwhelming, but a 2017 review article concludes still that more study is needed. I disagree.
The main reason for this “needs more study” recommendation is a ketogenic diet causes weight loss (if you’re not careful) which is already an issue for many cancer patients. Another potential concern is the high intake of omega-6 fatty acids from animal products. You can “get around this” by limiting your intake of meat and really “hitting it hard” on the healthy fats to avoid weight loss. If your Oncologist doesn’t support this, please at least stop the sugar and maintain a better than normal blood sugar by having a fasting blood sugar of 85 ng/dL or less. Further, if your Oncologist is putting cake in the waiting room (as a patient of mine recently reported to me that his doctor did), take a good, hard look at that doctor. Yikes!
Get More Alkaline?
Despite the popular belief that you need to alkalize your water and your body, there’s no definitive scientific proof. Now, that said, I don’t have a problem with you doing just that as there are many anecdotal stories to support changing your physiologic environment from acidic to alkaline. There are a handful of studies to support this. The easiest way to do this would be to use a pinch of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of water; daily.
Things such as juicing, high antioxidant intake and use of cruciferous vegetables will be covered in other sections of this article.
Where do dead cancer cells go, post-chemotherapy? As with any and all toxins, they must be cleared by the body’s detoxification systems which (in my opinion) become overwhelmed, thus weakening the body’s ability to clear any and all toxins. As an aside, many leading scientists postulate that toxins are now the principal cause of most cancers. I agree. But this is speculation; don’t take it as absolute science. Just keep watching the numbers of toxins identified in our bloodstreams and the rates of cancers.
We methylate foreign substances and clear them mostly by the liver, and some leave the body through the kidneys. If they clear through the liver, they pass through the biliary system to then dump into the colon. There are many steps along this pathway. It’s a great idea to be “methylating well”; cancer or no cancer. To enhance the methylation process, we need adequate methylated B vitamins; namely methyl-folate, methyl-B12 and methyl pyridoxine (B6). Up to 20% of us cannot (genetically) process the non-methylated versions of these vitamins and need the methylated supplements. A good screening test for this is a homocysteine level. If your level is more than 10 umol/L, you need methylated B’s. I argue that all cancer patients need methylated B’s due to GI symptoms and erratic dietary intake during therapy.
A person also clears toxins via sulfation pathways. For adequate sulfation, you need cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) and/or DIM-I3C and/or broccoli sprout supplements. Again, if “intake” is questionable, it’s easy enough to supplement. A well-known fact is Epsom salt baths enhance sulfation (AKA sulphation) pathways.
Those are the two main pathways we’re concerned about but know that your liver is the major “garbage dump” for toxins. Your liver uses phase 1 (breaking stuff down) and phase 2 (adding stuff for transportation) pathways to break down many things, including toxins. Heavy metal intoxication will block proper phase 1 actions. Phase two encompasses five additional pathways. It makes perfect sense that a well-functioning liver is needed to process dead cancer cells.
Please note “now” is not the time to remove mercury amalgams. It’s “on the to-do list” but not when you’re getting chemotherapy.
This is a topic that will be largely ignored by your Oncologist even though he/she knows you will likely develop SIBO (small bowel intestinal overgrowth) and/or leaky gut due to chemotherapy. Further, there is no prophylactic (preventive) advice, just as there is no prophylaxis for the gut-assault thrust upon CIRS patients who take cholestyramine. Refer first to my article on how to prepare and then heal your gut after antibiotics. Be sure to read what damages your gut so you can avoid what you need to avoid. In addition, I recommend the detection and treatment of SIBO, along with treatment for leaky gut, the food intolerances that invariably develop, and the management of bloating and constipation that usually follows the healing of the gut lining.
Constipation is the enemy of detoxification. Good ways to deal with the constipation are to use modified citrus pectin fiber (also, arguably quite anti-cancer), multi-fiber supplements, psyllium supplements, fibrous carbs (obviously) and Triphala (Ayurvedic) supplements. An in-detail discussion of prebiotics and probiotics are present in the antibiotics article above.
A note here to those of you wondering about colonics. There are no studies (of course), but colonics used to be a standard treatment for many illnesses before the “rich guys” (namely Andrew Carnegie) changed medical school curricula to exclude all but allopathic medicine via the Flexner report in 1910. Some people report that colonics have helped them get through chemotherapy side-effects and have helped with constipation as well. Of course, I can’t find good medical studies about this practice as this is anecdotal. If you go this route, make sure to find a trained colonic specialist and replace (double-dose) your probiotics afterward.
As you would predict, multiple rounds of chemotherapy will depress your immune system. Since 70-75% of your immune system is located in your gut, it’s necessary to treat your gut with care. I know I’m beating the same drum here but please read what damages your gut; foods, drugs (which can be substituted for with integratives) and so on. Use leaky gut supplements and refer to the antibiotics article cited above for specific prebiotic fiber and probiotics that you should take. Remember, a healthy gut is a healthy immune system which means a healthier you. Also, remember that certain probiotics need to be refrigerated to be effective and this is no time to “price-skrimp” on quality. Some experts will also recommend adding colostrum to your regimen. As always, onions and garlic are great for your immune system, gut and detox pathways.
The evidence that not just a ketogenic diet but a low blood sugar (from metformin or insulin) helps patients with cancer is growing. The patient-care results from Turkey are quite promising. At the ChemoThermia Oncology center, patients are put on low omega-6 keto diets and then given insulin prior to chemotherapy; thus drastically lowering the necessary “chemo” dose. They are also given other controversial therapies.
A therapy using IV vitamins C has much literature support. Many “integrative” cancer centers are now adding this to a standard protocol as the evidence mounts for its usage.
High dose IV vitamin C (usually 50 grams per treatment) kills cancer cells by generating hydrogen peroxide to kill cancer cells and has no negative effect on normal cells.
Although cancer studies haven’t “hit yet” using liposomal vitamin C, we know that liposomal delivery (oral but encapsulated in liposomes) of vitamin C at a daily dose of 10-12 grams is biologically equivalent to an IV dose of 50 grams.
If you are going to try this at home, make sure you do not have a rare enzyme defect called G6PD deficiency, or you could cause your red blood cells to rupture. Also, be well aware that dosing yourself this high with non-liposomal vitamin C will cause severe gastric distress.
Vitamin D similarly is considered almost a “standard of care, ” and if not, it should be. Not only is vitamin D a cancer prevention vitamin, it also influences treatment outcome. Recommended levels of vitamin D (for everyone) at the end of 2017 are now increased to 75 ng/dl; requiring an average of 4000-7000 IU’s of supplementation daily. Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence in favor of vitamin C and D, the combo is still “controversial.”
Although the evidence is scant, both the Dr. Gerson and the Dr.Gonzalez protocols (details to follow) have patients taking many doses of what are basically digestive enzymes, not just with meals but all throughout the day. This practice has become quite the L.A. buzz due to the discussion of this practice by Suzanne Somers; in her best-selling books. There is enough evidence to mention this not-at-all-whacky treatment because it helps the digestive process and “does no harm.” Do pancreatic (digestive) enzymes “gobble up” rogue blood-borne cancer cells? Possibly.
Studies hint that even mild hyperthermia, either total body or tumor-based, may be helpful. Heat may augment the effect of chemotherapy. Further, it might even help to kill cancer “at its source”—those blasted stem cells which chemotherapy doesn’t kill. Far-infrared sauna use might be a helpful adjunctive to cancer therapy due to it’s detoxifying and possible cancer-cell-killing effects.
Whether via local cryotherapy or total body cryotherapy (tanks, ice baths, cold showers), cold therapy might augment the effects of chemotherapy.
Ozone and Hyperbaric oxygen
Ozone therapy is being studied as an adjuvant to chemo and radiation therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen is also being studied. The physiological basis for this is that solid tumors grow anaerobically. A review of hyperbaric oxygen studies published in 2012 concluded that it might be helpful for some tumors, but more importantly, it was not harmful. So, to clarify, it didn’t promote tumor growth.
Cesium chloride infusions
Preliminary studies reveal that IV infusions of cesium chloride might reduce the amount of chemotherapy needed per treatment.
Hydrogen Peroxide infusions
The use of hydrogen peroxide infusions pre-dated the clinical trials with vitamin C. The results were relatively successful but using 35% hydrogen peroxide appears to give the same physiologic effects that we now see are obtained with vitamin C.
Sodium Bicarbonate infusions
Although a handful of studies suggest that an alkaline physiologic environment might be helpful, there aren’t comprehensive studies to support the use of IV sodium bicarbonate infusions for cancer therapy.
Colloidal silver treatment
I was able to hunt down a total of two articles where colloidal silver was used in vitro (“in test tubes”) and shown to enhance the killing of breast cancer cells in one study while enhancing anti-leukemic chemotherapy in another. Since there are only two comprehensive studies (not even in humans), at this time there is no evidence that colloidal silver will be helpful in cancer therapy.
Despite the use of DMSO infusions at some alternative cancer centers, there is no “outside the petri dish” evidence of its efficacy in doing anything other than perhaps helping with pain management for cancer patients.
There have been debates about this for years with a 50/50 split on it “helps” vs. “hurts” during active cancer treatment. No references are included due to the overwhelming amount of studies readily available to all. This topic will be further addressed below in “my thoughts” section.
There is a lot of hoopla surrounding this truly alternative cancer treatment. Only one big article showing opposition is present in the medical literature. I’ll reveal the evidence presented by this organization which is, by definition “anecdotal.” This discussion takes into consideration comments from a large Facebook group as well as interviews from Suzanne Somer’s two books which includes Gerson patient interviews. In short, it’s juicing, a plant-based diet, pancreatic enzymes, and coffee enemas.
The reason for coffee enemas is (Dr. Gerson claims) that huge amounts of the detoxifying anti-oxidant, glutathione, are released from the liver as a result of the organic coffee. The coffee enemas also support regular colonic elimination.
There is a coffee enema support group on FB and those trying this and getting relief appear to be those with toxin issues just as much as those with cancer issues.
I don’t know what to make of this other than to advise you find good advice, make sure you are physically capable of doing this and don’t burn yourself.
I am sorry to say that despite all of the anecdotal positivity there is no scientific evidence in support of this regimen. (Note: There is a link in the references section.)
To point out, this is a modification of the Gerson therapy. However, the supplements and the diet are different. The frequency of the coffee enemas is less. The scientific evidence for this therapy is absent. I’ll reveal my thoughts about this and the Gerson regimen further in the article.
I can get back into the realm of science when I discuss supplementation for those with cancer. We’ve already established that you need prebiotic fiber and good doses of probiotics. You also need detoxification help. Now, let’s talk about what supplements might help with cancer “management.” For starters, there is a good deal of evidence about the anti-cancer (preventive) properties of curcumin, green tea extract, resveratrol, and quercetin. I take all of these supplements, and I use modified citrus pectin in my “morning drink.”
The evidence for using these supplements in cancer treatment is fairly rock-solid. However, one study discusses “limited bioavailability” of curcumin supplements. Upon inspection of the origin of this commentary, I feel this is a result of the quality of the supplements.
There is also decent evidence in support of: Broccoli Sprout Extract, Graviola Extract, Boswellia serrata and Bromelain
Cancer is by definition, a disorder of metabolism, immune dysfunction, and disordered mitochondrial function. Mitochondrial dysfunction translates to crushing fatigue which is made worse by chemotherapy’s mitochondrial cell-poisoning effects. Chemotherapy damages the mitochondria of both cancer and non-cancerous cells. There are arguments that the revving up of non-cancerous cell (and even cancer cell) mitochondrial biogenesis may augment further killing of cancer cells. It certainly would help with fatigue. However, the problem with this leading theory is that a competing theory supports the idea that halting mitochondrial biogenesis will help kill the cancer cells. For this reason, I cannot recommend mitochondrial support during cancer therapy at this time.
There are plenty of references to what is called “chemo brain.” Certain chemotherapeutic agents can enter the blood-brain-barrier and cause cognitive deficits. There are no long-term studies on the potential adverse effects cancer treatment might have on cognition. It would then follow that there are no studies about brain protection or post-treatment brain support.
Why can’t all of the above be natural cures for cancer?
Consider the predicament of those unfortunate cancer patients with stage 4 cancers. They have been told their cancers (widely disseminated) are incurable and are of a particularly malignant cell type, such as stage 4 ovarian or pancreatic cancer. In my opinion, the incredibly meager results allopathic medicine can offer only cause suffering and expense. At this stage, I would advise following alternative cancer treatments. (Again, that’s my opinion.)
Believe it or not, the Gerson and Gonzolez clinics report a success rate over 50% meaning long-term “cancer management” in terms of years. In addition, the clinic in Turkey (referenced in the beginning) which uses many of the therapies discussed here plus reduced doses of standard treatments reports astonishingly positive outcomes. Indeed, there are other clinics in Europe and (hopefully) the U.S. which use some of these not-quite-yet standard therapies in their protocols to lower the dose of chemotherapy needed for treatment.
My thoughts, My Patients
I thought long and hard before deciding that I (an Integrative medicine M.D.) was qualified enough to take on cancer patients in my private practice. I only take on two or three per year, as they all need a great deal of attention and support. Indeed, my patients are aware that I’m not offering them natural cancer cures. I’m offering adjunctive care and hoping their Oncologist will “play ball.” New studies emerge all the time, so I stay current and hopefully their Oncologists do too.
Since it’s pretty clear to most forward-thinking Oncologists and me that nutritional ketosis and a low HgbA1C are necessary, we recommend that. I encourage less red meat consumption than I do for regular nutritional ketosis patients due to the questions about omega-6 intake. Mild alkalinization might help and doesn’t hurt either. It is also clear that patients need a well-functioning gut and liver; so I personally (usually) recommend liver support supplementation as well as gut support and detox support as described above.
We watch for SIBO and treat that vigorously. We also use multi-fiber supplements and if needed, I’ll “OK” colonics; especially if someone is having problems with recurrent bloating and constipation. If someone is convinced they’ll benefit from coffee enemas, I’ll support their decision too. I approve pancreatic enzymes which often help with the GI distress during chemotherapy. If a patient wants to “juice” then I encourage fibrous carbs and request juicing does not upset ketosis.
I am a fan of far-infrared saunas and encourage the purchase of a naturally made one-or-two-seater or a tent for most patients. If someone wants to try cryotank therapy, I point them to my blog on cold showers and ice baths. If someone wants to try hyperbaric oxygen, they need approval from me and, as always, their Oncologist. Likewise, for everything I approve that is “not standard,” I also request an Oncology approval.
All supplements are used in varying amounts, depending on the state of a person’s GI tract and overall health. This includes liposomal vitamin C which (in my opinion) should be standard therapy. All of my patients take Vitamin D supplementation.
During the “off-cycle” times (no chemo, no radiation), I discuss with some patients the potential advantage of anti-oxidants, mitochondrial support, and brain support, while watching the literature like a hawk.
Overall, it’s my opinion that cancer is “usually manageable” meaning that you need an “all-systems-support” to protect you from the side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I also believe the dose and length of standard treatment could be brought down considerably if only studies were done with results, rather than profits, in mind. Godspeed to you and your loved ones if this disease has come into your lives.
Article update 2018: I have read enough articles about low-dose naltrexone and CBD oil to add these to my list of possible immune-enhancers to help kill the cancer cells. At worst-the LDN appears to cause no harm and at best, it just might inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The data on CBD oil is “too mixed” so I can’t recommend that right now. I’ll be writing blogs about both; so “stay tuned.”
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