Supplements and Vitamins

Should I consider taking vitamins and nutritional supplements before, during, or after chemotherapy?

Consult your doctor, nurse or dietitian about the use of nutritional supplements such as Boost, Ensure and Carnation Instant Breakfast as an aid to satisfy your nutritional needs and maintain or increase your weight. There are many products available that cannot be purchased at a grocery store. Call 1-877-4WebMed to order products from your home, including those you find at the grocery store. A dietician can help you incorporate commercial supplements into your current diet or, if necessary, design your entire diet with these products to meet your estimated nutritional needs.
Will taking vitamins during chemotherapy help?
Diet versus supplements: The preferred option to satisfy nutritional needs is to do it following a diet. The vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (a variety of compounds produced by plants) necessary to help the body fight cancer are found in a balanced diet that emphasizes plant-based foods. According to the available nutrition-based literature, a proportionally inverse relationship has been observed between fruit and vegetable consumption and cancer risk. In other words, eating more fruits and vegetables can lower your risk of cancer.

It is difficult to determine if a specific nutrient is protective, or if it is a specific combination and proportion of phytochemicals. The main goal is to maintain a well-balanced plant-based diet, low in fat and sugar, to help reduce the risk of cancer. Recommendations include eating at least 5 servings of assorted fruits and vegetables a day, along with a meal of flours and starches that includes 2 to 3 servings of whole grains.

Cancer research has not shown that taking vitamin supplements individually provides greater protection than consuming fruits and vegetables. In fact, three clinical studies on the protective effects of beta-carotene and lung cancer were conducted, and in two of these studies a greater association of this cancer was observed in cigarette smokers when given beta-carotene supplements. The third study showed no benefit or harm as a result of beta carotene. 
The term phytochemicalsrefers to a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. These compounds are found in fruits, vegetables, beans (grains), cereals, and other plants. Thousands of phytochemicals exist and are classified into groups, such as polyphenols (of which flavonoids are a subgroup), antioxidants (including carotenoids), and sulfides . Phytochemicals have an antioxidant action or an action similar to that of hormones.

The flavonoids found in soy beans, soy products, chickpeas, licorice and tea. They are estrogen-like substances, called phytoestrogens, that are produced by plants.

the antioxidantsThey are usually found in vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage or cabbage, and cauliflower. There are many types of phytochemicals that fall into this category, including the carotenoids found in carrots, yams, cantaloup melons, zucchini, and apricots. The term antioxidant is often associated with vitamins and protection against cancer. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids. These nutrients are associated with a lower risk of cancer due to their ability to counteract free radicals in the body. Free radicals are reactive compounds that can harm normal cells.

The sulfides found in garlic and onion and may play a role in reducing the risk of stomach cancer. These nutrients are found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Due to its protective association in food, researchers are trying to determine if this benefit exists with complementary phytochemicals.
the herbsThey have been used for centuries to treat diseases. Many are safe, and others can have serious and harmful side effects, and may possibly interfere with cancer therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and recovery from surgery. A recent example of this is the discovery that levels of chemotherapy in the body were reduced in people taking hypericum or “St. John’s wort.”

As precautions, tell your health care team about the herbal products you use or plan to use before, during, or after chemotherapy . Ask your doctor, nurse, or dietitian for reliable information about dietary supplements. If you experience side effects such as difficulty breathing, itching, numbness or tingling in your extremities, stop consuming these products immediately and contact your doctor. 

The benefits of supplementing the diet with various phytochemicals and herbs to help prevent or fight cancer are not yet known with certainty. Many studies are underway regarding supplementation or megadoses of different phytochemicals or herbs. Apparently much of the encouraging data regarding herbs, vitamins and cancer  has been observed in animal studies, which does not necessarily mean that the same results would be obtained in human studies. At this time, there is not enough consistent and meaningful data to draw solid conclusions or associations to recommend the use of supplements.
The use of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer

Research is being conducted to determine the safety and potential benefits of using herbs, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals during treatments.
Megadoses : Available literature has not shown that taking vitamins in small or large doses helps to prevent or reverse cancer. Vitamin megadose has been shown in some cases to be toxic or harmful.

The water – soluble vitamins are usually harmless thanks to the ability of the body to remove excess vitamins in the form of waste. In some cases, they can have negative effects; for example, high doses of vitamin C can increase the risk of oxalate kidney stones, resulting in an increased risk for people with kidney failure. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), even in moderate doses, could cause nerve damage.

For their part, Fat-  soluble vitamins in large doses, the opposite of fighting diseases such as cancer, can become toxic, as they accumulate in the body. Vitamin A toxicity can lead to changes in bone development, enlarged liver, anemia, and hair loss. Vitamin D in high doses can generate high levels of calcium and, consequently, calcifications in the kidneys and blood vessels, and possibly cause osteoporosis.

Note: We insist that you talk to your healthcare professional about your disease and its specific treatments. The information included in this website is intended to be useful and instructive, and in no case should it be considered a substitute for medical advice.


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