Ladd McNamara, M.D discusses the future of medicine both as it relates to health, supplementation, and how health professionals are finding new ways to increase income in an ever evolving world!

Should You Take Vitamins & Supplements During Chemo or Radiation Therapy?

radiation therapy ladd mcnamara blog

It is long been tradition, based upon what I call medical myth, for doctors to tell patients to stop taking nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega 3 fatty acids) while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. I understand why and how it became “medical tradition,” but the medical evidence points to the complete opposite viewpoint.  It appears that nutritional supplements DO NOT interfere with chemo or radiation therapy, but even better, antioxidant supplements may actually help kill cancer cells, as well as help reduce the damage to healthy cells by these toxic cancer treatments!

Since the one of the ways chemotherapy, and the primary way radiation therapy kills cancer cells is through the creation of oxidative-free radicals to cause DNA damage, doctors naturally assumed that it is important to avoid vitamins and antioxidants because it would “get in the way,” and block the free radical damage, making chemo and radiation less effective.   That is logical, but as it turns out, there is no scientific proof that the use of antioxidants block damage, or reduce the effectivness of chemo- or radiation therapy!   And, since we are supposed to be opertating on what the scientific evidence shows, and there is no evidence to support this assumption, why do cancer doctors hold so tightly to this assumption?

It is absolutely NOT TRUE!   Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids do NOT interfere, or reduce the effectivness of chemo- or radiation therapy.    How do we know this?   Published scientific evidence supports that statement, and further more, supports the use of nutritional supplements before, DURING, inbetween, and after chemo- or radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy puts out such a powerful ionizing beam of damage to the cells, that to think that antioxidants could prevent this DNA death ray from inflicting lethal celllular damage is like saying a paper bag left on the train track might stop, or at least slow down an oncoming train!  That’s ridiculous.   Not even a car, truck, or even a house left on a train track would slow down a fast-moving train.

Where’s the scientific evidence to support my statements?

In 2007, the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine*  published a two-part article in the January/February, and in the March/April editions concluded  after reviewing the medical literature that contrary to most doctors’ beliefs, nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) do NOT interfere with chemotherapy or radiation treatment, and the theory to avoid use of nutritional supplements during chemo or radiation therapy was scientifically unfounded.

This two-part article reviewed 50 human studies involving the use of nutritional supplements during chemotherapy or radiation therapy.   Not only were nutritional supplements, such as antioxidants, found NOT to interfere with cancer treatment, but in 47 of these studies, nutritional supplements were associated with protection of normal cells and a reduction of cancer treatment side effects!   … PROTECTION & REDUCTION OF SIDE EFFECTS!

For a person undergoing these tortuous therapies, any reduction of side effects is welcomed; and the fact that it also helps protect normal cells is a major benefit.   Furthermore, there is scientific support that antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids in and of themselves not only help prevent cancer, and recurrence of cancer, but help in the killing of cancer cells!   So, why would any doctor or cancer patient not want to take supplements?

Another principle, … not all supplements are created equally.   For example, when I mention supplements, I am not referring to a simple one per day multivitamin, nor just some random selection of products or brands purchased capriciously off the shelf.   I am referring to a specific regimen of pharmacuetical-grade, well balanced, potent, pure, and bio-available supplements that I have seen make a difference in people’s health, …even among those undergoing treatment for many types of cancers.

During the time I practiced medicine, and over the past 20 years since speaking, consulting, and following up with people all over the world, I have heard how much better people feel, do, and recover if they are taking the high-quality, full-spectrum vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and omega-3 supplement regimen before, during, inbetween rounds, and after chemo or radiation therapy.   The people who through the first one or two rounds of therapy and were very ill, and took a while to recover their energy and white blood cell count, and then started making quality, high-dose nutritional supplements a part of their daily regimen, reported that they did not get as sick and tired as they experienced in previous rounds, and often reported very little-to-no abnormality in white blood cell counts.

More importantly, at the end of the chemo or radiation therapies, people had such great responses, that their doctors were quit impressed at how well they did, and how effective “their treatments” were in reducing or getting rid of the cancer.   Some of these patients decided to take the supplements “on the sly,” that is, without informing their doctors, as their doctors were very opposed to them taking supplements.   However, the results have been very positive, and the doctors were led to believe that these people were just among their “star patients,” who responded very well to the chemo or radiation therapy, and to this day, most of those doctors still do not know that their treatments were apparently enhanced by high-quality nutritional supplements.

I must be clear here … I am not advocating that people go against the direction or advice of their doctors.   I tell every person I advice to talk to their doctor about using nutritional supplements, and why they wish to use them.  I suggest that they present whatever evidence they can, and in the end, follow their doctor’s advice.  Of course, patients are free to do how they wish, and take matters into their own hands.   I just cannot be the one giving medical advice, and I am not implying medical advice.   No person should misinterpret how strongly I am stating this.   I am only presenting the scientific evidence and experiences I have witnessed, …even among my own family members.

Here is some important information as you consider what you are going to do if faced with cancer therapy:  In the two-part article cited above, 15 studies demonstrated increased survival rates among cancer patients taking nutritional supplements.   “INCREASED SURVIVAL RATES!”

So, how and why did it ever become a medical myth that nutritional supplements interfere with chemo and/or radiation therapy?

In the 2007 article, the researchers stated, “A single, front-page interview in The New York Times in 1997, which was NOT (emphasis added) based on published scientific work, and a single research paper involving mice, along with a press release by its author in 1999, led to the erroneous notion that vitamin C interferes with chemotherapy and radiation in humans.   This notion soon applied to all antioxidants as physicians, patients, the media, the American Cancer Society, and scores of websites took the same position without reviewing the scientific evidence.”

WOW!   WOW!   WOW!

Since when in medicine, … at any time, anywhere, has one single rat-based, non-scientific article changed the way that doctors practice medicine?   If there was even one non-scientific article about the benefits of supplements (which there are many, by the way …  along with science-based articles), would that change the way doctors practiced medicine, and what they recommended to their patients?   Obviously not, or it would have by now.   So, why did everyone jump on the bandwagon to not use supplements during cancer therapy based upon one article, not based on scientific work?   Makes you wonder.   All I can say again, is WOW!

Aricles, published papers, etc., that ARE all based upon scientific work, have clearly demonstrated that many different antioxidants in and of themselves help cause the destruction of cancer cells by turning on DNA mechanisms that result in apoptosis (cellular self destruction).   This is one of the ways that nutritional supplements help enhance the killing of cancer cells, ….even with chemo and/or radiation therapy.

The authors of the two-part article explain that cancer cells take in excessive amounts of the nutrients, more so than normal cells due to  a loss of regulatory mechanisms of the cancer cells.   This loss of regulation by cancer cells decreases the amount of oxidative free radical damage required to damage cancer cell DNA.  In other words, the cancer cells become more sensitive to the chemo or radiation therapy because of nutritional supplements; while at the same time the normal cells acquire protective mechanisms from the supplements.

 

Recommended Suggestions of Nutritional Supplements:

Since people regularly ask me what nutritional supplement regimen I have recommended to my cancer patients, I will share it below, with the caveat that this is NOT MEDICAL ADVICE for anyone; and once again, I strongly suggest that anyone considering this for themselves first talk to their own personal physician before embarking on any nutritional supplement program.

Since I cannot name theactual brand I recommended, I will simply state what these supplements were in general. This was the basic level I would suggest to my patients, as well as to other doctors treating their patients.  More CAN be taken of certain supplements, beyond what I list, but this was a good place for people to start, and most did very well.

  1. A broad-spectrum, quality foundational, essential vitamins and minerals, at “regular doses.”
  2. Pure Fish Oil, a double dose of the omega-3 fatty acids (4 – 6 capsules, or about 4000 -6000 mg/day)
  3. Potent Grape Seed Extract that is combined with vitamin C  (200 to 400 mg, 3 or 4 times per day)
  4. Calcium & Magnesium tablets (4 per day, spread out when taking the other supplements)
  5. Soluble Co-Enzyme Q10 with alpha lipoic acid capsules  (100 – 200 mg, 3 or 4 times per day)
  6. A “liver health” product tablet (described below);  (3 tablets, three times per day, or 4 tabs 4 times per day)
  7. Vitamin D3 (with vitamin K2)  (2000 IU’s taken 3 times per day …total daily 6000 – 8,000 IU)
  8. Probiotics, daily, or every-other day, to maintain gut and immune support.
  9. Pure melatonin, not just for sleep, but as an antioxidant (10 to 20 mg at bedtime.

 

The Liver Health Product I recommeded to my patients had in it at least the following:

Milk Thistle Extract
Turmeric Extract (curcurmin)
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Green Tea Extract
N Acetyl L-Cysteine (a precursor to glutathione)
Olive Extact (100 to 200 mg)

The regimen above can cost a bit,  ….but it is the most valuable thing a person could do.  If you think that costs too much, think about how expensive it is to not have your health.   Think about how “expensive” it is to die prematurely; in other words, if this is “life changing,” …what is your health and life worth?

I do not have cancer, and it is pretty close to what I currently use for myself to maintain optimal health.   When my father was given 8 months to live as he was first diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, I had him on the higher doses as described above.  He did the higher doses, 4 times per day.   He did not die in 8 months, or even a year, as was predicted.  He went into remission for years, and eventually died of prostate cancer when it came out of remission …. 12 years later!!!    During those 12 years, he played golf several times per week, enjoyed his family, and got to know my daughter, who was 17 at the time of his death.   Those 12 ‘extra years’ was the majority of my daughter’s life!   THAT is what I am talking about!   THAT is what life-changing results are !

None of us will live forever, but what time we do have, we want to live with quality.  We all want to love life and live it!    That is what I found taking high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade, broad-spectrum, potent, pure, and bio-available supplements at the right dose can do ….. it is truly LIFE CHANGING!

 

*  References:
Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):22-8.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;13(2):40-7.

Note: Nutritional supplements and antioxidants referred to in this study were typical vitamin/mineral/antioxidant supplements, and did not include herbal treatments or products.   The information provided here should not be used to replace the advice of the physician.  It is intended to be an aid in discussion with the health care specialist regarding appropriate use of nutritional supplements during cancer treatment.

 

Comments

Posted On
Mar 21, 2012
Posted By
Scott LaPointe

Ladd,

Thanks for the information on taking supplements during chemo. Perfect timing for the post. I enjoyed reading and learning from it! Keep up your great work. It benefits so many people.

Scott

Posted On
Mar 21, 2012
Posted By
Ladd McNamara, M.D.

Scott, I’m so glad that your oncologist looked at the USANA and allowed you to take it during your chemotherapy. I appreciate your comments, and glad to know more and more doctors are understanding the benefits of high-quality nutritional supplements.

Posted On
Apr 09, 2012
Posted By
Margaret

I am scheduled to start radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer in 2 weeks. After much time researching, I have put myself on a routine of high quality supplements. I feel great, my energy is better than ever and I am soooo glad to read what my gut instinct tells me to do…..keep taking the supplements. I am using fish oil, calcium plus (Pure Essence Labs) and a very good food based multi, liquid Coq10, and it D. Did I miss anything? Should I be using anything else? Thank You for this timely article.

Posted On
Apr 09, 2012
Posted By
Ladd McNamara, M.D.

Best of health to you on your journey. In addition to what you’ve listed, I would also suggest to my patients in your situation to consider a pure grape seed extract (around 600 to 800 mg per day), 30 mg of resveratrol, as well as curcumin (a.k.a., turmeric extract), on the order of 400 to 800 mg/day. Also, mikl thistle extract, alpha lipoic acid, N-acteyl-L-cysteine, olive fruit extract, green tea extract, and vitamin D (4000 to 6000 IU/day); …and there are more! Many of these supplements are found in the products I take, and have recommended to my patients. Please see http://www.customer.usana.com.

Posted On
Mar 30, 2013
Posted By
Andrik Schapers

Dear Dr Ladd,

Thank you so very much for exposing this anti oxident fairy tale
And thank you for your generous sharing of your valuable data.
My wife was worried about me combining alternative and chemo
And this handled it for her.
I am doing great with rhe combining very little negative effects
And it helps a lot. Thanks again lots!!!!! Andrik Schapers

Posted On
Aug 01, 2013
Posted By
Brenda Tyner

My brother had a lump on his neck went into surgery they removed his tonsils and found cancer. He is now going through kemo and radiation. Its only been a week has 6 more to go he has lost 10lbs weighs only 140 has no energy and getting worse. Was thinking of vitamins to help boost his energy and because he isn’t eating will have to have a feeding tube put in when his throat closes from the radiation can some one please help me in helping him stay heathy as much as possible . Very worried about him and can’t loose another family member to cancer (mom)

Posted On
Aug 30, 2013
Posted By
brian bohlke

thanks for the info Dr Ladd! You help so many people! Thanks!

Posted On
Sep 26, 2013
Posted By
Tanya Blanchard

Hi there…
I am so grateful to have stumbled upon your website….my mom was just diagnosed with stage 4 colon/bowel cancer….she is only 90 lbs. and was also diagnosed a few years ago with early stage parkinson’s disease….she is very scared and so am I….she is not ready to go and I am not ready to see her go…she is 66 years old…I don’t agree with chemo and wanted her to take an alternative approach but when you hear the words 4-6 months without treatment and up to 23 months with treatment you want to grab at the longest time frame and believe what the doctors tell you (chemo)…I put her on a raw food diet last week and bought her a juicer, lots of organic veggies, few fruits, lots of nuts and am trying to follow a high alkaline diet to promote oxygen as her PH is very acidic….I wrote down all the supplements that you suggested like full spectrum vitamins, fish oil, grape sea, calcium, magnesium, co enzyme, turmeric, alpha lipoic, green tea, N Acetyl, olive extract but I really need to know if there is anything else that I can do to boost her immune system quickly and give her a fighting chance before chemo starts next week….please help with any advice and I am very grateful….

Tanya

Posted On
Sep 26, 2013
Posted By
Tanya Blanchard

p.s. she went to chemo consultation today and they told her not to take certain vitamins and so they don’t interfere….I told her not to believe it and not to tell them anything either….is that okay?

Posted On
Jun 15, 2015
Posted By
Name (Required)

Ladd,
This is a great article. I just finished a year of chemo and I did six weeks radiation for a brain tumour I had. I took Usana all through treatments except two days before i took my chemo pills and two days after. I know Usana is what kept me feeling so good. I have had all good MRI reports. I was wondering what you recommend I take now that I am all done?

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Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. The information is a result of years of practice experience and study by the author. This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this web site. Information provided on this web site and the use of any products or services purchased from this website (or as a result of information provided this website) by you DOES NOT create a doctor-patient relationship between you and any of the physicians or authors affiliated with this website. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.