Dietary and Herbal Supplements
I have written many times before about the possible risks of dietary and herbal supplements. The basic problem is that often there is no certainty about what is in that pill or liquid, and, therefore, there is a lot of uncertainty about how it might react with chemotherapy or other medications that you are receiving. A parallel issue, of course, is that few careful scientific studies or controlled trials have been done, so we have very little data-based information about their value. It is easy for believers to insist that certain substances have cured, or at least, slowed, cancer, but it is very hard to prove it.
In my practice, I talk with many women about adding CAM (complementary or alternative medicines) to their care plan. The usual advice is to talk with your doctor and to refrain from taking anything oral while receiving chemotherapy or radiation. After those active treatments are done, it is much less likely to be a problem. During treatment, it is fine to add acupuncture or massage or Reiki or anything else that is external to your body. My observation is that these treatments often help a lot in reducing pain, anxiety, and general malaise.
Here is a nice summary from ASCO's Patient Net. I give you the beginning and then a link to read more:
About Dietary and Herbal Supplements
It's important to be an informed consumer before taking dietary and herbal supplements.
Talk with your doctor to learn about possible benefits and risks, interactions with current cancer treatments, side effects, and other considerations.
People living with cancer may consider taking dietary and herbal supplements as a way to boost health, improve nutrition, or reduce treatment side effects. It is important to discuss the possible benefits and risks of specific supplements with your doctor before taking them.
Types of supplements
Dietary supplements. These products have one or more dietary ingredients-including vitamins, minerals, herbs, enzymes, amino acids, and hormones-that people may decide to add to their regular diet. Dietary supplements can be bought without a prescription in pharmacies, grocery
stores, and health food stores as a pill, capsule, tablet, liquid, or powder.
Herbal supplements or botanicals. These products-including tablets, capsules, powders, and tea bags-are dietary supplements that contain plants or ingredients from plants.
Supplements as complementary and alternative medicine.
Supplements are considered part of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), a diverse group of treatments, techniques, and products that are not considered conventional medicine. A conventional treatment has been scientifically tested, found to be safe and effective, and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Supplements can be used as either complementary medicine or alternative medicine. Learn more about the definitions of complementary medicine and alternative medicine.
For example, if someone takes an herbal supplement to help reduce nausea during chemotherapy, it is considered a complementary therapy. Many supplements can be safely used with a doctor's guidance to manage side effects of conventional treatment or to improve a patient's physical or emotional well-being.
Meanwhile, if someone takes large doses of that same herbal supplement in an effort to cure the cancer, rather than undergoing chemotherapy, it is considered an alternative therapy. Claims that supplements can cure cancer have not been proven, and some supplements can be harmful to a person's health.
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