Overview of Naturopathic Medicine

Everyone is at risk for developing cancer. There have been many technological advances in its treatment, but cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States. The addition of naturopathic therapies to conventional cancer treatments can enhance treatment effectiveness by promoting overall health, reducing or eliminating factors that promote the growth of cancer, and improving the success of chemotherapy and radiation while reducing their side effects.

Naturopathic treatment is patient specific, treatment specific, and tumor specific. By utilizing the strengths of naturopathic treatment with the strengths of conventional treatment, the cancer patient can maximize their chances of surviving the cancer.

Because naturopathic treatment is geared to the individual needs of the patient, it is beneficial, if possible, to have a licensed naturopathic physician or holistic MD or DO determine which naturopathic therapies are most appropriate. The situation, of course, is best when all physicians—holistic and allopathic—work together to develop the best treatment plan for the patient.

Cancer & Nutrition

Nutrition plays a very important role not only in the prevention of cancer, but also in its treatment. Scientific evidence shows that nutrition and physical activity are the two most important aspects that can be modified to alter the course of cancer, prevent its occurrence, and stop its progression.

Remember, you are what you eat. Poor nutrition provides a favorable environment for cancer to grow and develop. By changing the environment—changing the diet—cancer can and will weaken and shrivel. Proper nutrition supports the immune system, starves cancer cells, and provides micro- and macronutrients.

Cancer needs nourishment to grow and it uses the food that a person eats. As a result, many cancer patients suffer from malnutrition. In fact, many die not from cancer directly, but from malnutrition. For this reason, it is generally recommended that the diet consist of 25–30 percent protein, 40–50 percent carbohydrate, and 20 percent fat. A guideline for an appropriate caloric intake is 16–18 calories per pound of body weight (e.g., a 150 lb person would eat 2400–2700 calories daily). Eat small, frequent meals and chew food thoroughly.

A healthy diet does not guarantee a life free from cancer. Other risk factors such as genetics, spirituality, and lifestyle are involved in cancer development. The following recommendations can help reduce the risk.

  • Eat fresh, unrefined, unprocessed, and hormone-free foods. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, soy, beans (legumes), cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut, and mackerel), olive oil, green tea, garlic, onions, yams, tomatoes, shitake mushrooms, almonds, ginger, curry, nonfat yogurt, seaweed, and fiber. Eating organic food helps reduce exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and hormones, which may increase cancer risk.
  • Avoid sugar (the preferred food of cancer), dairy products, refined foods, fried foods, junk foods, caffeine, alcohol, nitrates, and food coloring. Limit high-fat (e.g., saturated and trans fats) foods, particularly meat, which has been implicated in colon, rectal, prostate, and endometrial cancers.
  • Eliminate food sensitivities. Use an elimination and challenge diet to determine food sensitivities.
  • Drink 50% of body weight in ounces of water daily (e.g., a 150 lb person would drink 75 oz of water). Drink spring or distilled water; avoid chlorine and fluoride.

Cancer & Dietary Supplements

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—Take 2 grams of cod liver oil daily.
  • Fractionated citrus pectin (also called modified citrus pectin or MCP)—Take 6 grams, 2 times daily. MCP interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells. It can be used long term.
  • Glutamine—Take 2 tsp in juice 3 times daily. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body and is an important nutrient for the gastrointestinal and immune systems.
  • Green tea—Drink at least 1 quart daily. If caffeine is not tolerated, use a standardized extract.
  • High-potency vitamin-mineral—Buy a high-quality product and take one serving size (differs from brand to brand).

Cancer & Homeopathy

The appropriate homeopathic remedy can help move the body and mind toward healing. A trained homeopathic practitioner is needed to identify and prescribe a deep-acting, constitutional remedy.

Miscellaneous Natural Treatments & Cancer

  • Acupuncture—Used to treat nausea, pain, and to relieve stress.
  • Aromatherapy—Essential oils can be used to treat anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and pain.
  • Bach flower remedies—Flower essences are used to treat emotional aspects of cancer such as grief, despair, and lack of confidence.
  • Dry brushing—Helps detoxify the body by improving circulation of the lymph and blood. Before bathing, stroke the skin with a dry brush toward the heart.
  • Massage therapy—Used to treat pain, relieve stress, promote blood and lymph flow, and stimulate the nervous system.
  • Meditation—Used to reduce high blood pressure and relieve chronic pain, stress, and anxiety.
  • Physical fun—Yoga, tai chi, aerobics, walking, swimming
  • Relaxation—Meditation, imagery, visualization
  • Support groups
  • Therapeutic touch

Presurgical Support

Measures may be taken, starting 2 weeks before surgery, to prevent surgical complications, reduce pain and swelling, speed healing, support the immune system, and reduce or prevent the spread of cancer cells.

  • Avoid products that reduce clotting (increase bleeding)—Aspirin, gingko, and vitamin E. Also avoid hypericum (St. John's wort), valerian, and kava.
  • Flaxseed oil—Take 1 tbsp daily to decrease healing time.
  • General nutrition recommendations—Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, and fried foods. Increase fiber, protein, vegetables, bioflavonoids, essential fatty acids, and water.
  • Fractionated citrus pectin (also called modified citrus pectin or MCP)—Take 6 grams (1 tsp powder) daily to help prevent the spread of cancer cells.
  • Vitamin A—Take 25,000–50,000 (5000 during pregnancy) IUs daily to support healing and immunity.
  • Vitamin B complex—Take 50–100 mg daily to support healing.
  • Vitamin C—Take 2000–5000 mg daily to support immunity, reduce bruising and swelling, and provide antioxidant activity.
  • Zinc—Take 60 mg daily to speed healing, promote tissue healing, and support immunity.

Postsurgical Support

Measures may be taken, continuing for 4 weeks after surgery, to prevent surgical complications, reduce pain and swelling, speed healing, support the immune system, and reduce or prevent the spread of cancer cells.

  • Bromelain—Take 400 mg 3 times a day away from meals to reduce inflammation, reduce thrombophlebitis, and increase effectiveness of antibiotics.
  • Curcumin—Take 400 mg several times daily for pain.
  • Homeopathy—Take over-the-counter homeopathic remedies for physical trauma according to product directions.
  • Presurgical support—Continue to follow recommendations.
  • Protein shakes—Drink daily for an easily absorbed source of amino acids.
  • Vitamin E—Take 800 mg daily to reduce thrombophlebitis, support immunity, and reduce adhesions. Because vitamin E is an antiplatelet aggregate, it should not be taken until surgical bleeding has stopped.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 03 Sep 2015