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Alternative nutrition for cancer patients, complementary medicine centre - Review

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Tumor cachexia or malnutrition has a profound impact on the physical, psychological and social development of these patients, because they have an altered metabolism, marked by an increase wastage of protein and fat, causing the loss of muscle mass, additionally these patients carbohydrate metabolism is modified by the rate at which tumors develop and grow with decreased hepatic glucose production and decreased insulin sensitivity in peripheral tissues. These alterations contribute to increased energy expenditure and may lead to a progressive loss of metabolism and muscle mass, however, despite the hyper metabolism and weight loss for these patients they can be exacerbated by increased stress or pain, infection and surgeries.
Patients also receive an orientation of the food groups that have demonstrated benefits in patients with cancer and also receive an orientation to the food groups that should be prohibited or eliminated from their diet.
Colorectal cancer is a devastating disease that invades the large intestine of approximately 22,000 Canadians each year. Colorectal cancer does not discriminate, and even the healthiest individual can develop the disease.
By and large, the number one cancer that one can prevent through diet is colorectal cancer. Calcium is a mineral well-known for its role in bone health and prevention of osteoporosis, but it has also been shown to decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer (Mizoue et al 2008). Vitamin D is found in very few foods in nature, like egg yolks and fatty fish, but it is also produced by our skin when it is exposed to sunlight and has been shown to play an important role in the prevention of colorectal cancer (Wei et al 2008).
Selenium is a trace mineral (required by the body in small amounts) that exists in soil and has been shown to decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer (Jacobs et al 2004).
Evidence suggests a decreased risk of colorectal cancer associated with consumption of Omega-3s from fish (Geelen et al 2007, Pot et al 2008)). Vitamin C is a water soluble antioxidant that is necessary for normal growth and development. Excess body weight and obesity have been clearly linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, making it vital to maintain a healthy weight throughout life to help prevent the disease (Pasche et al 2008, Huxley et al 2007).
Studies have shown that those who engage in regular, moderate exercise such as brisk walking, dancing, and skating are at a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who are inactive (Salz et al 2006, Giovannucci et al 2006).
Recent research has suggested that the symptoms of metabolic syndrome in affected patients can be reversed with a healthy lifestyle modification program involving low glycemic functional foods, a low glycemic diet and modest exercise. People who are at risk for metabolic syndrome or who already are exhibiting signs of the condition are encouraged to engage in regular daily activity and to modify their dietary intake of food (after consulting with their physician) so as to offer a valuable approach for either preventing or reversing a condition that can reduce the risk of developing not only colorectal cancer, but a slew of other degenerative diseases. Smoking is a notorious risk factor for cancer in organs where there is direct contact with tobacco-related carcinogens, such as lung, oropharynx, larynx and upper digestive tract, but also in organs where exposure to tobacco degradation products is indirect, such as in the colon.
Regular consumption of alcohol in excess has been shown to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer (Bongaerts et al 2008). Studies continue to reinforce the idea that to minimize your risk of developing colorectal cancer, it’s best to drink in moderation. The single best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened for the disease and screened regularly. Getting enough calories to keep up your strength is just one aspect of a colon cancer diet.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine for the prevention and treatment of various diseases has become more popular in recent years than ever before. Several types of alternative therapies exist, including herbals, vitamins, and dietary products. Antioxidants are also used by some patients during cancer treatment in the hopes of reducing the side effects of chemotherapy. The combination of antioxidants and chemotherapeutic agents may present some potential problems to the patient and health care provider.
Patients should fully understand the possible consequences of combining antioxidant supplements and chemotherapy.

It is important that patients and health care providers be informed about all possible interactions between dietary supplements and medications. In the meantime, the following are specific recommendations for those cancer patients who are taking antioxidant supplements or herbal medications. For further questions about the use of dietary supplements, you may wish to consult the following references. Some people have risk factors that make them more likely to develop colorectal cancer at a young age.
The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada recommends all Canadians aged 50 and over get screened.
Nutrient intake in these patients is diminished oral most canceled due to the side effects of chemotherapy, and radiation, all these conditions promote malnutrition affecting survival of patients. Studies have revealed that a healthy balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, lower fat milk products and healthy fats has been linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.
Refined sugars and grains have been stripped of their nutritional value and stand to increase the glycemic load (see #6 below) of a meal .
Recent studies (Vinikoor et al 2008) have suggested a link between trans fats and colorectal cancer risk and are therefore recommending that more healthy fats be introduced into the diet – those which are liquids at room temperature, specifically the mono and polyunsaturated fats.
With the growth of the Internet, consumers now have more accessibility to information and advertising about alternative products.
Two prescription antioxidants, Mesnex® (mesna) and Ethyol® (amifostine), are available which specifically prevent certain side effects of cancer agents such as ifosfamide, cyclophosphamide, and cisplatin.
Most of the agents can be grouped into classes based on how they work against cancer cells.
First, many patients do not tell their physician they are taking antioxidants because they fear disapproval from the physician or have never been asked about such therapies. This means that health care providers should ask patients about the use of alternative therapies and that patients should be open and honest with providers when asked. Antioxidants are available in many forms including vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. They are touted for their medicinal properties and may be useful for treating some of the side effects associated with chemotherapy. They may work through the same antioxidant mechanisms described for the vitamin preparations.
A recent study (Nomura, 2008) concluded that eating more fruits and vegetables protected men from colorectal cancer and past similar studies showed the same protective effects in men and women (Park 2007, Kouskik 2008). Water provides a medium for biological reactions to occur in the body and chronic dehydration can contribute to a number of health problems including constipation, which is the inability to move the digestive contents through the bowels.
However, cancer cells are able to maintain glucose metabolism by using a protein called Akt, which promotes glucose metabolism. Antioxidants have received much media attention in recent years regarding cancer prevention.
Since these two antioxidants are for prescription use only, they have been evaluated in human studies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found to not reduce the effectiveness of cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, or ifosfamide in the treatment of cancer. Patients and physicians should jointly decide a plan of action for using alternative therapies that will achieve the goals of both the physician and patient. In order for your doctor to keep an accurate list of medications, it may help to bring the products or a list of ingredients and doses with you at your office visits.
However, being derived from botanicals, some herbal products may have impurities (bacteria, fungi, or parasites) that could put patients at risk for infections during the period of decreased white blood counts.

Green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are highly recommended for their nutritional content and whole fruits are excellent sources of carbohydrates to consume. Consider alternative sources of protein such as poultry, low-fat dairy products, legumes, and fish (American Institute for Cancer Research – May 2008). A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants, has been reported to lower a person’s risk for some types of cancer. Whether a reduced benefit corresponds to therapy failure such as a lack of clinical response, continued progression of the cancer despite therapy, or decreased long-term survival has not yet been determined. In addition many studies are underway in the United States to determine whether traditional Chinese herbal medications are beneficial in improving patient quality of life while receiving chemotherapy. They contain important antioxidants (see below), minerals, and vitamins that are essential for our existence.
Consuming too much sugar causes our bodies to produce excessive amounts of insulin and insulin itself encourages the growth of cells, something which is good for healthy cells, but not cancerous cells. Alcohol can increase the risk of colorectal cancer regardless of the type of alcoholic drink consumed. Some individuals may also choose to take both traditional and alternative medicine to treat illnesses, which is especially common in those receiving treatment for cancer. Antioxidant supplements, which contain larger amounts of antioxidants than contained in food sources, have also been reported to decrease a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Human studies showing the impact of dietary supplements on chemotherapy effectiveness are not required for these products to be sold in the United States. Patients and physicians should be aware that combining antioxidants with chemotherapy may improve side effects in the short-term but may hinder long-term survival or clinical response. For example, for a 2,000 calorie diet, this means eating no more than 67 grams of total fat per day. Specifically, vitamin E and selenium supplements have been shown to reduce the incidence of prostate and colon cancer.
While cancer cells are the main target of chemotherapy, normal cells may be affected as well, causing side effects such as hair loss, low blood cell counts, and mouth sores. Antioxidants may decrease chemotherapy-induced damage of normal cells by inactivating free radicals, but the same damage may also be decreased in cancer cells.
Patients and physicians should decide on a course of action that ensures maximum clinical benefit yet embraces the patient’s wishes regarding therapy.
Thus, many institutions advise patients to discontinue herbal and nutrient supplements before and during chemotherapy because of these risks. Therefore, doses of antioxidants that are larger than that provided in a normal diet may potentially interfere with the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy agents by reducing their action in cancer cells. This plan may include the decision not to take antioxidants and chemotherapy at the same time, to find chemotherapeutic agents that have no possible interaction with antioxidants, or not to take antioxidants at all during cancer treatment. Research to date suggests a synergistic effect between calcium and vitamin D in preventing colon cancer. A study team at Duke University School of Medicine has suggested a possible reason why cancer cells like sugar so much.

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