Antioxidants And Chemotherapy: A Huge Controversy

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The question whether it is safe to take antioxidant supplements during chemotherapy treatment has been asked over and over again. To date, there has been no firm reply either way, as there is a massive conflict of opinions going on between medical oncologists and nutritionists.

There is a lot of positive information available from studies which state that the use of antioxidants protects healthy cells from the chemotherapy, and many of the results show that the effectiveness of the chemotherapy is actually enhanced. On the other hand, some oncologists have stated that antioxidants may defeat the purpose of the chemo treatment by also protecting cancer cells from free radicals. There is however no positive proof of this, and at this stage is only a theory.


The Role Antioxidants May Play In Cancer Treatment

  • Research has shown that folk suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy can get relief from antioxidants which enhance the effects of chemo on tumours, and reduce unpleasant side effects.
  • Conclusive studies have indicated that antioxidants and other nutrients do not negatively impact on chemotherapy or radiation, but may actually elevate the chemo effectiveness in killing the tumour.
  • According to cancer researchers, some cancers are becoming resistant to chemo drugs. In addition to increasing the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemo agents, antioxidants also help prevent healthy cells from being damaged by the free radicals that accompany chemotherapy.
  • Antioxidants are excellent for dealing with inflammation in the body. Cancer and all other diseases thrive on inflammation, which is often caused by free radicals when immunity is low.

There is no evidence to suggest that foods or drinks that are rich in antioxidants should be avoided during cancer therapy.

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The Immune System

The toxins from the chemotherapy and radiation treatments can compromise, or totally destroy, the immune system leaving the body open to what could be serious infections. Medical experts agree that it is essential for people who are undergoing cancer treatments to eat nutritious foods that will help support the immune system, and keep infections from taking hold.

Cancer patients differ greatly, as do their treatments, as well as the way the body reacts to the treatment. Nutritional requirements may also differ from person to person, and if you are unsure which foods will benefit you most during and after treatments, it might be a good idea to consult a nutritionist.

The body needs certain vitamins and minerals to help function properly and boost the immune system. Fortunately, most of these are found naturally in foods.

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Foods to Help Build the Immune System While Having Chemotherapy

Good nutrition and eating well while having treatment, can benefit you in ways such as helping you to keep up strength and energy, lower your risk of infections, improve tolerance of treatment side effects, and help you recover faster from treatments.
Here is a list of nutritious foods that are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.

    • Protein. People with cancer often need more protein than usual. Extra protein is needed to heal tissues, and boost immunity. Sources of protein include fish, chicken, eggs, lean red meat, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
    • All fruits are very nutritious, but especially red grapes, which are also high in antioxidants that boost the immune system.
    • Vegetables such as carrots, black beans, kidney beans, and dark green leafy veggies, like spinach, are all rich in vitamin C, high in antioxidants, and also contain a specific vegetable protein which has a tumour suppressing property.
    • The American Cancer Society recommends whole-grain carbohydrates for energy, instead of foods made from refined flours and sugars. The refined items are very acid-forming and may encourage infections.
    • Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and many others, are all very rich in antioxidants.
    • During chemo treatment, which could cause some vomiting, it is vital to stay hydrated. In addition to plenty of water, experts recommend clear liquids such as ginger ale, tea, green tea, apple juice, and meat broth, all of which have health benefits.

Of course, eating a balanced diet might be difficult if you are suffering from the ill effects of cancer treatments. Your appetite might be at a low ebb for a while, but when you can eat, be sure to opt for foods that are nutritious, and are easy to digest. Small amounts at a time will keep you going until you are able to eat more.


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A Huge Controversy

Although there are many scientific studies which have come out in support of the benefits of antioxidants during cancer treatment, there are a few studies from oncologists which are not in agreement.

The subject is still controversial, and lately some reports from patients have also led to confusion.

One reported that his oncologist said it was okay to take multivitamins, and the patient was a bit confused as multi vitamins also contain antioxidants, and he was told not to take any! Another stated that the oncologist advised she should eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and some he recommended are known to be high in antioxidants, like spinach and the turmeric spice. Everyone is different and have different nutritional needs. The best advice is to continue to follow a healthy diet and use the benefits to your advantage, before, during, and after cancer treatment.