Naturopathic Medicine and Cancer Care: 12 Non-Conventional Therapies to Boost Your Immune System
Naturopathic medicine has a unique advantage in dealing and caring for cancer in that naturopathic medicine believes in the remarkable, innate healing ability of the patient. Naturopathic doctors view and treat patients and their illnesses as a complex yet interrelated system.
Naturopathic medicine is effective as a primary therapy in treating illnesses and disease, and it’s a valuable complementary therapy to conventional medicine for diseases that require surgery or pharmacological intervention like cancer. Naturopathic medicine goes beyond targeting just cancer. Its focus is to promote health by supporting immune function and metabolism, and to decrease side effects of conventional treatment. According to The Oncology Associations of Naturopathic Physicians, “Over 80% of people with cancer are choosing to use natural medicine alongside their conventional treatments.”
With an integrative medicine approach to cancer (integrative oncology), naturopaths work to provide the best quality of life before, during, and after any conventional or integrative treatments. Naturopaths aim to support optimal health and wellbeing. ND’s in integrative oncology create an individual and specialized cancer care plan based on the type of cancer and the patient’s unique characteristics.
In this article, we will discuss various complementary and alternative therapies used in naturopathic medicine for our cancer care program. In addition, we will cover 12 non-conventional therapies to consider.
What are Complementary and Alternative Therapies?
The term complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, refers to non-standard medical treatment.
Complementary therapies are treatments used alongside standard treatments. They supplement conventional care with more natural remedies.
Alternative therapies, in comparison, are those used in place of conventional cancer treatment. Some patients will choose this route to avoid harsher treatments, like chemo.
Both types are often used to combat the negative impacts that harsher treatments can have on the body. Aside from helping the cancer itself, these treatments can help to reduce:
- Bodily Deterioration
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine falls under the umbrella of CAM therapies.
According to the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors:
“Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and it supports and stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself.”
A core element of naturopathic medicine is recognizing the individuality of each patient. The treatment plans will fit each patient’s unique lifestyle and environmental conditions.
Why Would You Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine?
There are many reasons why someone suffering from cancer may choose to pursue CAM.
These can include:
- Negative experiences with conventional treatments
- Wanting to have greater control and bodily autonomy
- Using CAM alongside conventional treatment to combat more severe side effects
- A desire to treat illness with natural remedies that boost the immune system
Whatever the reason, doctors specializing in CAM can help the patient to decide what path is best for them.
Ultimately, it is an intimately personal choice. Many cancer patients opt into CAM to feel more connected to and involved with their care.
12 Non-Conventional Cancer Care Therapies
If you are suffering from cancer, learning about non-conventional therapies may be of benefit to you. Researching these therapies is the first step to creating a care plan customized for you.
Each of these 12 therapies has research and evidence that demonstrate their effectiveness. Integrating these treatments with conventional therapy can help improve patient outcomes significantly.
Read on to learn more about CAM therapies and their benefits!
1. IV Therapies
IV Therapy is one of the most effective methods for providing a patient with CAM supplements and conventional medications.
Your gastrointestinal, liver, and kidney functions become compromised when suffering from cancer. This limits your body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients and medications.
By receiving these agents through an IV, your body does not have to rely solely on these organs for absorption and desired effect.
There are four main types of IV therapies we use for cancer care: Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Curcumin, and Artesunate.
IV Vitamin C
IV Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for the body.
IV Vitamin C Cancer Care has been shown through studies to be effective and safe when used alongside conventional treatments.
IV Vitamin C can help to:
- Improve energy and appetite
- Reduce fatigue and recovery time
- Reduce tumour volume
- Decrease infection and inflammation
- Boost immune health and healing
Receiving Vitamin C may also help patients to experience an improved outlook on life. It can help to minimize or improve mental health problems, such as depression.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)
ALA is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in the body.
When used as an IV treatment for cancer, ALA can help to inhibit a cellular complex known as NF-kB. This complex can increase the severity of cancer when activated, which ALA helps to prevent.
ALA can also help to:
- Help rid the body of free radicals and reactive oxygen species
- Enhance the effects of other antioxidants and vitamins
- Reduce inflammation and side effects from conventional treatments
- Improve the metabolism of the patient
ALA is considered safe for most patients. However, you should always consult with a medical professional before beginning ALA treatment. Diabetics are typically cautioned if using the treatment.
Curcumin is a well-researched natural agent found in the spice turmeric.
Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. It can target several pathways associated with cancer development.
Benefits of IV Curcumin Cancer Care include:
- Enhancing the efficacy of conventional oncology treatments
- Reducing side effects associated with chemo, radiation, and surgery
- Reducing pain and inflammation in the body
The sweet wormwood plant produces an active molecule known as Artemisinin. From this molecule, the semi-synthetic Artesunate is derived.
Around the world, use of Artesunate as a treatment for malaria has proven to be effective. This has pushed the medical and scientific communities to research its effects on cancer.
Artesunate reacts to high levels of iron found in cancer cells. As a result, a reactive molecule is created that can help kill the cancer cells.
The treatment has shown to be especially effective for breast, ovarian, hematologic, colon, liver, and lung cancers.
IV Artesunate Cancer Care is a highly safe and trusted treatment used all over the world. Side effects may include dizziness and lowered red blood cell and platelet counts.
Hyperthermia is a form of cancer care that targets diseases by administering heat.
Loco-Regional Hyperthermia, or LRHT, uses a special device to target tumours with heat. This helps achieve the optimal thermal dose within tumour tissue.
It also damages the cancer cell membrane. The damage triggers the immune system to kill off the cells.
LRHT has shown to be effective when used alongside oncology treatments. Common oncology treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Benefits of LRHT include:
- Reduction of tumour growth and invasion
- Increased drug uptake
- Stimulation of the immune system
- Activation of tumour suppression genes
3. European Mistletoe
European Mistletoe is a widely used complementary therapy throughout Europe.
While individual responses can vary, numerous clinical trials have validated the plant’s effectiveness.
The plant is grown in the U.K., continental Europe, and Western Asia. It has served a prominent role in natural medicine for thousands of years.
European Mistletoe can significantly reduce the side effects of cancer treatments. It is particularly useful for improving a patient’s quality of life and stimulating their immune system.
Additional benefits include:
- Aiding in apoptosis—the death of cancer cells
- Inhibiting cancer cell growth
- Increased resistance to infections
- Greater tolerance to chemotherapy and radiation
- Potential prevention of relapse
4. Immune Support
Immune support cancer therapies offer many different treatment options. These include some of the therapies we have already covered!
Cancer naturally suppresses and evades your immune system. This makes it difficult for your immune system to tackle cancer cells on its own.
By undergoing immune support treatments, your body has a better fighting chance against cancer.
Immune support therapies include:
- IV Therapies: The administration of vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients through an IV.
- Loco-Regional Hyperthermia: The use of heat to target and damage tumour tissue and cancer cells.
- Targeted Supplementation: The use of specific foods and plants to combat cancer symptoms and growth. This can include medicinal mushrooms, astragalus, melatonin, and more.
- Acupuncture: The use of needles and pressure to alleviate pain and discomfort. This can also help to stimulate the immune response.
- Mistletoe Therapy: The use of the European Mistletoe plant as a supplement for conventional therapy.
- Low Dose Naltrexone: An opioid antagonist used for treatment of pain and autoimmunity and for causing cancer cell death. According to a report in The International Journal of Oncology, giving low dose naltrexone (LDN) to cancer patients can improve the immune system’s ability to kill cancerous cells, as well as improve the efficacy of standard cancer treatments and immunotherapy.
Undergoing conventional cancer treatments can severely weaken the immune system. Keeping your body’s immune system stimulated is key.
No matter what naturopathic therapy you choose, immune support always has an important role to play. It is a crucial component of any integrated therapy.
5. Targeted Supplementation
Supplements can be very useful when it comes to aiding cancer care. They contain refined and potent mixtures of bioactive compounds, vitamins, minerals, and botanicals.
Targeted supplementation requires a careful selection of supplements. Every supplement has different purposes. The goal is to choose the correct ones that target your specific type of cancer. This means that every patient must have a different and customized supplementation program.
The goal of targeted supplementation is to identify which supplements will be most useful and which may be harmful. They are then integrated into a patient’s existing conventional treatment plan and they can be checked for contraindications. They can help boost the immune system and speed up recovery times.
Benefits of targeted supplementation can include:
- Improving the quality of life for a patient
- Management of side effects from conventional therapies
- Heightening tolerance for conventional treatments, allowing for shorter breaks and higher doses
- Prevention of relapse or recurrence of the cancer
Receiving supplements from integrated medical professionals rather than buying them from a store is recommended.
This allows your naturopathic medical team to determine the most effective supplement cocktail for you. It also gives you access to professional-grade supplements with significantly higher potencies.
6. Personalized Nutrition
Cancer is majorly impacted by lifestyle choices—including your diet.
After receiving a cancer diagnosis, many patients are advised to modify their dietary habits. This is essential for giving your body the strength and resources it needs during cancer care.
There is a lot of information floating around online these days about what the best cancer-preventing diets are. While these may be tempting to try, personalized nutrition plans are much more effective overall.
By following a personalized nutrition plan, your diet will be monitored and managed by a team of integrated medical professionals. This allows you to make the right dietary choices throughout all stages of your cancer journey.
Dietary strategies used in personalized nutrion plan can include:
- Fasting and caloric restriction
- Ketogenic, vegetarian, or vegan diets
- Mediterranean or ancestral diets
Ultimately, every cancer is different and will require different dietary adjustments. By focusing on the food you put into your body, you give yourself a much better chance at withstanding the side effects of conventional cancer treatment.
Plus, the right diet may even help to slow and prevent the growth of cancer cells!
7. Detoxification Strategies
Toxic chemicals and metals can be found in many of us. These toxic substances can increase a person’s risk for cancer cell growth and the development of disease.
Conventional cancer therapies can sometimes result in heightened levels of toxic substances. To combat this, many patients will integrate detox strategies into their recovery plan plans.
Detoxification strategies can include:
- A moderate to intense exercise and movement regimen.
- Body-mind balancing activities such as yoga and meditation
- Dietary changes
- Supplements, vitamins, and antioxidants
- Detox body scrubs, tinctures, and other products
- Saunas and other heat/sweat therapies
Much of the science surrounding detox strategies varies. Research is largely still ongoing. What we know for sure is that adequate diet, exercise, and rest all contribute to a faster and smoother recovery.
When creating a detox strategy, you should always consult with an integrated medical professional. Every cancer is different and will react differently to certain changes. You need to be sure the changes you are making are beneficial.
8. Chelation Therapy
There are several ways that harmful metals and compounds can enter your body. Exposure to toxic environments and build-up during medical treatments are two common causes of toxic material accumulation in the body.
Chelation therapy is specifically designed to remove toxic and heavy metals from the body. During this therapy, compounds are administered either through an IV or orally. Oral chelators are not as effective and can cause longterm digestion issues.
These compounds bind to toxic metals and other toxic substances. Once bound, the compounds then aid in removing the toxicants from the body.
There are several primary Chelating agents used during this process, the most common being:
- Calcium EDTA
- Magnesium EDTA
Chelation can provide positive benefits for several diseases, cancer, autoimmune diseases, vascular diseases, strokes, and neurological conditions.
For a full list of the diseases Chelation therapy can help treat, visit our Chelation Therapy page.
9. Acupuncture and TCM
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is an extensive practice with a long history of use.
It includes treatments such as:
- Botanical medicine
- Lifestyle counseling
- Diet and exercise planning
TCM has come to be a well-known and oft-used complementary treatment. In particular, acupuncture has been shown to reduce the side effects and symptoms in cancer patients.
Additional benefits of acupuncture may include:
- Reduced fatigue and improving energy levels
- Better quality of life
- Reduction of pain, neuropathy, nausea, and dry mouth
- Improved digestive function
- Reduced anxiety and insomnia
- Significantly boosted immune function
The use of TCM and acupuncture is well studied by the medical community. It is often the first recommendation of conventional medical professionals for patients looking for alternative cancer care.
When combined with conventional care, TCM can have remarkable results. It can help greatly with not only physical ailments but mental struggles as well.
TCM helps patients to feel more in touch with their bodies and health. This allows for a much more positive outlook, as well as a reduction of depression.
10. Metabolic Therapies
Unlike normal, healthy cells, cancer cells do not have a well-functioning metabolism. This means they do not use glucose, a primary source of energy for cells.
Cancer cells can grow, invade, and metastasize much quicker as a result. In response to this, the medical and scientific communities began researching the effect of interfering with a cell’s metabolism.
As luck would have it, it is possible to stop the growth of cancer cells by disrupting how the cancer cells produce energy. Once the growth is inhibited, conventional treatments can be performed with much greater efficacy rates.
There are numerous ways to carry out metabolic therapies, including:
- Dietary Recommendations: What you eat and drink impacts the metabolism of your cells. A CAM professional can help create the ideal diet for you to boost metabolic effects on cancer cells.
- Ketogenic Diets and Fasting: Certain diets and behaviors—like Keto and fasting—have shown to have significant effects on the growth of cancer cells. These types of diets and behaviors are thus prioritized during metabolic therapy.
- IV Alpha Lipoic Acid: ALA is known for helping to boost the immune system and metabolism. Plus, it can help to rid the body of free radicals and reactive oxygen species.
- Metformin and Dichloroacetate: Metformin and dichloroacetate have anti-tumour capabilities that help to regulate the metabolism of cancer cells.
- Locoregional Hyperthermia: Hyperthermia uses heat to target tumour tissue and cell membranes. This can result in an activation of the cell’s metabolism.
- Targeted Supplementation: Supplements are useful for many purposes in cancer care. The right slew of supplements can even help to boost cell metabolism!
The right metabolic therapy will vary from patient to patient. Consulting with a CAM doctor or professional is key to receiving a plan specialized for your needs.
11. Hormone Therapy
Certain cancers use hormones to accelerate their growth, such as breast and prostate cancers.
Hormone therapy is a treatment used to both combat these kinds of cancer and ease the symptoms.
There are two main ways hormones can be used in cancer care:
- To block the body from producing a certain hormone
- To change how hormones interact with and behave in the body
Both purposes work to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the body.
Benefits of hormone therapy can include:
- Can help to treat advanced breast cancer
- Helps to prevent the risk of cancer growth in high-risk individuals
- Decreasing the size of a tumour over time
- Lowering the risk of relapse after the primary treatment has concluded
- Destruction of cancer cells in other areas of the body
Anytime you interfere with your body’s natural hormone levels, there are bound to be consequences. Common side effects of hormone therapy can include:
- Hot flashes
- Lowered sex drive or trouble becoming aroused
- Tender breast tissue
- Mood swings
12. Supportive Care
Conventional treatments can impact your healthy cells along with your cancer cells. The trouble is, your body needs to be as healthy as possible when undergoing conventional cancer treatments!
Even after cancer has been eliminated from your body, you are likely to experience lasting effects.
This is where supportive care comes in. Supportive care is focused less on the destruction of cancer cells and more on maintaining your overall health as you undergo treatment.
Examples of supportive care during cancer treatment can include
- IV therapies
- Nutrition and lifestyle therapies
- Immune support and anti-inflammatory therapies
- Metabolic therapies
- TCM and acupuncture
Once you have completed your treatments, supportive care will have your back. These can include many of the same therapies, as well as:
- Detoxification strategies
- Targeted supplementation
- Chelation therapy
Supportive care ultimately helps to ensure your lifestyle is optimized for both combatting cancers and recovering after the fact.
Cancer can be a long and arduous journey. Having the right medical support to keep your quality of life boosted is essential.
Integrated Alternative Cancer Care May Help With The Following Cancers
Many types of cancers can be effectively treated with CAM therapies.
Some of the cancers we treat include:
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Colon Cancer
- Lung Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Uterine Cancer
It is important to note that every patient will experience cancer differently. As such, treatments will vary in their efficacy depending on the individual patient.
Many of these treatments are most effective when used in tandem with conventional cancer treatments. CAM therapies are very useful for boosting the immune system and improving a patient’s overall quality of life.
These benefits are essential for overcoming the hurdles associated with harsh cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.
Additionally, not every treatment will be beneficial for every cancer. Certain treatments will be more effective against specific cancers, such as hormone therapy used in breast cancer.
It is of the utmost importance to always consult with your integrated medical team before starting any new treatment. It is equally important to find medical teams willing to work together to find a treatment plan that combines both conventional and alternative methods.
Assessments and Laboratory Testing
As we have mentioned, every cancer patient is different. Because of this, every patient’s reaction to treatments will vary.
Assessments and laboratory testing are essential for tracking the effectiveness of treatment. Moreover, testing can help you to stay ahead of the curve and achieve early intervention when cancer cells first begin to grow.
Plus, laboratory testing can help identify what caused cancer in a specific patient. This will help to determine the best treatment plan moving forward.
Here are 9 types of tests to consider having done before, during, and after cancer care program:
General Lab Testing
General Lab Testing
General lab testing will focus primarily on measuring your blood cells.
During treatment, your white blood cell, red blood cell, and platelet counts need to be monitored. A complete blood count, or CBC, will be carried out likely more than once throughout treatment.
Other tests that can be done include blood protein testing and tumour marker tests.
General labs are the standard tests that will ultimately help to identify and undiagnosed condition. They are essential when creating a custom treatment plan for a patient.
Additionally, general labs will be responsible for determining whether a treatment plan is working.
As your body combats cancer and undergoes treatment, your ability to absorb nutrients will decrease.
A micronutrient panel is a type of test that monitors and measures this ability. This is essential testing to receive, especially if you are undergoing dietary-related treatments.
Micronutrient panels measure several different nutrients, including:
- Amino Acids
This kind of test can also be useful for measuring cell metabolism.
Female Hormone Testing
Female Hormone Testing
When dealing with hormone-related cancers, testing hormone levels regularly is crucial.
Female hormone tests aim to measure:
- FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone)
- Thyroid hormones
Testing hormones in women can also help to identify several other medical conditions. These may include diabetes or thyroid issues.
Additionally, women may also need to undergo an immunohistochemistry test, or IHC. This test helps to determine if cancer cells contain estrogen or progesterone receptors.
Male Hormone Testing
Male Hormone Testing
Hormone testing in men is largely focused on measuring testosterone and progesterone levels.
A male hormone test may also measure:
- Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
- Dihydrotestosterone (DHT)
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
Most hormone panels come in the form of blood tests that are easy to administer.
Receiving hormone testing is essential when fighting hormone-related cancers!
Toxic Metal Testing
Toxic Metal Testing
Toxic metal tests, also known as heavy metal urine tests, are used to measure the levels of toxic metals within the body.
Examples of toxic metals can include:
Leaving heavy metals unaddressed in your body can lead to cancer and other health conditions. It is crucial to receive toxic metal testing if you begin showing symptoms after exposure.
Symptoms may include:
- Chills and fatigue
- Tingling sensation in the hands and feet
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
While there is no definitive evidence that mold causes cancer, mold exposure can have serious consequences for your lungs and body.
When mold exposure is left untested and untreated, it can weaken your body’s immune system over time.
Additionally, mold allergies can develop after exposure. These allergies can then transform into allergies to other natural substances and foods.
There are two main types of mold exposure tests:
- Prick Test: During a skin prick test, small amounts of mold are applied to the skin. This helps to identify specific mold allergies. Knowing what allergies you have will help you to avoid certain molds and receive the proper treatment.
- Blood Test: Blood tests measure the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in your bloodstream. This helps to measure your immune system’s response to mold.
Thyroid Comprehensive Testing
Thyroid Comprehensive Testing
A thyroid comprehensive panel is a type of hormone test that measures the level of thyroid hormones. When the thyroid hormones are imbalanced, they can point to a potential health concern including cancer. This type of imbalance will affect every metabolic process in your body!
The key to staying ahead of thyroid issues is to know the symptoms of thyroid hormone imbalances. These can include:
- Mood swings and mental health deterioration
- Coldness and chills
- Persistent headaches
- Moderate to severe PMS
- Unexplained weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lowered sex drive
Stool Analysis and Parasite Testing
Stool Analysis and Parasite Testing
Certain parasites that can reside in the human body can be carcinogenic in nature. This means they have the potential to increase your risk for certain cancers.
This makes stool analysis and parasite testing an absolute must!
Stool analysis and parasite tests will check your feces for parasites or parasitic eggs. These tests are normally administered when a patient experiences the following symptoms:
- Persistent diarrhea
- Loose bowel movements
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
If a stool analysis cannot identify the cause of the digestive issues, your doctor may move on to more intensive tests such as an endoscopy or a colonoscopy.
Food Intolerance and IgG/IgE Testing
Food Intolerance and IgG/IgE Testing
When creating the ideal dietary plan for a cancer patient, it is essential to know about any potential food intolerances.
A food intolerance test measures the level of reactivity of IgG to certain foods. IgG, or Immunoglobulin G, is a common antibody that helps protect the body from bacteria and viruses.
IgE tests may also be administered. IgE will often show up in higher levels when the body is combatting allergens or infections.
Cancer is a life-threatening disease that requires intensive medical treatment.
Complementary and alternative therapies offer cancer patients the chance to supplement conventional treatments with more natural methods.
CAM therapies are especially useful for boosting the immune system and keeping the body strong as it undergoes treatments for cancer.
For more information on how complementary and alternative therapies can help you, contact our Team here at Optimum Wellness Integrated Clinic today!