Breast cancer is a severe illness that affects multiple women worldwide. In the United States, some standard breast cancer therapies include surgery, chemotherapy, and hormonal treatments.
Modern medicine is looking for alternative treatments and remedies to help alleviate signs and symptoms while providing a more holistic care plan. Here are some exciting options that will hopefully become more available:
What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)?
Various methods of complementary and alternative medicine can help with breast cancer treatment. These options include a specialized diet, Acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and multiple antioxidants.
People use CAM treatments mainly to ease side effects, relieve pain, and improve overall quality of life. While only a few of these options are effective, they are safe, which helps minimize patient risks.
It’s also important to note that since they’re “complementary,” they should not be used as a replacement for prescribed treatment but as an addition for a better and more effective outcome.
Some popular CAM options for breast cancer include the following:
a. Special diet. Breast cancer patients may start a special diet to help build strength and boost the body’s natural defenses. Ideally, breast cancer patients should avoid foods that are:
- High in fat
- Heavily cured or salted like dried meat
- Smoked meats or other food
- Pickled meats and food
Additionally, patients should stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods.
Note: Patients should consult their doctor before making any drastic dietary changes.
b. Antioxidant supplements
Antioxidants work by suppressing free radicals and the damage it brings. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidant properties include:
- Wild blueberries;
- Dark chocolate;
- Kidney beans; and
- Goji berries
However, supplements are also available in pills or tablets. Still, before increasing your antioxidant intake, consult your doctor first because dietary supplements may interfere with prescription drugs or contain unknown contaminants which could exacerbate your symptoms.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that helps relieve symptoms by placing thin, sterile needs into various pressure points. These points are specific areas on your skin that stimulate certain body parts.
While Acupuncture doesn’t necessarily “relieve” cancer, it does have various effects, including:
- Relieving fatigue;
- Reducing pain;
- Reducing vomiting; and
- Decreasing nausea
However, patients should avoid herbal supplements, sometimes combined with Acupuncture. Herbal supplements can potentially reduce the effects of chemotherapy, which can exacerbate your condition. Consult your doctor about possible treatment for chemotherapy side effects.
Biofeedback enables hooking the patient to various electrical sensors to monitor subtle changes within the body. This method may be used to help treat chemotherapy side effects.
Through Biofeedback, patients and doctors will learn the following information and eventually gain control:
- Muscle tension;
- Blood pressure; and
- Heart rate
Doctors who believe patients can benefit from Biofeedback will determine the best technique for their symptoms. Experts suggest avoiding investing in “at-home” devices as some may be fraudulent and cause damage.
Can You Adjust Your Diet To Fight Cancer?
One of the most accessible ways to help with breast cancer treatment is to adjust one’s lifestyle—particularly diet and exercise.
However, it may be difficult for some in the advanced stages of their condition. While it may be difficult, it’s undoubtedly manageable. However, you may need to collaborate with your doctor and a nutritionist to ensure you get the food you need.
Here are some dietary tips you may want to consider incorporating into your lifestyle while undergoing treatment:
1. Drink lots of fluids.
Patients should aim to have two to three liters of fluids daily, specifically caffeine-free.
Some typical cancer treatment side effects include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, decreased appetite, and fever. Many of these conditions can lead to dehydration, affecting your body’s electrolyte balance.
Drinking fluids can help combat these symptoms by regulating your body’s temperature, blood pressure, and electrolyte balance. It also prevents or minimizes constipation and assists your organs in filling out toxins.
For this step, carry a water bottle everywhere you go.
2. Focus on nutrients and getting the most nutrients per calorie.
Weight loss is another effect of treatment, making you feel weak and exhausted. Nevertheless, getting the right amount of food is still necessary to aid your body in recovery. However, eating large amounts of food to compensate for weight loss can trigger nausea and vomiting.
One way to prevent possible nausea is to divide your meals into smaller and manageable means, i.e., instead of eating three full meals, consider eating small frequent meals to give your body time to adjust and absorb the food’s nutrients.
3. Increase foods with phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are substances found in plants that help human bodies to prevent diseases. Some phytochemicals and food examples include:
- Carotenoids: These components act as antioxidants, where some eventually convert into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for vision health, better immunity function, reproduction, growth, and development. Some examples of carotenoid-rich foods include dark yellow/orange/green foods like yams, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, and spinach.
- Isothiocyanates (ITC): these compounds are also found in cruciferous vegetables that reduce the activation of carcinogens and increase detoxification effects—some ITC-rich foods include horseradish, Bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, and wasabi.
- Phenolic compounds: These are secondary metabolites in plants that are divided into phenolic acids and polyphenols. Many phenolic compounds in plants are sources of natural antioxidants, where it has inhibitory effects on mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. Some foods rich in phenolic compounds include garlic, green tea, soybeans, cereal grains, and flax seed.
- Flavonoids: These are compounds found in many plant products. They ward off toxins, potentially decreasing one’s chances of developing chronic health conditions. Some flavonoid-rich food sources include onions, grapes, berries, tea (green, oolong, black, and white), strawberries, blueberries, and cocoa products like chocolate.
Note: While these foods have cancer-fighting properties, experts believe it’s best to get them from direct food sources instead of supplements. If you’re considering the latter, consult with your doctor first to avoid any adverse reactions during treatment.
Takeaway: Breast cancer treatment has evolved tremendously over the years. While standard treatment options are still widely available, many people seek active ways to aid their breast cancer treatment and prevention. Incorporating holistic care practices like adjusting one’s diet and using traditional methods can help alleviate the discomfort of chemotherapy and other therapy.
Still, while lifestyle changes have some promising effects, one should keep their current medication intact with supplements or dietary changes. They must work together to improve one’s chances of survival. Consult your doctor if you have questions about getting the most out of your treatment. Good luck!