Are Dietary Supplements OK During Cancer Treatments?

Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can take their toll on the body and its nutritional status. Even so, the use of supplements during rigorous chemotherapy sessions may not always be advised.

The simple fact is that the jury is still out on the use of supplements during treatments. Some doctors prefer patients hold off entirely on taking supplements while they are undergoing chemotherapy, but others say such supplements as vitamin D, green tea, curcumin and a few others may help lessen treatment side effects.
While research is still addressing this topic, there are some things patients should be mindful of when it comes to cancer treatments and supplements:

• Supplements are not a replacement for cancer treatments. While some may be helpful during sessions, they should not replace standard treatments.
• Doctors should be advised of all supplements being taken. It is imperative for medical practitioners to know everything patients are taking during treatments. This includes over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. Full disclosure is a must since some supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. For example, St. John’s wort was found to break down HIV medications during the AIDS epidemic. With that lesson in mind, doctors urge patients to avoid this depression treatment.
• Vitamin D is generally OK, but check with a doctor first. This particular supplement is often used during cancer treatments when vitamin D deficiencies are detected. The key, however, still lies in making sure doctors are made aware of the supplement’s use and approve of it.

While supplements may be important pre- and post-treatment to help the body strengthen itself and recover, the jury is still out on their use during cancer treatments. Patients are urged to bring this topic up with their doctors and take only those medications and supplements that are medically advised. Some supplements may lessen the effects of treatments, causing more harm than good.

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