Feeling the heat in cancer treatment and menopause

October 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Natural Medicine, Womens Health

Hot flushes are the bane of many menopausal women’s existence, but they also commonly occur in breast cancer patients who have treatment-related vasomotor symptoms. This is when there is an increase or decrease in the diameter of a blood vessel, which can regulate the amount of blood travelling to a particular body part.

Hot flushes or night sweats that result from the sudden opening of the blood vessels close to the skin, usually due to hormonal fluctuation, can be very uncomfortable- whatever their cause. There are a couple of natural alternatives that can be an effective alternative to drug therapy with fewer side effects.

The first is acupuncture, as was reported at the recent meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology. The women in their study had reported a minimum of 14 hot flushes a week, and half the group had twice weekly acupuncture treatments weekly for the first four weeks, followed by weekly sessions during the final eight weeks. The other half of the group were given drugs to control the flushes and received the standard daily dose usually given to manage vasomotor symptoms.

The study found that not only was acupuncture effective in reducing or eliminating the hot flushes, but it had no adverse effects. What did surprise them was that the therapeutic effects of acupuncture persisted long after the treatment. To quote them:

“Women who took the drug therapy started to have an increase in the number and intensity of hot flushes within two weeks of discontinuing the drug therapy, whereas women who had acupuncture didn’t start to have an increase in the number or severity of hot flushes for 14 or 15 weeks after discontinuing therapy.” They also observed that the acupuncture group not only reported no treatment-related side effects, but said they had improvement in energy, clarity of thought, sexual desire, and overall sense of well-being

Herbal Remidies to Tame Flushes and Night Sweats

Herbs have long been used in many cultures to help with hormonal disturbance and one of the oldest in use is sage. An Australian study in 2005 found that it reduced severe hot flushes by 60% – that’s worth trying isn’t it?

To make sage tea, take ten fresh leaves, or one and a half teaspoons of dried sage if you can’t get fresh leaves. Pour hot (not quite boiling) water over the leaves and add a spoon or two of honey to sweeten it. That way you get some B vitamins to help lift your mood as well! Let it cool slightly and drink about an hour before you go to bed.

Another popular herb for hot flushes and night sweats is black cohosh. In my experience this seems to work well for some women – but I would have to say not for all but dong quai seems more effective for the majority. A comparative study between HRT and dong quai, done in 2003, showed a huge 30% reduction in hot flushes after a month. The suggested dosage for hot flushes is 600mg a day, BUT there is however a strong contra-indication if you are taking medication such as warfarin, as dong quai is known to act as a blood thinner. Hot flushes seem to be variable from woman to woman so you may have to do a bit of experimenting to see what works, and when you are reduced to sleeping naked in a cast iron bath to cool down – and yes that is the voice of personal experience speaking – then you don’t always feel that patient! If trying individual herbs doesn’t work for you then try one of the combinations that several supplement companies make – and also watch to see if you have any triggers for your flushes. Stress can be a major one, as can certain things like coffee – might be worth keeping a food and mood diary to see if you can pin it down.

Blue light for cancer treatment

September 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Medical Research & Studies

A blue curing light used to harden dental fillings also may stunt tumour growth, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia in the USA. Before you rush off to your dentist to request a quick blast, this research has so far only been tried on mice.

So what are they basing this on? According to a quartet of professors at the College, the light dentists use sends wavelengths of blue-violet light to the composite used in your filling, and it then, which triggers it to set and harden. Or in professor-speak “The light waves produce free radicals that activate the catalyst and speed up polymerization of the composite resin” The important thing is that in oral cancer cells, those radicals cause damage that decreases cell growth and increases cell death.” Or in other words, it can stop the tumour from growing and kill off cancerous cells.

The results so far indicate an approximate 10% increase in cell death in tumours treated with the blue light and almost 80% decrease in cell growth. It also appears that the non-cancerous cells appear unaffected at light doses that kill tumour cells and this could mean using this method alongside conventional cancer therapy so that patients could receive lower doses of chemotherapy – and reduce the unpleasant side effects that such exposure can bring.

Cancer update on apricots

One of the many natural supplements that keeps resurfacing in connection with cancer treatment, and prevention, is apricot kernels. I recently met a lady who has had cancer who has been taking them for some time and is convinced they have helped her. The evidence on this is not cut and dried, but there is certainly a body of anecdotal evidence and some clinical trials that seems to support this view, but there are also very clear dangers in this somewhat innocuous fruit.

It has been suggested that eating 7-10 Apricot Kernels a day may help to prevent cancer, alongside a healthy lifestyle and a good diet though this is outside the limit recommended as safe by many authorities. Certainly apricots themselves have been held up as the substance that helped the Hunza to achieve their very long life span, and relative freedom from cancer. Apricot Kernels are especially rich in Vitamin B17, which is also known rather confusingly by three different names: Amygdaline, Amygdalin or Laetrile. It is B17 that is the substance that is believed to both help prevent cancer, and have a direct impact upon cancer cells and many of the best sources we simply do not eat. For instance, we core our apples, and peel our parsnips and usually give the compost heap the B17 we need for ourselves. The best source is in apricot kernels and the lady I referred to at the beginning of this piece tells me she buys the ground kernels from Dayspring on 01483 418258. They also have a website at www.anticancerinfo.co.uk/suppliers.htm for more information.

The kernels should be chewed, or ground and sprinkled on food or in fruit juice. An excellent way to take Apricot Kernels is to fill a jar half full, add a 1/4 of a jar of organic or Manuka honey and mixed well with a fork, and keep in a fridge or cool cupboard. The kernels can then be added to fruit and muesli or simply taken straight from the spoon. For anyone who is not ill but wants to guard themselves from cancer they should just take a small amount – say a small half teaspoon of the ground kernels, but for more treatment levels up to three full teaspoons is usual, but I strongly suggest you consult with a qualified natural practitioner before you begin on a regime such as this.

Food Sources:
There are many foods that contain Vitamin B17 in varying amounts and these include: apple seeds, alfalfa sprouts, apricot kernels, bamboo shoots, barley, beet tops, bitter almond, blackberries, boysenberries, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, buckwheat, cashews, cherry kernels, cranberries, currants, fava beans, flax seeds, garbanzo beans, gooseberries, huckleberries, lentils, lima beans, linseed meat, loganberries, macadamia nuts, millet, millet seed, peach kernels, pecans, plum kernels, quince, raspberries, sorghum cane syrup, spinach, sprouts (alfalfa, lentil, mung bean, buckwheat, garbanzo), strawberries, walnuts, watercress, yams.

I would not be responsible if I didn’t repeat that you need to use apricot kernels with caution. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment suggests that you eat no more than one or two apricot kernels a day. This is because they have a high natural level of amygdalin and, during digestion, highly toxic hydrocyanic acid is released from it. This can lead to symptoms of acute poisoning like cramp, vomiting and respiratory distress. At high doses it can even lead to a fatal respiratory paralysis, which can lead to severe, acute poisoning. At very high doses it can even prove fatal.