Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)
On a regular basis I have cancer patients come to my clinic who when diagnosed immediately started a self prescribed detox protocol to rid their body of the toxins from cancer. Intuitively it makes sense to remove toxins from a body fighting cancer. The cancer is very stressful on the body and as a consequence there is cellular debris and toxins that your body must eliminate. There are also many people who believe these toxins are the root cause of the cancer in the first place. Although this make sense on an intuitive level, in the complicated clinical context of cancer this is usually not a good treatment plan to pursue.
Cancer and the conventional therapies used to treat cancer are toxic to the body, but aggressively trying to remove these toxins is not helpful during conventional treatment. One major safety concern that many self prescribed plans neglect to consider is that these detox plans can alter how your body metabolizes the drug. When a dose of chemotherapy is given to a patient, the dose is calculated based on how quickly the body breaks down and eliminates the drug. If your body breaks down the drug faster then it will be eliminated before it has the chance to have its therapeutic effect. Just because a drug is considered “toxic” doesn’t mean that we have to get rid of it as soon as possible. In fact, often we want that drug to remain present for a specific amount of time so that it can have an optimal therapeutic effect.
The whole purpose of any detox plan is to mobilize toxins and eliminate them from the body. This process is inherently stressful on the body and can actually increase inflammation through out the body. This is why patients will often experience joint pain upon initiating a detox protocol. When the body is already in such a stressed and inflamed state from cancer, it is not wise to add any additional stress to the system. After chemotherapy or radiation is complete, then there could be an argument for a detox but even then it must be done at the right time, with the proper guidance.
The challenge when developing an effective integrative cancer treatment plan is that there are so many different therapies that show promise. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet and not all cancers are the same! Just because you read that a therapy was helpful for someone fighting cancer, this does not mean that it would be relevant to a different form of cancer. We have to prioritize the treatment plan and keep it targeted on the common goal of supporting the immune system while controlling inflammation. There are many natural ways to do this but in order for them to be used safely it has to be used in the right clinical context.
The bottom line is that if you are trying to support your body through any cancer therapy, you need professional guidance. Do not develop a plan on your own as not all natural therapies are safe or indicated in specific circumstances. A significant portion of my job as a Naturopathic Physician who focuses on integrative oncology is just making sure patients are not taking supplements that are dangerous. On an almost daily basis I see patients who self prescribed a supplement that is contraindicated or ineffective for their cancer and they never told their oncologist because they were afraid of how they would react. After a Naturopathic Physician develops a safe and effective plan they can then communicate with the oncologist so that everyone is on the same page. This creates a better collaborative healing environment for the patient and allows for the development of a more effective treatment plan.
Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com