Before breast cancer, I wasn't a supplements kinda gal.
In fact a couple of years before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my vitamin D levels tested really low, but the thought of swallowing pills turned me off so I ignored my doctor's advice to supplement thinking it wouldn't have any consequences.
I now know that vitamin D is important in so many biological process, especially our immunity.
Some people may argue that a good diet provides all the nutrition we need. However, I believe that supplements can provide us with a concentrated hit of anticancer compounds especially if we are at a high risk of recurrence.
In fact loads of women with breast cancer have low vitamin D. Scientific studies have suggested low vitamin D levels increases the risk for breast cancer development and progression.
Nowadays taking my vitamins is a habit and something I don't give a second thought to.
So you may be wondering "Trifina, exactly what vitamins and supplements do you take?".
I know many people are interested to know. So in today's post I'm going to share what I took during my cancer treatment and what I'm currently taking now that I'm years out from my diagnosis.
But first I want to clarify a few things.
My doctors gave me the OKAY to take supplements during treatment and I always stopped a few days before and a few days after chemo and only on non-radiation days. Most oncologist won't recommend a specific supplement to take unless he or she is an integrative oncologist but you still need to run by them if you are going to take supplements during treatment.
I know that some doctors are NOT OKAY with you taking supplements because they think it might interfere with treatment.
So again, I want you to make sure that you consult your doctor first. I know that lots of supplements can for example increase the risk of bleeding so you don't want to be taking those just before you have your surgery.
Second important thing. This post is for educational purposes only and I'm not recommending a particular supplement that you should take. You should do your own research and I recommend partnering with a professional to create a supplement regime. When I was first diagnosed, I consulted with a naturopath and later on a integrative medicine doctor (IMD).
I also think partnering with a practitioner is a more cost-effective way in the long run.
The reason being is that there's an infinitely long list of supplements that you can take and it's a good idea to prioritise.
Quality supplements don't come cheap, so unless you like taking 100 pills a day, you want to focus on taking the best ones.
Also I think it's important to have in the back of your mind what your goals are for taking the supplements. For example, the supplements I've taken that have a broad spectrum of anticancer activity are listed under my ESSENTIALS list.
The vitamins that I take during chemo, surgery and radiotherapy is to boost my immune system and prevent short and long-term side-effects from cancer treatment.
And lastly the vitamins that I'm currently taking is to promote hormone health, a strong immune system and prevention of metastasis.
So here is my list of top anticancer supplements.
1. Essential Supplements
"In studies of cancer cells and of tumors in mice, vitamin D has been found to have several activities that might slow or prevent the development of cancer, including promoting cellular differentiation, decreasing cancer cell growth, stimulating cell death (apoptosis), and reducing tumor blood vessel formation (angiogenesis)" - Cancer.Gov
Most vitamin D3 you'll find at the chemist comes in a weak formulation (usually 100IU) and as big capsules. I really love the Healthy Origins brand because they come in a tiny concentrated gel capsule. They are easy to swallow and it's super cheap!
Curcumin is the active anticancer compound derived from the root plant turmeric and is probably the most studied anticancer compound to date. You can read a scientific review on curcumin and breast cancer here.
Due to the overwhelming evidence of curcumin and its anticancer properties, it's no surprise that I've added curcumin in my essential supplements list.
A word of caution - on its own, curcumin is difficult for the body to absorb so it's important to take a good quality and bioavailable form. The Super Biocurcumin from Life Extension is one that I have taken from the beginning and have no plans of switching brands in the near future.
If you want to increase your Omega-3 rapidly, I suggest you do some research on the Budwig protocol where you mix flaxseed oil with quark (a type of cottage cheese). I did this a few times to quickly up my Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio, however I didn't continue because I felt a bit queasy (probably reflux) .
You can also take Omega-3 from fish oil. However, if like me, you tend to experience reflux, one tip is to take it about half an hour after a meal (if I take it too close to meal time, I seem to regurgitate it more often). Another tip is to get an enteric coated fish oil. It's slightly more expensive but it's worth it if you're experiencing reflux symptoms.
Supplements I Took During Treatment
MGN-3 probably one of the most expensive supplements I took and one that my naturopath prescribed me. From what I've researched, MGN-3 increases the activity of your natural killer cells. It is developed and manufactured in Japan by Daiwa Pharmaceutical Co, Ltd, and marketed worldwide as a nontoxic food supplement under different brand names such as BioBran (Globally), Lentin Plus (Japan/Asia), Ribraxx (Australia/New Zealand), BRM4 (United States). You can check out studies of MGN-3 for yourself here.
In Australia, we have to order Ribraxx through a practitioner which makes the cost quite prohibitive. However, I've been able to find a supplement called PeakImmune on Iherb that contains MGN-3.
One of the most important things you can do during cancer treatment is to not become immunodeficient. Not only to avoid infections, but also to still be able to fight cancer when treatment has finished.
Maitake mushroom is an edible fungus that is popularly consumed in Asia especially Japan. It has gained popularity as a supplement because of it's ability to stimulate the immune system. The D-fraction from edible and medicinal mushrooms have been shown to show antitumoral and anti-metastatic activities in triple negative breast cancer. You can read the study here.
CoQ10 is a natural compound that is produced in the body and is important for energy production in the mitochondria. It also acts as an antioxidant protecting us from free radicals. One of the side-effects of the chemotherapy drug Doxorubicin is that it can induce heart toxicity. So I specifically decided to supplement with CoQ10 in an attempt to counteract the negative effects of chemotherapy and radiation so as to avoid heart-related problems later on in life.
You can read about studies of CoQ10 and the impact it has on maintaining cardiovascular health here.
Green tea catechins such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the main anticancer compound in green tea. In animal studies EGCG has been shown to block angiogenesis -the process by which tumours establish a new blood supply.
In another study it's been shown that daily consumption of green tea results in a lower breast density compared to non-tea drinkers. We know that increased breast density is a risk factor for breast cancer. However, this effect was mainly seen in post-menopausal women. You can read the scientific reviews of green tea and breast cancer here.
I drink several cups of green tea (~6 cups is beneficial) per day and take green tea supplements to further increase the levels of EGCG in my body.
Supplements I Take Now
We all know that vitamin C is really good for our immune system, however, it's been shown that high doses of vitamin C can directly kill cancer cells which you can only achieve intravenously.
After consulting with my IMD at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, I underwent a year of fortnightly intravenous vitamin C (every 2-3 weeks). After that initial year I just supplemented with vitamin C tablets.
Occasionally I would still have some infusions however, one downside is the cost is quite restrictive to be able to do it on a long-term basis (~$200+ per infusion). If you don't have a port, it can also be troublesome as it can definitely irritate your veins.
Modified citrus pectin (MCP) is derived from the rind and of citrus fruits. It needs to be modified for us to able to absorb it in the gut. MCP can affect the different steps in cancer metastasis. You can read a review of MCP here. MCP is a also a good detoxifying supplement to take as it has been shown to chelate heavy metals in your body and removing them via the urine.
Estrodim is a mixture of indole-3-Carbinol and diindolylmethane - which are metabolites derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts. It helps your liver metabolise oestrogen. Therefore it may be especially beneficial for those of you with oestrogen positive breast cancer as it can lower your oestrogen levels rather than just blocking oestrogen receptors (the way that tamoxifen works).
So if for some reason you can't take tamoxifen, then taking estrodim could be a viable alternative.
Studies have shown it can also benefit hormone negative breast cancer patients as it has anticancer properties beyond oestrogen metabolism. For example, it can restore p21 gene activity and stops tumours from developing a blood supply. You can read up on a scientific review of DIM here.
Where to Buy?
Most of the supplements I take are not your typical vitamins that you would find in your local pharmacy.
I buy them online at Iherb.com, a US based company. I live in Australia and I find their pricing very reasonable and the shipping to Australia is very affordable and quick if you choose DHL (if you order by monday you’ll receive your package by friday), and standard postage takes about 2 weeks. If you decide to shop on Iherb you can use my affiliate link code "KSS495" every time at checkout to receive 5% off your order.
If you’re in the US or UK then Amazon is also a great place to get your vitamins.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of anticancer supplements. There's many more but from my research these ones seem to have the most scientific evidence for it's anticancer properties.
Good luck with creating your own supplements regime and let me know in the comments below what supplements you're currently taking now.