Talking to Patients About Integrative Oncology

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Alternative therapies may be safely combined with traditional cancer treatments.
Alternative therapies may be safely combined with traditional cancer treatments.

Exercise, diet, meditation, and acupuncture are holistic healing practices that can benefit patients in a real way. 

However, while mounting evidence shows that these therapies can benefit patients when used in conjunction with radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy, many members of an oncology team may not feel comfortable discussing them with patients.

Good Nutrition Empowers Patients

If patients are able to exercise and eat a balanced diet during their course of treatment they will experience multiple benefits.

When a person exercises their mental status is improved by the release of endorphins, and their appetite may also be boosted. However, when patients are undergoing treatment, the nutrition/diet aspect of their experience may be largely ignored.

Nausea Relief

Nausea is a common side effect of various cancer treatments. Supplementation of ginger proved to be very effective in a study of 644 patients who were undergoing a chemotherapeutic regimen that caused severe emesis.1

When given ginger on the first day of chemotherapy patients with various types of cancer experienced relief from symptoms of nausea.


The link between inflammation and cancer is well-documented,2 but the strategies to offset inflammation through diet may not be. Andrew Weil, MD, founder and program director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, in Tuscon, Arizona, provides an anti-inflammation diet pyramid on his website, that shows a variety of common herbs that can keep inflammation at bay.

RELATED: Clinical Trials and Tribulations in Oncology

Herbs such as thyme,5 garlic,6 rosemary,5,6 chili peppers,7 basil,8 and turmeric4 are all indicated as anti-inflammation tools on Dr. Weil's pyramid.

Additional Benefits of Turmeric

Turmeric has also recently been shown to contain compounds that are able to prevent the metastasis of colon cancer tumors.4 Curcumin, a bioactive molecule in turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory characteristics and gives turmeric its' yellow-gold color.

According to recent research, the curcumin activated an enzyme known as PTPNQ, which acts to remove phosphate groups from cortactin—a protein required for cell movement. These findings reveal that patients with colon cancer may not have to experience metastasis, although clinical trials are needed to determine its efficacy across various patient populations.

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