Saturday 5 August 2017

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Supplements?

Is there a role for supplements following a diagnosis of breast cancer?

Our previous discussion on diet highlighted controversial scientific, as well as lay, views about the role of specific diets in cancer prevention, progression and treatment. Naz told us that the literature shows that there is a similar level of disagreement regarding the role of specific supplements when it comes to targeting cancer. Evidence from clinical trials showing direct causal links between the effects of some supplements/treatments on cancer are weak or non-existent.

However, as Naz explained, this does not mean that we should rule out theoretical ideas based on these links. The effect of supplements on general health is also debatable, whether herbal or chemical. While there is general knowledge that certain compounds are healthy and can boost our immune systems, evidence based trials to prove their efficacy are scarce or have not been able to produce replicable results.

Where does this controversial, and sometimes overwhelming evidence leave us?

Our discussion, which included women with primary and secondary breast cancer, highlighted our hopes for better health, irrespective of the evidence, because we want to feel better and we want to support our physical well-being. Controlling what we eat and ensuring that we are providing our bodies optimum nutrition is an obvious way forward to help both our physical and our mental health.

Many of us described wanting to re-build our strength and immune system following debilitating treatments and continue to suffer short-term and long-term side-effects such as fatigue and pain. Janet summed up how many of us felt:

'It makes sense to me that our cells require optimum nutrition to work properly.....'

Hormonal treatments, and early menopause, impact on bone health and many of us took calcium as well as Vitamin D, under the supervision of our GP. Vitamin D3, we heard, was thought to be most beneficial. Vitamin C, magnesium, iron and probiotics were other popular choices, as well as Omega 3 and tumeric. Some women had sought advice from Nutritional Therapists, or done considerable research to educate themselves on this subject. Others had attended workshops at their local cancer support centres or said they were wary of taking supplements and had instead adjusted their diet to try to ensure optimum nutrition.

Have you been using supplements? Do you find them helpful? We'd love to hear your views and experiences.


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