What is Viscum Album Extract (Mistletoe) & How Does it Support Cancer Care

What is Viscum Album Extract (Mistletoe) & How Does it Support Cancer Care

Did you know about the fascinating world of Viscum Album Extract (VAE), also known as mistletoe. While mistletoe may bring to mind festive holiday traditions, it holds an entirely different significance in the realm of medicine, particularly in cancer care. So, let’s unwrap the mystery and discover what this intriguing plant has to offer. 

Meet Mistletoe: More Than Just a Seasonal Ornament 

Before we dive into the therapeutic potential of mistletoe, let’s get to know this intriguing plant a bit better. Mistletoe is not just a decorative plant used during the holiday season; it’s a fascinating parasitic plant that attaches itself to the above-ground parts of various trees. Much like tumors in our bodies, mistletoe infiltrates and grows alongside its host tree. 

A Multifaceted Herb with Global Uses 

Mistletoe isn’t a one-size-fits-all plant; there are various species, each associated with the tree it grows on. It has been used for centuries in different parts of the world for a variety of purposes. While mistletoe is famous for its role in cancer care, it’s also employed to treat conditions such as hypertension and rheumatic joint diseases in other regions. 

The Role of Mistletoe in Cancer Care 

One of the most well-known uses of mistletoe is as an adjunct to cancer care. It’s essential to note that mistletoe therapy is typically reserved for late-stage and terminal cancer patients when other treatment options have been exhausted. Mistletoe is believed to be particularly helpful due to its immune-modulating properties. 

Unpacking Mistletoe’s Immune-Boosting Powers 

Mistletoe acts as an immune modulator, meaning it can influence the way our immune system functions. It helps the immune system mount a more effective response against cancer cells and reduces inflammation. Research has shown promising results in breast cancer, with mistletoe therapy improving survival time, quality of life, and remission rates, and reducing adverse reactions to conventional treatments. 

For instance, a study published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Therapeutics found that breast cancer patients receiving mistletoe therapy alongside conventional treatments experienced a 20% increase in survival time compared to those who didn’t receive mistletoe therapy. 

Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Patients 

Pancreatic cancer is notoriously challenging to treat, but mistletoe therapy has shown promise here too. Patients have reported significant improvements in pain management, appetite restoration, alleviation of insomnia, and overall survival time while using mistletoe therapy alongside their conventional treatments. 

Understanding the Limitations 

While mistletoe therapy offers hope, it’s important to be aware of its limitations. One potential

side effect of immune modulation is fever, and in severe cases, swelling in the brain can occur. For this reason, mistletoe therapy is avoided if there are brain metastases present. Regular imaging via CT scan, PET scan, or MRI is crucial to assess eligibility for VAE and monitor tumor size and progression. 

Consultation is Key 

Before embarking on mistletoe therapy, it’s imperative to consult with a medical oncologist. VAE is not suitable for pregnant patients, and only a qualified medical professional can determine if this therapy is the right fit for an individual’s unique situation. 

In closing, mistletoe isn’t just a festive decoration; it’s a plant with significant potential in cancer care. Its immune-modulating properties offer hope to late-stage and terminal cancer patients. However, it’s essential to navigate this path under the guidance of a knowledgeable medical team. 

Remember, knowledge is power, and being informed about your treatment options empowers you to make the best decisions for your health. If you or a loved one are considering mistletoe therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for more information and guidance. Here’s to the pursuit of hope and healing on your journey to wellness!

Cancer and the Gut

Cancer and the Gut

Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers have affected many lives, whether it’s through a friend, a family member, or our own fears about our genetic predisposition. These cancers, including esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers, stand as some of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. While genetics can play a role in cancer development, the choices we make and early intervention can significantly reduce the risk of these potentially deadly diseases. In this blog, we’ll delve into strategies for limiting GI cancers, focusing on esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancer, offering actionable recommendations that hit close to home. By taking a personal and proactive approach to our GI health, we can decrease our risk of these life-altering conditions. 

Esophageal Cancer 

Esophageal cancer has a familiar ring for many of us, as it often develops due to long-term exposure to stomach acid, particularly in cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For those of us who are worried about our own susceptibility, here are some recommendations to help limit the risk of esophageal cancer: 

● Limit GERD Triggers: It’s personal – avoid alcohol, spicy or minty foods, chocolate, coffee, and fatty/fried foods, as they can exacerbate GERD symptoms. 

● Avoid Overeating: We know the feeling – overfilling your stomach can cause stomach contents to back up into the esophagus, increasing acid exposure. 

RELATED: Dr. Ruch’s Cancer AMA

● Consider Digestive Enzymes: If you’ve ever questioned your digestive system, this one hits close to home. If you suspect underproduction of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, consult with a healthcare professional to see if digestive enzymes could be beneficial. 

● Manage Stress: High-stress levels can lead to excess stomach acid production, which can irritate the stomach lining and promote abnormal cell growth in the esophagus. 

We’ve all worried about heartburn from time to time, and if you’re concerned, know that proactive management of GERD and stress, as well as dietary adjustments, can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. If you experience symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn, seek medical advice and consider endoscopy to evaluate your esophageal health. 

Gastric Cancer 

Stomach cancer hits close to home as well, as it’s influenced by various factors, including infections, dietary choices, and lifestyle habits. To limit the development of gastric cancer, consider these recommendations: 

● Eliminate Tobacco Use: For those of us who’ve seen the effects of smoking, we know it’s personal – smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of various cancers, including stomach cancer.

● Screen for H. Pylori and Pernicious Anemia: It’s a test that could save lives. Consult with your healthcare provider for tests to detect H. Pylori infections and screen for pernicious anemia, which can hit close to home by increasing gastric cancer risk. 

● Dietary Adjustments: Avoid charred meat, as it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and is a known carcinogen. Reduce the consumption of smoked, pickled, and salted foods while increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate antioxidants in your diet. 

RELATED: DNA – Decoding our Destiny

● Maintain a Healthy Weight: Our own health journeys are personal. Obesity is associated with an elevated risk of gastric cancer. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help mitigate this risk. 

By making lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, modifying your diet, and addressing H. Pylori infections, you can lower your risk of developing gastric cancer. Additionally, screening for pernicious anemia and maintaining a healthy weight can further reduce your risk. 

Colorectal Cancer 

Colorectal cancer has likely crossed your mind, whether you’re concerned about family history or your own health. Here are my top recommendations to help limit colorectal cancer risk: 

● Screen for Lynch Syndrome: It’s personal if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Consider genetic testing for Lynch Syndrome, which can guide early and more frequent screenings for those at risk. 

● Promote Regular Bowel Movements: We’ve all experienced it – proper bowel movements are crucial for detoxification. If constipation is a personal struggle, consider fiber supplementation to facilitate regular and healthy bowel movements. 

● Manage Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: For those with IBD, it’s a personal battle. Adhere to prescribed medications to prevent flare-ups and reduce inflammation in the colon and rectum. 

Colorectal cancer risk is on the rise and a concern for many, whether due to family history or inflammatory bowel diseases. By taking steps like genetic screening, promoting regular bowel movements, and managing IBD, you can proactively reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. 

We all know someone affected by GI cancers or worry about our own susceptibility. By adopting a proactive approach to our GI health and making these recommendations part of our personal health journey, we can take control and work toward a cancer-free future. Lifestyle adjustments, screenings, and early interventions are not just statistics – they are our best defense against malignancy.

Dr. Ruch’s Cancer AMA

Dr. Ruch’s Cancer AMA

We recently asked Dr. Kiana Ruch to do an AMA on cancer care through the lens of naturopathic and integrative medicine, and here’s what she had to say.

Oh, and if you didn’t catch our introductions to cancer care at MIMC–we’ve linked them below!

Q: What is the difference between integrative and palliative care?

A: Integrative care supports patient health and well being throughout their cancer journey. Some things that I’m always asking patients, are they sleeping? Are they pooping? Are they eating? How is their energy and how are they doing emotionally? Those things are all really important throughout cancer care. But sometimes, you know, cancer care can be palliative care even with integrative medicine and you’re supporting patients through end of life, making sure that their families and themselves are comfortable and well supported.

Q: What are some good IVs for cancer care?

A: Moderate doses of vitamin C, calcium gluconate and magnesium can be useful in most solid tumors helps to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy and improves fatigue related to those treatments in blood cancers, egcg can be useful as well if labs are stable. Also A L A can be really useful for treating some of the neuropathy associated with chemotherapy and getting nerves back to a healthy condition.

RELATED: Integrative Cancer Care Part One

Q: is how you treat cancer different than chemo?

A: The only way to treat cancer is by standard of care. And that means following the advice of your medical oncologist, sometimes that’s surgery, sometimes it’s chemotherapy radiation or even immunotherapy. That being said, there’s lots of good options for adjunctive care in the form of IV therapy, herbs, even homeopathic that can help to reduce some of the symptoms and make chemotherapy and other treatments work better. But again, it’s all important to collaborate with the medical oncologist to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Q: What are some cancers you cannot treat?

A: Teratoma, these are usually germ cell tumors and the only way to treat them is by surgically removing them.

Q: What are some great cancer preventative measures

A: Cleaning up the environment and identifying and eliminating toxins and endocrine disruptors that lead to cancer developing is the basis for health and cancer care. Knowing your family history can also be really important in terms of prevention. So genetic testing can help patients get earlier screenings earlier diagnosis too in cases of familial history. As far as lifestyle things you can be doing today, drink filtered water, limit your stress, avoid charred meat and make sure you’re eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Q: What might your recommend that my oncologist won’t?

A: Nutrient testing and evidence based IV therapies can be really useful to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy. I’m also a big fan of herbs that will support your energy levels throughout treatment that aren’t going to impact hormones and hormone sensitive cancers. Another thing we use a lot is modified. Citrus pectin helps to bind to tumor cells and limits metastasis around surgeries.

Q: My dad already takes a lot of pills/medications–would you add more?

A: Not necessarily, a lot of symptoms can be managed just through diet alone. And there’s other options for delivery method than capsules or tablets. There’s things that are liquids, solid extracts that are actually contained in honey. There’s also injections available for certain treatments like viscal extract, also known as mistletoe.

RELATED: Integrative Cancer Care Part Two

Q: Will my oncologist agree with your recommendations?

A: Standard of care is extremely important. All patients should follow standard of care from their medical oncologist. If there is something we’re suggesting, I’m happy to reach out to medical oncologists and make sure we’re all in alignment with the treatment plan so that we can take the best care of the patient.

Q: When is the best time to reach out to MIMC?

A: As soon as possible, that way we can take the best care of you and make sure that your symptoms are under control during your chemotherapy or radiation.

The Power of Minerals in Managing PCOS

The Power of Minerals in Managing PCOS

A Naturopathic Perspective 

In the world of women’s health, there’s an intricate web connecting various factors that can influence conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Often overlooked, is the role of minerals in PCOS management. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I am committed to exploring holistic approaches to healthcare.

There is a fascinating link between insulin resistance, PCOS, and mineral deficiency. Hormone production, insulin resistance, and elevated androgens have all been associated with specific minerals, such as magnesium, selenium, and chromium. To better understand this relationship, we will summarize findings from a recent study published in the journal “Minerals,” titled “Minerals in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Pathophysiological Roles and Therapeutic Potentials” (DOI: 10.3390/min12040338). 

The Complex Connection: PCOS, Insulin Resistance, and Minerals 

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a complex endocrine disorder affecting millions of women worldwide. While it is characterized by irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, and elevated androgen levels, the root causes of PCOS remain a topic of ongoing research. One crucial aspect that has garnered increasing attention is insulin resistance. 

RELATED: What is PCOS and How Do We Diagnose It

Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond effectively to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. This, in turn, triggers the pancreas to release more insulin, which can exacerbate hormonal imbalances and worsen PCOS symptoms. However, minerals play a pivotal role in the body’s ability to regulate insulin and hormone production. 

Magnesium: A Mineral of Mighty Importance 

Magnesium, an essential mineral, is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body, including insulin regulation. The study in “Minerals” suggests that magnesium deficiency may be more common in individuals with PCOS. Magnesium helps improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and promote hormonal balance, making it a valuable ally in PCOS management. 

Selenium: Guarding Against Oxidative Stress 

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant mineral that protects the body from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is known to worsen insulin resistance and inflammation in PCOS. This mineral is essential for the proper function of enzymes involved in thyroid hormone metabolism and immune system regulation. Studies have indicated that selenium supplementation can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation, which are crucial aspects of PCOS management. 

Chromium: Regulating Blood Sugar 

Chromium is another trace mineral that has gained attention for its role in PCOS management. It plays a vital role in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, aiding in blood sugar regulation. Chromium supplementation may help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance, thereby benefiting those with PCOS.

RELATED: What a Good PCOS Workup Looks Like

Conclusion: A Personalized Approach to PCOS Management 

It’s crucial to recognize that every individual with PCOS is unique. While mineral supplementation can play a significant role in managing PCOS by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. A holistic approach to wellness is essential for long-term and sustainable results. 

While magnesium, selenium, and chromium are promising supplements for PCOS management, dietary changes to optimize nutrition should not be overlooked. A well-balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can provide the body with the essential minerals it needs. Additionally, lifestyle modifications such as regular physical activity, stress management, and adequate sleep are essential components of a holistic PCOS management plan. 

RELATED: 3 PCOS Symptoms to Ask Your Doctor About

As a Naturopathic Doctor, my goal is to empower individuals with PCOS to take control of their health through a personalized and holistic approach. By addressing mineral deficiencies and adopting a balanced lifestyle, we can pave the way to a brighter and healthier future for those living with PCOS. Remember, your journey to wellness is unique, and with the right guidance, you can find a path that works best for you.

Navigating Sun Exposure & Protecting Your DNA 

Navigating Sun Exposure & Protecting Your DNA 

In the realm of holistic health, understanding the multifaceted impact of sun exposure on skin health is paramount. As we delve into this topic, we’ll explore the scientific underpinnings of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, its effects on DNA, and underscore the crucial role of shielding your skin from potential harm. 

The Unseen Forces: Unraveling UV Radiation 

Sunlight, a life-sustaining force, carries a spectrum of light, including invisible UV radiation. It’s important to note that not all UV radiation is created equal. Categorized into UVA, UVB, and UVC rays, each component possesses distinct characteristics. UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, sparing us their impact. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin, contributing to long-term damage, while UVB rays primarily affect the outer layers, causing sunburn and immediate harm. 

DNA Damage and Photodamage 

Emerging scientific research has illuminated the intricate relationship between UV radiation and DNA. It is understood that DNA lesions can persistently impair skin cells even after sun exposure has ended. This revelation underscores the critical need for ongoing sun protection strategies, especially for individuals with fair skin, or heightened susceptibility due to their genetics. 

Genetic Susceptibility and Skin Health 

Each individuals genetic makeup can significantly influence their skin health journey. Consider individuals with a genetic predisposition like xeroderma pigmentosum, which compromises DNA repair mechanisms. This genetic background underscores the importance of proactive preventive measures and regular skin assessments. 

A Holistic Approach to Sun Protection 

Naturopathic medicine offers a holistic approach to sun protection that extends beyond mere sunscreen application. Our goal is to fortify the skin’s resilience by nourishing from the inside out. Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries and green tea, staying hydrated, and 

integrating skin-friendly supplements can enhance the skin’s defense against UV-induced damage. 

Nurturing Skin Health Holistically 

The intricate dance between sun exposure and skin health demands our attention and informed action. By comprehending the nuances of UV radiation and its DNA repercussions, you’re poised to take proactive steps toward preserving your skin’s well-being. A holistic approach that integrates external protection and internal fortification can contribute to resilient, radiant skin that mirrors your overall vitality. 

Prioritize your skin’s health, and let knowledge be your shield against sun-induced damage.

Sources 

UV Protection.” American Cancer Society

Hamblin, James. “Sun Damages DNA in Skin Cells Long After Exposure.” Scientific American, 27 Mar. 2015, 

De Laat, Antoine, and Wim Vermeulen. “Xeroderma Pigmentosum: A Glimpse into Nucleotide Excision Repair, Genetic Instability, and Cancer.” Cell Cycle, vol. 6, no. 7, 2007, pp. 775-779, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203325/. 

Premi, Sanjay, et al. “Chemically Damaged Hair Exacerbates UV Radiation-Induced Skin Damage, Inflammation, and DNA Damage in Mice.” Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 2017, article no. 12040,

Tyrrell, Richard M. “Solar Ultraviolet A Radiation: An Oxidative Stressor.” Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, vol. 571, no. 1-2, 2005, pp. 153-162,