Supplements for Cancer: Ginger
Nausea and vomiting are two of the most common side effects of chemotherapy for cancer. These side effects can be serious. Nausea and vomiting can lead to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and fatigue, which can make it harder for your body to fight cancer.
There are a number of anti-nausea medications available. But some patients with cancer also find that using ginger, either alone or in conjunction with anti-nausea medicine, significantly reduces nausea and vomiting.
The evidence is conflicting, but a recent study found that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who consumed a high protein drink with ginger twice a day during treatment reported significantly less nausea and were less likely to require traditional anti-nausea medications.
Supplements for Cancer: Iron
Cancer itself can cause fatigue. But this debilitating lack of energy can also be caused by cancer treatments. In fact, fatigue is a side effect experienced by nine out of 10 people undergoing cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, or radiation therapy.
These treatments can damage cells in your bone marrow that are responsible for making red blood cells and lead to iron-deficiency anemia. With this type of anemia your red blood cells do not contain enough hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout your body. Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, and iron supplements may improve the fatigue caused by iron-deficiency anemia.
“Someone with a high need for extra iron might take iron supplements,” says Byers, but most people can get the iron they need from food. One “trick” is to take vitamin C with meals in order to enhance the absorption of the iron in food.
Always check with your doctor before taking iron supplements, even if you think you’re anemic. Too much iron in your body can damage your liver and heart. Everyone who takes iron, including the iron in multivitamins, should do so under a doctor’s supervision.
Supplements for Cancer: L-glutamine
Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a common side effect of certain drugs, including the widely prescribed chemotherapy drug paclitaxel.
“[Paclitaxel] can be used to treat a lot of different cancer types – lung cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer,” Birdsall tells WebMD. “The amino acid l-glutamine has been shown in numerous studies to be helpful at preventing or treating peripheral neuropathy – pain, numbness, and tingling – associated with [paclitaxel].”
L-glutamine, taken orally, has also been shown in one study to reduce the peripheral neuropathy associated with oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug used to treat colorectal cancer.