Many of the therapies we go through during breast cancer treatment leave us feeling powerless, anxious and crappy.
I think that at least some of that anxiety comes from thinking that you don’t have a part to play in your own treatment but that’s not really the case.
In this Tuesday Terrain Talk episode, we explore the potential roles of specific supplements like berberine, exogenous ketones, niacinamide, and even the ancient practice of fasting, and how they might support or interact with radiation therapy.
With each supplement comes a world of research, potential benefits, and necessary precautions.
Are these supplements and practices truly beneficial? Can they enhance the outcomes of radiation therapy or help manage its side effects? Find out the answers and gain insights that bridge the gap between science and actionable knowledge. This episode promises a blend of expertise, cutting-edge research, and actionable insights that might just change how you approach your treatments.
If you, or someone you know, is on a journey with breast cancer, this episode is a must-listen.
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Read the full transcript:
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.
Hey there, welcome to episode 271 of better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. That's me, Laura Lummer. I'm really happy you're here with me today, because we're going to talk about something that this is a really special episode. It's personal, I think to all of us as breast cancer survivors, because most of us many, many, many breast cancer survivors go through radiation treatment, when we're going through treatments for breast cancer. And when this episode comes out, it will be during the week that I'm actually going to be doing radiation on my right hip. This will be the third time that I've gotten into radiation therapy. So I wanted to talk about what I do to support my body and my healthy cells. And not only just to support them, but to make radiation treatment as effective as possible as I go through this. So I worked out this plan with my naturopathic oncologist. And I want to share with you exactly what I'm doing, why I'm doing each of these things, and give you some links to studies and evidence about the choices that I have made, to see if they may be something that can support you, if you are undergoing radiation or coming up on going through radiation. Now, please know that I am not suggesting everyone who goes to radiation does this, I'm going to be discussing some supplements with you, and the lifestyle protocols that I'm following. I'm not saying they're for everybody. And they may not be for you. So this information is only here for educational purposes. And you should always, always consult with your doctor when you are undergoing treatment. Before you take any kind of supplement. It's really important just like I would never share prescription drugs with someone who doesn't have a prescription for it. I would never say you need to take this supplement without knowing that person. And I'll share with you some of the things that I've gone through that I've looked at with my physician to make sure that I am I okay to take the supplements and that my body is in a place where it's strong enough to be able to go through radiation. So supplements just because you can go and buy them over the counter doesn't mean that they're not powerful. If they didn't have power, we wouldn't be taking them as part of an integrative approach to health. Okay, so what I talked about here, super interesting stuff, really good stuff, but may not be for you stuff. So make sure and check it out, read all the information and discuss anything with your doctor before you start it. Okay. So for starters, let's just talk about why I'm doing this, like what is radiation therapy and why I'm going into this. So I have metastatic cancer throughout many of my bones, my spine, hips, pelvis, ribs, many areas in my body. And when I was originally diagnosed in 2020, I went through 15 rounds of radiation on my thoracic spine, 15 rounds of radiation on my left hip, and thank God for them because it resolves the pain that I had. But radiation also had that effect of kind of frying the cancer that was inside the bone of my femur, which was really important. And you know, it stopped the pain. And it makes the bone more brittle when we're stiff. But that was important because what was happening inside my bone was kind of like goo. Okay, so that is so not scientific. And that's okay, I'm sure you can picture it. So radiation therapy is what's called a pro oxidative therapy. So it works by producing this what's called ionizing radiation. And ionizing radiation generates reactive oxygen species. And free radicals. I'm sure you've heard the term free radicals before, and it produces those inside that tissue that they're targeting. So radiation is very specific, right? If you've been through it, you know, they paint you up or tattoo you or put stickers on you. And they line up all of these lasers on you before they zap that area. So it's very specific and very localized as a treatment. So when these reactive oxygen species, these molecules, they damage the DNA of the cells that they're targeting, which is what we want, right? We want them to kill off cancer cells. And so this is really effective against cancer cells because cancer cells divide faster than normal cells and they're less capable of repairing their DNA. And that's kind of the goal of radiation therapy want to inflict as much damage on cancer cells to stop their growth or to kill them. While we minimize damage to the surrounding normal cells, right? Cancer cells are generally more sensitive to oxidative therapies. And that's because of their rapid division and their reduced ability to repair themselves. So they are really affected more strongly than normal cells when it comes to radiation therapy. But the production of free radicals can also harm normal cells that are around the area that we're targeting. Not much like radiation is pretty specific. And yet there are margins. So just like when we go through surgery to have our tumors removed, they don't just remove the tumor, right? They remove healthy cells around the tumor. And we look for what's called a clear margin, right? You want to get tissue around that tumor that doesn't have cancer in it. And that's when they come back and say, Okay, we got it. All right. So with radiation, it's kind of the same thing, there's going to be a margin around there, because there may be cancer cells in that margin that don't show up on our imaging. So we're very specific to that area as far as what we're targeting what wants to be what our radiologist wants to destroy. And this pro oxidative nature of radiation therapy is why antioxidants can be very iffy. So we kind of think, when we're going into chemotherapy, when we're going into radiation therapy, it's oxidative. So do I take antioxidants. And there's a lot of talk and studies on both sides of that coin, that maybe you don't take antioxidants while you're going through radiation therapy, because you want it to be as oxidative as possible. You don't want to protect the cells that they're targeting. Right. So when I discussed this with my naturopathic oncologist, we looked at everything that I would be doing, we looked at my labs, we looked at my MRI, we looked at my CT scan, we looked at the information from my oncologist, my radiation oncologist and my orthopedic oncologist. So what happened, let me rewind and give you a little history is in May, in the beginning of May, I started having a lot of pain in my right hip. And that pain was accompanied by a very big spike in tumor markers. So we went in to do some imaging and take a look and see what was going on with my whole body. Thankfully, there were no new tumors that we could see on imaging. But the pain was very real, very intense. And I consulted with the physicians that I just discussed, because I wanted to understand what their opinion was and what their advice would be on what I might be able to do for this pain. So one of the things we did was changed my chemotherapy medication, which helped tremendously. I also worked with my naturopath and started low dose naltrexone, which is an anti inflammatory treatment, and mistletoe therapy was, which is an immune modulator as well. So all those worked really well to help with the pain and I was out of pain very quickly. But I was still concerned about the situation going on in the neck and head of my femur on my right hip, because there was a lot of disease in there. And it was clearly very metabolically active, because that's why I was having so much pain. So I consulted with these doctors to say, Okay, I know that there's a vulnerability here, that because there's so much disease in the neck of the femur, it's very susceptible to breaking. And for people who have metastatic disease, which most often goes to the bones, one of the first places that breast cancer prefers to metastasize to is the bones. So it's not uncommon for people who have metastasis to the bones to break a hip. And I don't want to have a broken hip, but I have a very active lifestyle. I love my active lifestyle, and I do not want to change it. So even though I was out of pain, which showed that the treatments I was on the chemotherapy and the other supportive treatments that I do were working. I was still concerned about the stability of my femur, right, my right thigh bone. So after consulting with these different physicians, I did some labs and I worked with my naturopath and said, Okay, let's look at the labs that see where my blood work is. And does my blood work indicate that my body, my immune system, my inflammatory markers, that all of those things are stable enough and strong enough and in a good enough place, that my body can tolerate some radiation right now? And the answer was yes, because I've been working on that, you know, for months through diet and through lifestyle and different supplements and food. So we determined that it would be be beneficial. And I want to avoid surgery at any cost in the future. So for me, even though I was not in pain, I really felt good about this decision, because the radiation oncologist that I consulted said, we could knock this out in five days of radiation, which sounds fantastic to me. Because for those of you who have been through radiation, you know, it can be very exhausting, right, my last treatments of radiation lasted 30 days, it's really hard on the body, it takes a lot of energy, it's very exhausting. It's not fun. So I was happy to hear that we could knock this out in five days. And the studies showed which my radiation oncologist and I discussed and looked at studies that said that this was shown to be a benefit to do this radiation therapy as a proactive treatment, even though I wasn't in pain, to knock back the disease that's in that area. And that the studies showed that it seemed to have better outcomes with preventing future breaks. And also increasing longevity, increasing survival outcomes, all of those are good things. So that's why I decided that I would do radiation on this hip, they know about my natural path. And I said, Okay, so I'm gonna go into radiation. And I want to be doing everything that I can, because even though it's only five days, it's not really intense. It's still radiation, right? It's still a pro oxidative therapy, it's still going to be killing off some cancer cells, and it's going to be requiring energy, right? Everything that happens on our body is all about energy. So this energy from radiation is coming in, and it's going to try to zap those cancer cells, and then they have to go somewhere, my body has to process them. And then again, there's the normal healthy cells around in that margin, and I want to protect everything, including my immunity, because one, I want to make the cancer as sensitive as I possibly can to radiation, so I get the best effect from it, too, I want to minimize the damage on any normal cells. And three, I want to support my immune system, because I'm not just treating, I mean, I'm just treating that hip in the context of radiation. But I'm treating cancer overall in my body. So I want to make sure I'm supporting my immune system. So here's what my plan was. Here's what my plan is, here's what I'm doing as I go through this process. So first of all, it was important to me to get my ketones as high as possible and keep them there. What does that mean? So we've discussed being in therapeutic ketosis on this podcast before. And what that means is just that, I follow a lifestyle of the foods that I eat, and the times that I fast, so that my blood sugar, my glucose levels are low enough that my body starts to produce ketone bodies, and the energy that I get is through those ketones. That is important. Because cancer cells cannot use ketones for energy. They use glucose, glutamine and other things. But ketones are not something that they use. So the lower I keep those glucose levels, and the higher I keep the ketone levels, the more stressed the cancer cell gets great. I want it to be stressed, I want it to be weak, because when we dose it with radiation, that's going to help it be more susceptible to the damage, I want to be done to it through radiation. So how do you get really high ketone levels and stay in therapeutic ketosis? Well, you do it from following a strict ketogenic diet, which is a very high percentage of fat, or you do it through fasting or a combination of both. So I decided that I would do it by fasting, first of all, and then by adding in what's called exogenous ketones, and all that means is that I'm taking a ketone supplement, so that my body is already making ketones, but I'm putting even more ketones in before I go into radiation. So those ketones are as high as they can possibly be, which again, is another way of stressing out the cancer cell. So I started my fast 36 hours before I went into radiation treatment. And I followed it up with some supplements, I accompany this treatment with some supplements and I'm going to tell you what they were and why I took them and how they have been shown to help when we are going through radiation treatment. So one of the supplements that I started to take was Berberine. Now Berberine is a plant compound. It's found in several different plants, including a specific type of tumeric and goldenseal, among others. And the research shows that Berberine supports actually a tremendous amount of benefits can be had from Berberine and I am linking a study there's a couple of links that I put in from Berberine which are fascinating to show the benefits that they have seen in studies which Berberine provides not only for chemotherapy sensitivity, radiotherapy sensitivity, diabetes, but all kinds of things. Berberine has been shown in studies to support insulin sensitivity. And so that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. And as I just said, that was one of my goals, I want to keep the blood sugar levels as low as possible. And Berberine has also been shown to help reduce inflammation, and that's what I want, right, we want to reduce inflammation, support those normal cells keep the blood sugar as low as possible. I already talked about exogenous ketones, and I was taking those to make sure that I keep the ketones in my body as high as possible, because studies have shown that exogenous ketones can help increase your level of ketosis and protect healthy cells from radiation damage, but that ketones also inhibit cancer cell growth. Okay, two very important things that I want on my site. Third thing that I did was to take niacin in my now niacin, amide, has been shown to have antioxidant properties that support DNA repair. In cells that are damaged by radiation, you may say, Well, hold on, I thought we just said we don't want to do that. But remember that support to DNA repair is going to be more supportive to the normal cells than the cancer cells, because the cancer cells can't respond quickly enough to repair that DNA. So taking the niacin amide is something that I do to support the ability of any cells around that area of radiation, and to repair their DNA to support them in repairing DNA. And then niacin. amide can also potentially reduce skin related effects of radiation. So that's important. And then finally, a supplement that I didn't really add for radiation therapy. But a supplement that I take on a regular basis that I've already done a Tuesday train talk about is melatonin. So it's important to take melatonin, or it was important for me to take melatonin, because it's been shown to have radio protective properties. So then it improves the efficacy and the effectiveness of radiation therapy. Now the exact mechanisms of how melatonin does this is not really understood yet, that is believed that it might influence some cellular processes, including apoptosis of the programmed cell death, and we want those cells to die. Right, that's part of the problem with cancer cells is they don't adhere to the rules of programmed cell death. But melatonin also has immunomodulatory effects. Remember, another one of my goals was to support my immune system. So by enhances the immune response, melatonin can help make the body better recognize and attack tumor cells and potentially, again, improve the overall outcome of radiation therapy. Now another benefit of melatonin is its unco static effect. And what that means is that has been shown to actually have cancer growth limiting effects on different tumor types. Again, obviously, I want that to be included in my protocol. So in summary, fasting, doing fast now, how long am I going to fast? Honestly, I kind of committed to myself, I committed to myself too fast for 36 hours before going in. But then I kind of said, You know what, let me see if I can go for a five day fast. Now I am on chemotherapy, oral chemotherapy, one week on one week off, so we scheduled radiation to happen on my week off, that was also important for me when it comes to fasting, because my chemotherapy drugs need to be taken with food to help kind of prevent liver toxicity. So it makes it easier for me to fast during this week. So I didn't commit to all five days, because that seems like a lot for me to take in. But what I said to myself is 36 hours, right? I'm going to stop on Saturday evening, and I start radiation on Monday, in the late morning. So I'm going to go 36 hours, and then I'm going to see how I feel. I think it's an important thing to point out because when we talk about long term fasting, I feel like when for me at least if I was to say, Okay, I'm gonna fast for five days, that's a lot for my brain to process and almost immediately my brain goes into resistance motors, like five days of no food, what the heck, right? So for me, it's easier to say, this is what I'm committing to, which I did and I accomplished that goal. And then I said and then let me see how I feel. Let me see where my ketone levels are at. And if I feel good enough, and my ketone levels look good, I'm gonna keep going. As long as I can keep going right? As long as I feel good, as long as I have good energy, as long as my blood looks good, and I use a Keto Mojo. So I'm very careful. I'm looking at my blood sugar and I'm looking at my ketones and I'm working with my naturopath and I have an appointment this week with My nutrition advocate. And what that means is with Nisha winters and her metabolic health program, she trains people like me who are at metabolic health advocates. And we work to support people through coaching them through the programs and helping them get their nutrition straight, and making sure their body is supported as well as possible taking into consideration their labs and their lifestyle. And so I'm working with my advocate this week to make sure that we're staying on track, I'm just making sure I get a lot of support. I wanted to talk about this not only so I share the protocol with you so that you understand taking care of yourself, taking care of your normal healthy cells, and supporting your body. Even when you're going through treatment. It takes a lot of intention and support. So I think, preparing yourself ahead of time, doing the research ahead of time, and not just saying how will this treatment affect me? But asking the question of what things can I do to support myself as I go through this treatment? How can I get this treatment to be as effective as possible? And how can I minimize the effect on my healthy cells and my immune system as much as possible. And it's so important to think about that and know that you have more power. We don't just have to be the victim of very toxic therapies, and go into these therapies with a lot of fear and a lot of worry about, oh my god, what is this going to do to me and feel like we have no tools to help support ourselves. I know that that happens a lot, because I've coached women who have this mentality. And it's it's very undermining overall, because it's increasing your stress level as you're going through an already stressful treatment. So I wanted to share this information. Again, not to say that the protocol I'm following the fasting, exogenous ketones and the addition of the supplements, along with a tremendous amount of hydration, and rest, let me just put that as a side note here, I made sure that this week, my schedule was very light, I don't anticipate a lot of side effects. I don't anticipate feeling radiation fatigue, but I don't know how my body's going to respond. So I made sure that when I planned out this week, I had the appropriate support of acupuncture of Reiki, and I'm meeting with my nutritionist, along with My Food Plan. And I have a gentle schedule in case I needed to take a nap in case I need to rest in case I needed some more emotional support for myself if I just needed to take time to process anything. And I think that that's a super important thing for us to consider. You've got to be the one to take care of yourself and ask the question, what do I need to get through this in the healthiest way possible. And that's not only important when we're doing something that's an acute treatment, like chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but it's an important thing when we're on hormonal therapies for five and 10 years. And now I know that a lot of oncologists are using verse Zinio, which is a targeted chemotherapy and they're using it as a supportive treatment for many years as an adjuvant treatment. So for people who are cancer free, and they're saying, Well, maybe you should be taking this targeted chemotherapy for a few years to make sure you don't get a recurrence. And I have taken Zinio. verzenio is one of the treatment lines of treatment that I went through, and it's not easy on the body. So no matter what it is that you're going through, it's rare that breast cancer treatment is just a surgery and then release is typically surgeries, radiation hormone therapies. And it's rare that it's a one and done. Oftentimes, we have to go back for different things to support us. So always keeping in mind that you the overall being and all the healthy normal cells in your body deserve equal attention, if not more attention, when we think about how do I support these healthy cells? How do I make these treatments as effective as possible, right? How do I support the treatments that I'm getting and let them get into the places I want them to get into while supporting my healthy cells and my immune system so you get the best possible outcome and feel as good as you can along the way. All right, friends, I have a lot of links in the show notes, the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash 271 Or just scroll down where you're listening this podcast and you'll see the links right there. Check out those studies. If any of this resonates with you and you're finding yourself in this position where you need additional support or you're going through radiation therapy. Take those studies to your doctor, talk to your doctor about them and see if some of those might support you. Also, I highly encourage you to bring an integrative oncologist or bring metabolic advocate on to your team. And I have a link where you can check out all of these integrative oncologist and advocates who have been trained in the metabolic approach to cancer below also in the show notes, check them out. I know that people's mentality often goes straight to there's no way I can afford that it's not covered by insurance. But I don't think that's true. I looked at a lot of advocates and a lot of oncologist naturopathic oncologist, when I was deciding how to put my team together, some of them were not within range of what I could afford, but some of them were. And also, I had to think about, how often do I need to see these people, right? What does my budget allow as far as frequency of these visits, so sometimes the visit may be something that's kind of going to be a pinch on the wallet. But if you don't do it regularly, if you say, okay, I can see you every other month or once a quarter and get lots of information, and then take that quarter to implement that information, then you're at least getting additional support for yourself. So check out that link. I highly recommend reading through some of these people's websites, seeing what they have to offer, seeing what their packages are, and seeing how their pricing can work in with your budget because you deserve that additional support whether you have active disease or not. Because even if you don't have active disease, you want to support your body in the best possible ways. And improving your metabolic health is critical. Understanding metabolic health and taking all the steps you can to support it can be that leg up on reducing your risk even more for experiencing a recurrence. All right, and look forward to next week's Tuesday Train Talk because I'm going to be talking about metabolic health and what that really means and what we can do to support our metabolic health. All right, friends, I would love to have a chance to work with you. If you like what you hear here on this podcast. You can find my coaching programs on my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com I encourage you to check them out and find something that works for you. Take care and I'll talk to you soon.
Courage to the test laid all your doubts your mind is clearer than before your heart is wanting more your futures Give it all you know has you been waiting on