Let’s briefly explore why our bodies need and how they produce antioxidants. We’ll also look at why some oncologists are concerned about their use during conventional treatment. Then, follow along to part II next week: We look at what the research shows to determine if this is a valid or harmful concern.
Every chemical reaction in the body creates free radicals which can damage cell structures and functions and accelerate the onset of aging and chronic illness. This is known as oxidative stress or damage. That is why the body manufactures various anti-oxidants that limit or protect against this damage. However, in this day and age, we have far more environmental and food toxins – far more than the body’s innate antioxidant capabilities was designed to handle. This is why I encourage my clients to utilize antioxidant foods and various essential oils and supplements (and teach you how to limit your exposure…).
Glutathione (GSH) is often referred to as the body’s master antioxidant – meaning it gets rid of free radical damage created by normal body functions as well as by those environmental and food toxins. Without this protection, we incur a lot of the afore-mentioned cell damage and related problems. GSH can be found in virtually every cell of the human body. The highest concentration of glutathione is in the liver, making it critical in the body’s detoxification process. It is also essential for your immune system.
Viruses, bacteria, heavy metal toxicity, radiation, certain medications, and even the normal process of aging can all cause free-radical damage to healthy cells and deplete glutathione. Thus, glutathione depletion has been correlated with lower immune function and increased vulnerability to infection, disease and to the liver’s reduced ability to detoxify.
We know that decreased immune function combined with high free radical damage (along with stress and poor diet…) creates an invitation for cancer to get a foothold in our bodies. We can understand that the importance of glutathione (along with lifestyle upgrades) in becoming or remaining an inhospitable host for cancer.
Sure enough, scientists at the Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, California wrote that glutathione (GSH) “is crucial in the removal and detoxification of carcinogens, and alterations in this pathway, can have a profound effect on cell survival.”
In 2003, researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia wrote that “Cause and effect links between GSH metabolism and diseases such as cancer…have been shown.”
Because of the connection between cancer, free radicals, toxins and antioxidants has been well-established, many informed cancer patients utilize supplements along with foods rich in antioxidants to support higher GSH levels in the body. It makes a lot of sense. But patients doing chemotherapy and/or radiation are often told to stop all antioxidant supplements for fear it will interfere with desired treatment results. I think it is critical to determine if this fear is valid or not because your choices based on that understanding can have a profound impact on not only your outcomes but the path to achieving them.
Why are oncologists concerned?
One of the aims of chemotherapy and radiation treatments is to bombard tumors with free radicals. This has led to concerns that patients taking antioxidant supplements can prevent conventional cancer therapies from working effectively because raised levels will protect cancer cells. Although this concern has been repeatedly discredited, many conventional doctors continue to raise it. For example, when in residency, oncologist Brian Lawenda was told by oncology staff and radiation biologists that antioxidants interfere with treatment. He accepted this at the time, but then he decided to carry out his own research to see if this was really true.
Be sure to read Part II to find out if out the results of his and other physicians’ research. You always want to make the most informed, empowered decisions on your healing journey.
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