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The Role of Your Digestive Tract in Chemotherapy Treatment

Aside from its function as a digestive organ, the human intestinal tract is also an immune organ consisting of groupings of immune cells known as gut associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) . These cells act as the intestinal frontier of the immune system, warding off potentially harmful infections. The human microbiome, all microscopic organisms in and on our body, works synergistically with GALT. One role of the microbiome is to teach the immune system to recognize and attack harmful invaders.

A study released in the November 2015 issue of Science found that intestinal bacteria like Bacteriodes fragilis and Bacteriodes thetaiotaomicron play a key role in the effect of certain chemotherapeutics. CTLA-4 blockade chemo drugs depend on white blood cell responses specific to healthy bacteria found in the digestive tract. Melanoma tumours in antibiotic-treated mice (mice lacking healthy bacteria) did not respond to pharmaceutical CTLA-4 blockade, whereas mice with B. fragilis and B. thetaiotaomicron did respond to treatment. This defect was overcome when the antibiotic treated mice were inoculated with the two bacterial types. This study reveals the antitumour effects of this particular type of chemotherapeutic depend on distinct bacterial species found in the digestive tract. Cancer patients frequently treated with antibiotics or currently on antibiotics may not respond as favorably to CTLA-4 blockade chemo drugs.

The longest longitudinal study of the microbiome in acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) patients during chemotherapy found that during the course of chemotherapy, there was a decrease in the oral and intestinal microbial diversity of patients. Those patients with lower diversity were more likely to develop a clinically defined infection with fever during chemotherapy. Of those patients who maintained or increased their microbial diversity, none became infected within 90 days of starting chemotherapy. Infections during chemotherapy may prevent a patient from receiving subsequent rounds of treatment.

These studies clearly indicate that the human biome may used as a treatment tool, either prophylactically or adjuvantly in cancer patients.

How can we optimize our intestinal biome? A diet low in processed sugars and fats, high in fibre and oral probiotic supplementation are simple ways to reduce risk of infection during chemotherapy and improve effectiveness of certain chemo drugs. A study published in the January 2014 edition of Nature found that a beneficial adaptation in microbiome can occur within 24hours of making these dietary changes. 


Ever Heard Of A Naturopath? Here’s Why You May Want To See One – Nicole Frehsee

An article in Prevention Magazine has come across several of our social media platforms and I wanted to share it with you.

The original article can be found here:



According to conventional wisdom, when you’re sick, you call the doctor. (And maybe your mom.) But your trusty MD may not be the only one who can cure what ails you—especially if you’ve paid him or her a visit already and still aren’t feeling well.

That’s where naturopaths come in. Naturopathic doctors, who are educated in the same basic sciences as medical doctors and attend four-year, naturopathic medical schools, take a holistic approach to healing and use natural approaches, like nutrition, herbs, and acupuncture, in addition to conventional ones, like drugs. Whereas an MD may prescribe medicine as a first line of defense—”take these pills to lower your cholesterol/cure your back pain/ease your anxiety”—an ND focuses on treating a problem’s underlying causes (say, poor diet and exercise or stress) versus just its symptoms. (And they’re just one of the 6 alternative doctors you should consider seeing.)

“We use drugs when necessary, but our goal isn’t to get a patient on right the drug so that they don’t experience symptoms. It’s to get them well,” says Jaclyn Chasse, ND, a New Hampshire-based naturopath and president-elect of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

While naturopaths take on any number of health problems, from colds to cancer, they may not be on the general public’s radar. (They’re currently licensed to practice in 17 states and Washington, DC.) “There’s a healthy skepticism surrounding what naturopaths do,” says Chasse. “But naturopathic medicine is not medicine-lite. In fact, I often see patients who are so sick because they haven’t gotten well in the conventional system.” Here, some reasons you may want to visit a naturopath.

Your blood pressure is creeping up, or you’re type 2 diabetic.

When it comes to chronic conditions, drugs can help initially, but at some point, they may stop working as well, says Jamey Wallace, ND, chief medical officer of Washington’s Bastyr University (one of 5 accredited naturopathic medical schools in the US). “That’s why making lifestyle changes is a focus,” he says. Sufferers of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes typically benefit from weight loss, regular exercise and, of course, a healthy diet, so a naturopath will help patients map out a plan to meet those goals. “I’ll spend time with a patient to identify obstacles to doing those things, and help them set up a schedule so they can practice them,” says Wallace.


Your hormones are out of whack.

Is your period irregular? Your PMS raging? A naturopath may be able to help. “Conventional medicine doesn’t have a lot of tools in this area—there’s nothing to support the body’s own hormone production but birth control,” says Chasse. “But certain herbs are incredibly good at bringing hormones back into balance by improving the connection between the brain and the ovaries, where the hormones are made.” Nutrition also comes into play with hormones, so naturopaths will dissect your diet if an imbalance is found (like MDs, NDs run blood tests to determine your hormone levels). Chasse’s tip: Antioxidants help the brain-ovary connection, so “your best bet is to eat the rainbow”—i.e. lots of colorful fruits and veggies. (For more nutrition advice, check out The Power Nutrient Solution, the first-ever plan that tackles the root cause of virtually every major ailment and health condition today.)

Your stomach is killing you.

If you’re struggling with anything from bloating to IBS to Crohn’s, overhauling your diet could be a better solution than taking meds. “Most digestive disorders respond well to dietary changes,” says Wallace. “I talk about food a lot. Naturopaths aren’t trained as nutritionists but we incorporate food as medicine in our practice.” Naturopaths also dig deep to find the root cause of your pain. “We might do stool tests to see if carbs or fats or proteins aren’t properly broken down, and we’ll want to know what types of probiotics do or don’t live in your gut,” says Chasse. “We tend to do certain testing that conventional doctors don’t really do.”

You’re feeling depressed or anxious.

While seeing your conventional doc for anxiety or depression symptoms might get you a prescription for meds or a psychiatrist referral, naturopaths work with patients to identify the underlying causes of their issues. (Note: They aren’t equipped to manage serious mental-health problems.) “We get a lot of training in counseling, about a Master’s [degree] level,” says Chasse. “We help patients reorganize their lives to limit stress, and we also work with herbs that help the body biochemically manage stress better.” You’ll likely leave your ND’s office with exercise and diet recommendations, too.


Your heartburn is out of control.

Does a slice of pizza for dinner mean reflux for dessert? Conventional antacids aren’t the only remedy. “Antacids are prescribed in inordinate volumes in this country,” says Wallace. Instead, modifying your diet and taking certain herbs may be the first logical steps to feeling relief. “There are a number of herbs that soothe the tissue in the stomach lining and esophagus,” he says. “With the herbs, in addition to some very basic diet changes, many patients come in and say their symptoms are gone.”

You’re suffering from an autoimmune condition.

Autoimmune conditions (everything from Celiac disease to rheumatoid arthritis to lupus), which result when the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells, signal that your body’s immune system is going haywire. As such, conventional doctors commonly prescribe drugs, like steroids, to get some of these conditions in check. Naturopaths, on the other hand, look to lifestyle tweaks. Chasse points to diet as a prime example. “Inflammation is the immune system overreacting, and certain foods cause inflammation,” she says. “We’ll put patients on an anti-inflammatory-diet—plant-heavy, with lots of fish and healthy fats and less red meat and sweets—and prescribe herbs to bring the body back into balance.”

You have cancer.

A disclaimer here: When it comes to battling any disease, we’re certainly not suggesting you ditch your MD in favor of a naturopath (in fact, some states have laws requiring that patients with certain illnesses see an MD before an ND can offer treatment). But in some cases, naturopaths can help optimize conventional treatments. Take cancer, for instance: Naturopaths can help minimize the side effects of chemo (which damages the immune system) so that patients are less likely to run into complications during treatment. “Studies have shown that natural therapies”—think acupuncture or taking certain herbs—”actually help patients do better on chemo,” says Chasse. “When cancer patients are also being treated by a naturopath, they’re more likely to take to the prescribed regimen without a problem.”

Magnesium Deficiency in Cancer Patients Receiving Platinum-based Chemotherapy

A colleague of mine, Dr. Valero ND, recently published an article on magnesium deficiency in cancer patients who have undergone platinum based chemotherapy: cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin, etc and I would like to review it here for you as I believe the information contained in the article to be incredibly useful for cancer.  



Magnesium deficiency is a relatively common nutritional deficiency, with up to 75% of the population consuming insufficient amounts daily. Cancer patients are at increased risk of deficiency either from gastrointestinal loss of magnesium from diarrhea, reduced absorption from low stomach acid, kidney damage, or  chemo-induced depletions. A review of the literature found that hypomagnesemia was found in 29%-100% of patients who have undergone platinum based chemotherapy. One study by Buckley et al reported the incidence of hypomagnesemia to be 41% after 1 course of treatment and 100% after 6 courses of treatment with cisplatin. These depleted levels of magnesium typically last for 4 to 5 months after the last round of chemotherapy, but in children can even persist for years after cancer treatment.

Serum magnesium does not appear to be a reliable indicator of magnesium deficiency, as bioavailable magnesium is found intracellularly (within the tissues), and not in serum (blood stream). There are a wide variety of clinical signs and symptoms that can be used for screening for hypomagnesmia:


muscle cramps




restless leg



loss of appetite








high blood pressure


cardiac abnormalities







metabolic alkylosis

psychiatric distrubance

cortical blindness


High energy requirements due to rapid proliferation, dedifferentiation, and cell immortality is one characteristic of cancer cells. Magnesium is necessary in these cellular processes therefore, tumor tissue often stores magnesium and can lead to low levels of magnesium in healthy tissue.

Magnesium deficiency can contribute to the development of the ideal cancer terain by inducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and by inhibiting DNA repair enzymes. Adequate levels of magnesium are important in DNA replication and repair. There are cellular checkpoints in DNA replication that help to prevent mutations from occurring. It has been hypothesized that a decrease in magnesium activates the gene TRPM7, which increases intracellular calcium and activating calcium-dependent cell proliferation, leading to tumour growth.  Animal studies by Wolf et al noted that lung metastasis nearly doubled in magnesium-deficient mice. Solanki et al found that magnesium supplementation protects against cisplatin-induced kidney injury in human ovarian tumor mouse models without compromising the cytotoxic effects by cisplatin. A small study consisting of only 36 patients with NSCLC (lung cancer) who were receiving cisplatin found that tumor response rates were 59.3% in the magnesium + chemo group compared to 38.5% in the control group. Evidence regarding magnesium supplementation with platinum based chemotherapeutics is sparse but these studies are encouraging.

Magnesium repletion, either through oral or IV means, seems to be important for preventing more severe symptoms of deficiency. Read more about the various types of magnesium supplements here (link to come). Not all magnesium supplements are created equally.

New Research: Link Between Citrus Consumption and Melanoma

“Over 24 to 26 years of follow-up, we documented 1,840 incident melanomas. After adjustment for other risk factors, the pooled multivariable hazard ratios for melanoma were 1.00 for overall citrus consumption < twice per week (reference), 1.10 (95% CI, 0.94 to 1.30) for two to four times per week, 1.26 (95% CI, 1.08 to 1.47) for five to six times per week, 1.27 (95% CI, 1.09 to 1.49) for once to 1.5 times per day, and 1.36 (95% CI, 1.14 to 1.63) for ≥ 1.6 times per day (Ptrend < .001). Among individual citrus products, grapefruit showed the most apparent association with risk of melanoma, which was independent of other lifestyle and dietary factors.”

Wu S, Han J, Feskanich D, et al. Citrus consumption and risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma.J Clin Oncol. June 29, 2015.