Free Radicals

After being diagnosed with cancer or any disease or illness, a common first reaction is to start taking as many vitamins and herbal remedies as possible – load up on Vitamin X, Y and Z and start drinking herbal tea. Although there are many benefits to supplemental vitamins and alternative medicine, patients should first discuss any supplements with their doctor. Many herbal medications can interact with prescribed or over the counter medication and even supplemental vitamins are contraindicated depending on your treatment plan. Even consuming excessive amounts of herbal tea can cause an unexpected interaction.

When I started radiation, I was surprised when I was advised to avoid supplemental antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, D and E. The reason, radiation creates free radicals (highly energized particles) that damage cancer cells. The antioxidants from the supplemental vitamins can neutralize and decrease the number of free radicals, which can interfere with the treatments, making radiation less effective.

This Daily Doodle highlights the four antioxidant supplemental vitamins that I was advised to avoid. In the top left, you have a capsule of Vitamin D (sun, fish, cheese and cereals…), in the top right is a pill full of Vitamin E (avocados, leafy vegetables, corn…), bottom left is Vitamin A (carrots…) and bottom right is Vitamin C (citrus fruit…). To note, patients do not have to avoid these types of food in their diet. It is important to maintain a balanced and healthy diet throughout radiation and consuming natural forms of antioxidants are unlikely to interfere with treatment. Caution is advised against overconsumption or extra supplemental antioxidant vitamins.

Please don’t forget to discuss any vitamins, over the counter medications, herbal teas or alternative medicine with your doctor first!

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