Vitamins and supplements for brain tumours
Are there vitamins and supplements for brain tumour treatment? Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to say that any dietary supplements can help improve the outcomes of brain tumour treatments.
To work properly, our bodies need nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, essential fats and amino acids. We can get all these nutrients in the amounts required through a healthy and balanced diet.
Doctors usually don’t recommend the use of dietary supplements for the management of symptoms because of a risk that they might make treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, less effective.
However, your doctor or dietitian may prescribe you dietary supplements if you’re finding it difficult to eat and are rapidly losing weight due to your treatment.
There is no real evidence that dietary supplements or specialist diets can help treat or prevent cancer.
In fact, some dietary changes could affect your treatment or have serious side-effects,
We recommend that you speak to your doctor or dietitian before making changes to your diet (including taking supplements or vitamins) or taking any alternative therapies, as they may interfere with you current treatments.
Are there recommended vitamins and supplements for brain tumours?
As mentioned, there is no real evidence that vitamins and supplements can prevent or treat brain tumours.
However, food and vitamins that some people believe may have cancer preventative or cancer-fighting properties include:
- Japanese mushrooms
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B and Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Primrose oil
- Fish oil
- Boswellia serrata (salai)
- 5-HTP (5-hydroxtryptophan)
- Various herbs
- Nutrient Transport Concept (NTC)
Vitamins and supplements to be cautious about
You might hear that the following foods could help in your treatment. However, there’s no evidence of this and you should be cautious of some of them. If you are thinking about taking any of the following, speak to your healthcare team first. They might be able to discuss the risks and tell you how they’ll affect your treatment.
There are lots of references on the internet to apricot kernels (sometimes called laetrile, amygdalin or ‘vitamin B17’) and other fruit stones being used to treat tumours.
However, there’s no evidence to show that this is an effective way to treat or prevent brain tumours and is not recommended for patient use.
In fact, when apricot kernels are broken down in the stomach they release a poison called cyanide. This has led to several cases of cyanide poisoning from taking these products.
It’s important to be aware that vitamin B17 is also not a recognised vitamin.
There’s evidence that drinking green tea or taking green tea extracts may help lower cholesterol. And, there are a limited number of studies from China indicating that high doses can protect against stomach and colon cancer.
However, there’s no evidence that it can help protect against or cure a brain tumour.
Most studies into the link between green tea and tumour formation have been laboratory-based. There needs to be more human studies to determine whether green tea is helpful for people living with or beyond a brain tumour diagnosis.
Large amounts of green tea or green tea extracts have even shown interactions with some chemotherapy drugs and many other medications, for example blood thinners, codeine and paracetamol.
So, before taking high doses of green tea or green tea supplements, please talk to your doctor and pharmacist.
Limited research has looked at the whether pomegranate can help lower blood pressure and if there are possible benefits for men with prostate cancer.
There is no evidence that pomegranate can help people living with or beyond a brain tumour diagnosis.
In fact, there are some safety concerns around whether large amounts of pomegranate juice can interfere with certain medications, including:
- warfarin and other blood thinning medication
- metformin (a diabetes medication).
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking large amounts of pomegranate, particularly pomegranate juice or powdered extracts.
Despite being often referred to in the media, there isn’t an agreed definition of a superfood. Many of the foods described as superfoods are fruit or vegetables and are, therefore, a useful addition to everyone’s diet.
However, there isn’t any evidence that a single food can keep you healthy and prevent illness. These so-called superfoods should be included as part of a balanced healthy diet.
There’s a lot of interest in the use of turmeric in tumour prevention. However, there isn’t any research supporting the view that turmeric prevents or treats brain tumours.
In fact, high doses of turmeric (for example, in turmeric capsules) have been shown to affect blood clotting times and therefore shouldn’t be taken if you’re on blood thinners, such as warfarin.
Turmeric can also interfere with some chemotherapy drugs and the metabolism of other drugs. (Drug metabolism means the way drugs are broken down by the body, usually the liver, so they can be removed from the body.)
Taking too much turmeric can also cause side-effects, such as stomach pains and skin problems.
There have also been warnings that some tumeric supplements available online can cause severe side-effects, including serious liver damage.
It’s important to note that the amount of turmeric used in cooking and food and drinks is safe, as it’s in relatively low amounts.
If you’re planning on taking turmeric capsules, please discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Vitamin and mineral supplements
If you’re following a balanced healthy diet, then you shouldn’t need to take a vitamin or mineral supplement.
At high levels, some nutrients can be toxic or harmful to your health and a high dose of one nutrient can affect how the body absorbs others.
If you’re having chemotherapy or radiotherapy, you should avoid taking antioxidant supplements (for example, supplements containing vitamin A, C and E or selenium) as they may interfere with the effectiveness of treatment.
You should speak to a dietitian if you’re concerned about the balance of your diet and consult your healthcare team before taking any vitamin or mineral supplements.
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