I get asked about supplements all the time.
I get it - I was there too. Especially that first year after active treatment for my breast cancer treatment ended.
I was reading every blog, listening to every podcast, and buying every random supplement I read about if it had anti-cancer benefits.
But that didn’t get me anywhere.
I was still fatigued.
I was wasting a ton of money on things I didn’t need.
I missed out on key things I did need.
And it didn’t matter how many supplements I took or how much kale I ate… nothing lessened my anxiety or made me any more confident in how I was supporting my body to prevent recurrence.
This is why now as a practitioner, my methodology is a food-first, heal root cause of emotional pain approach, and to supplement as needed based on testing. This is the trifecta that allows you to live with trust in your body and confidence in your prevention plan.
Because let’s face it - you don’t need every supplement. I want you to take what you need, understand why taking that will benefit you, and then trust you don’t need the rest and live your life with ease.
Before we get into how to assess supplement quality, we do have to recognize that although all these herbs, botanicals and supplements are safe, there can be interactions and those interactions are very, very real.
This is why I strongly recommend working with a qualified practitioner who can provide you with a comprehensive, robust nutrition plan where you receive a personalized protocol including supplementation that targets your unique needs and is mindful of any interactions.
The main reason to reach for a supplement is that your body just can’t make or get enough for what is required.
For example, during active treatment, your protein requirements are way higher than someone who is not in active treatment.
There are certain B vitamins that some patients have genetic deficiencies for. Other patients will have blood work that shows low levels of vitamin D or iron.
In some cases, we require more to achieve the optimal levels to make us feel better and sometimes, we just can’t achieve the therapeutic doses that we’re looking for through food alone.
For example, if we look at a research paper and it's telling us a certain amount of green tea has preventative effects in breast cancer, and we drink that much green tea, we're probably going to be really nauseous… not to mention you’re going to have way more caffeine than you should. So taking green tea in a supplement form allows you to achieve the therapeutic doses that we can’t get through food.
Before taking supplements you hear about from blogs, podcasts or friends, you should work with a practitioner who can determine if you actually need them or not.
What problem are you trying to solve by taking a supplement? Can it be met through nutrition changes?
What does your blood work say? If we look at a patient’s recent blood work, we can usually see that, especially if they've been on treatment, their white blood cells and red blood cells are low. Sometimes it's iron and sometimes it's B12. So we are really looking at getting those at an optimum level and always addressing through food first.
Supplements are just that - supplemental.
Will these supplements interact with your treatment? Even if you’re no longer in active treatment, if you are on Tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor, for example, it's still important to be very mindful of the supplements that you're taking because you can still have interactions on that medication.
Many medications - including tamoxifen - are processed through the same pathways as herbs and botanicals so it’s essential to be mindful when supplementing to make sure that there are no interactions so you can receive the full benefit of the medicine (ex tamoxifen) that you are taking.
Just like you’d go to the pharmacy to make sure none of your medications interact with each other before taking them, the same is true for supplements.
When you work with an expert or functional medicine doctor, you get a plan that checks off all the boxes that you need to address your individual nutrient levels.
You get someone who knows the different actions of these botanicals, because supplements don't just do one thing - they do a multitude of things. So for example if you read turmeric can help with inflammation but it interacts with tamoxifen, a qualified practitioner can find you an alternative that addresses inflammation, doesn’t interact with tamoxifen, and also helps with other areas of cancer prevention.
This is a much more effective approach as opposed to reading a blog, adding a supplement and just hoping for the best. This way allows you to get back in the drivers seat and make informed and empowered decisions for your health and take your power back.
When it comes to choosing supplements, there are reasons why some are double the price than others when they seem almost identical. Generally, it’s because they are third-party tested.
Different countries also have different regulations when it comes to supplement safety and who can make supplements.
Certain botanicals (like medicinal mushrooms) need to be extracted properly to achieve the right therapeutic dosage and also make sure there are no issues for the liver.
Not to sound like a broken record, but this is why its important to work with a qualified practitioner. So you get exactly what you need and don’t waste money on supplements you don’t need.
Inside of my signature 12 week program Breast Cancer Thriver we give you your step by step life after breast cancer manual to help you go from survivor to thriver.
We cover nutrition and supplementation in the first week of the course so you have lots of time to implement the changes and solidify them as your new normal.
Throughout the rest of the course we are detoxing, balancing hormones, lowering inflammation and releasing emotional trauma from the diagnosis.
It’s your road map to thrive after breast cancer and you can read all about it here.
For more information on supplements I take for my prevention plan, you can read this article here.