Intravenous Vitamin C in Cancer Care Explained

The great scientist Linus Pauling is one of only four people to have won more than one Nobel Prize (and the only one to have won two unshared Nobels). He’s also the “grandfather” of using high dose vitamin C as a therapeutic tool. Pauling was doing research on the value of vitamin C and cancer as far back as the 1970s. 

Vitamin C can be a powerful tool, but it isn’t very sexy. We’ve known about it for over a century, and you can’t patent it. As a result, it doesn’t get much funding, press, or attention, despite its incredible usefulness in health care. Still, more work is done in the field every year, and the body of research continues to build.

Hot off the presses, the review article, “Vitamin C as a modulator of the Response to Cancer Therapy” offers further understanding of the benefit of vitamin C for our patients who are dealing with cancer treatments. If you want to get into the weeds, you can read all the details in the full article here. If you want a summary of what we can learn from it, read on!

How Intravenous Vitamin C Works

Vitamin C taken orally is a different treatment than vitamin C used intravenously. Oral vitamin C acts like an anti-oxidant, a molecule that helps our cells deal with damage. But given intravenously, vitamin C can reach “pharmacological doses.” At that level, vitamin C appears to become a pro-oxidant–a molecule that produces damage. In this case, that’s good news, because the damage can be specific to cancer cells. 

What Cancers are Intravenous Vitamin C Effective For? 

Happily, the growing body of evidence supports the use of vitamin C in cancer care in a number of applications–particularly in combination with conventional therapies, where it improves the effectiveness and/or reduces side effects of therapy. For example:

  • Several trials of high-dose intravenous vitamin C administration in cancer patients have led to increased quality of life, as well as improvements in physical, mental, and emotional functions, and less frequent adverse effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, and appetite loss. 
  • Combining high-dose vitamin C with anticancer therapies inhibits tumor growth in models of pancreatic, liver, prostate, ovarian cancer, sarcoma, and malignant mesothelioma. 
  • Breast cancer patients, as well as metastatic pancreatic cancer patients, experienced less severe chemotherapy-induced side effects after a complementary intravenous ascorbic acid (vitamin C) treatment.
  • Importantly, authors also showed that the combination of IV vitamin C with the conventional chemotherapeutic agents carboplatin and paclitaxel inhibited ovarian cancer in mouse models and reduced chemotherapy-associated toxicity in patients with ovarian cancer. 

Currently, there are several trials in progress to add more evidence to confirm the value of IV vitamin C as complementary therapy.  

Is it Safe? 

In our clinical experience, very much so. As for research, this study, which looked at 23 trials and a total of 385 patients found that overall, vitamin C has been shown to be safe and well tolerated, both alone and in combination with chemotherapies.

A cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. If you or someone you know is struggling to make sense of treatment options and conflicting advice, you can have all your questions answered by Dr. Ehab Mohammed, who spent more than 20 years practicing oncology as an MD before becoming a naturopathic doctor.

Neuropathy and Chemotherapy

One challenging experience for cancer patients is the development of nerve damage from the toxic effects of chemotherapy. It usually presents as numbness and/or tingling in the extremities–mainly in the feet, but the hands can be affected as well.

The scientific name for this is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. What it’s called, however, is less important than how common it is. A recent meta-analysis of clinical research revealed that chemotherapy-induced neuropathy has a high prevalence rate of almost 68.1% within the first month of chemotherapy, 60% at the 3-month mark, and 30% at 6 months.

Many chemotherapies are known to be responsible for neuropathy such as cisplatin, oxaliplatin, Taxol, Taxotere, vincristine, navelbine, and Capecitabine. The complete list is much longer than these few chemotherapies and includes many recently introduced biologic agents and tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Conventional treatment:  

The most common conventional treatment for chemo-induced nerve pain is Gabapentin.  However, the evidence does not show any real improvement of symptoms. 

Alternative and complementary treatments: 

The evidence for complementary and alternative treatments for this complaint is mixed.  

Compounds like alpha lipoic acid and L carnitine have had some trials, but administration (by mouth or by IV) have resulted in inconclusive outcomes. The best evidence seems to support the use of omega 3 fatty acids and acupuncture

Dr. Ehab Mohammed practiced oncology for over 20 years before becoming a naturopathic doctor and has published 33 scientific research articles in recognized medical journals.

If you have questions about alternative cancer care or minimizing the side-effects of conventional treatments, you can book a complimentary meet-the-doctor visit with Dr. Ehab here.

Pancreatic Cancer & IV Vitamin C: A Case Report

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly 5,500 new patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer annually. Almost 4,800 die from the same disease each year.   

Those are sobering stats. Why so high? In general, the further that cancers progress, the harder they are to treat. Since most patients present when pancreatic cancer is at an advanced stage, it makes disease management challenging.

That being said, progress is always underway. Here’s a look at the conventional approach, and an interesting case review from a 2018 issue of Anti-Cancer Drugs that covers the use of IV vitamin C.

Current Conventional Treatment 

For pancreatic cancer, the best course of action in conventional oncology is FOLFRINOX, which combines multiple chemotherapy drugs in a regimen.

The most recent review looked at a total of 13 studies comprising 689 patients with advanced cancer of the pancreas. The median overall survival time range was 24 months longer than that achieved by the solo chemotherapy medication Gemcitabine (6-13 months)

Complimentary and Alternative Treatment

In this case report, a 68-year-old man presented with metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, with a mean expected survival of 4-6 months.

His treatment was IV Vitamin C administered 2-3 times per week.

The outcome: 

  • Weight loss reversed within 4 month
  • Liver lesion gradually diminished and undetectable after 1 year 
  • Primary tumour shrunk, but still present at 3.5 years after diagnosis
  • Patient felt well and was active 

Of course, this case report is just one patient. It only gives us an N=1, unlike the studies of FOLFRINOX, with an N in the hundreds. One patient story doesn’t give us statistically significant data to prove IV vitamin C’s value for pancreatic cancer.

But this case, along with others seen in clinical settings, raises the possibility that this treatment option may be valuable in those with this tricky diagnosis, where conventional therapy is improving, but still modest at best. Here’s hoping for more robust clinical trials in the future.

Questions about cancer? Dr. Ehab Mohammed, ND brings more than 20 years of oncology experience to the StoneTree in Collingwood. You can book a complimentary “meet the doctor” visit with Dr. Ehab to have all your questions answered here.

Spring Cleaning–Inside and Out

It’s time for SPRING CLEANING!

The sun is shining, the snow is melting, it’s still daylight at 7:30 PM. HURRAY! It turns out we actually aren’t living in Game of Thrones after all. Winter is over (mostly) and spring has sprung.

As we emerge from our caves, thoughts turn to cleaning our spaces both internal and external.

Spring Cleaning the Outside

Spring cleaning has a long tradition in many cultures.  

In northern climes, before we had such things as vacuums and steam cleaners, March was the best time to open windows and doors, get the dust out of the house, and clean the soot from a winter of burning coal or wood.

Many cultural and religious traditions involve a deep cleaning of our spaces as part of spring.

  • The Catholic tradition is to thoroughly clean everything before Good Friday. 
  • Chinese New Year involves a thorough cleaning of your house to get rid of the bad luck of the past year, and makes room for the good luck of the new year. 
  • In the Middle East and Central Asia, Nowruz celebrations in the spring begin with the spring cleaning ritual known as Khaneh-Tekani, which literally means “shaking house.”
  • In Thailand, Songkran, the new years day, is mid-April and involves a festival of cleansing with water.   
  • Jewish tradition at Passover is to clean the entire house to get rid of all grains.

From whatever tradition your spring cleaning comes from, cleaning out your spaces feels great.

(Marie Kondo is the spring cleaning guru. Check out her Series on Netflix, “Tidying UP”. )

Spring Cleaning the Inside

We’ve written about this before.  Doing a “spring cleanse” is always a good idea.

There are many ways to do it and many products to use. Connect with your ND to determine the one that’s best for you.

In the meantime, here is a yummy detox salad to get you started!

Increasing Your Healthspan

With advancements in medicine and public health, the average lifespan has continued to climb over the last century. Now, it’s projected to hit 95 by 2040.  

But just because we are living longer doesn’t necessarily mean we are living well-er. In fact, according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, we are living longer, but the number of years we spend in disability is also increasing.

At this year’s Integrative Health Symposium in New York City, Dr. Tara heard Dr. Robert Rountree, MD talk about “Pathways to Longevity.” In his lecture, there were three “hacks” that came up over and over again.  These are activities that help slow one or more of the basic mechanisms of aging–things like shortened telomere length, increased oxidative stress and decreased mitochondrial capacity.

1. Regular exercise. No need to run a marathon, the real magic is in HIIT (high-intensity interval training)–small bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by rest periods. There are many different programs available online. Start low and go slow if you are new to exercise, or work with an experienced trainer. And if you don’t feel up to HIIT? Remember there’s plenty of magic in any exercise.

2. Calorie restriction. Calorie restriction is NOT dieting. It’s about eating fewer calories (up to 30%), while at the same time getting sufficient vitamins and minerals. This means avoiding high calorie “empty” foods like simple carbs and increasing low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies.

3. Social supports. Humans are pack animals. We are happiest and healthiest when we are together. Turn off the screen and connect to someone.

In addition, based on the research, two supplements kept coming up as winners for supporting your biochemical pathways: green tea and curcumin

Whether you decide to incorporate these two substances into your diet or decided to take them in a supplement form, the evidence would suggest they are worth considering!

Here’s to a longer and healthier life!

Bonus: this chart summarizing the impact of different factors on aging is a great visual!


Collagen for Skin, Joints, and Cellulite

Collagen is a supplement that is getting a lot of hype at the moment. It’s being touted as a miracle solution for joint pain, digestive health, fat burning, cellulite reduction and decreased skin aging.   

As one of the most abundant proteins in the body, collagen is responsible for the elasticity of your skin. It also holds your bones and muscles together, protects your organs, and strengthens connective tissue–including that in your guts. It could be that all the hype is warranted.  

Your body produces collagen on a regular basis because it is so important in all your tissues. As you age, however, that natural production slows down, resulting in those tell-tale signs of aging: sagging skin, wrinkles, weak and sore joints, and cellulite. 

There are some promising preliminary studies linking collagen peptide intake to cellulite reduction, and increased health for skin, muscle, and joints.

This might be a nutrient worth considering for daily intake. So how do you get it in you? 

1. Take it. Supplement types abound for this nutriceutical. At StoneTree Clinic we carry two forms: 

  • Collagen Peptide Liquid 
  • Pure PaleoProtein protein powder.  

2. Eat it. Bone broth, which is different then “stock,” is a great source of collagen. When bones are cooked for 24-48 hours, the gelatin (a broken down form of collagen) and minerals come out of the bones, making a daily dose of bone broth a nutrient-packed way of getting more collagen into your system.  

You can find a great bone broth recipe for your stovetop, Instant Pot, or slow cooker here.

Interested in trying a supplement? Both forms we carry are delicious and deliver a therapeutic dose of collagen. Come into the clinic for a taste!

“I’m satisfied…”

“Happiness is self-contentedness.”
– Aristotle

If you have spent any time hanging around the front desk at StoneTree, you may have heard our amazing admin staff saying, “I’m satisfied with…” or “That is satisfying.” 

The phrase is a thought exercise they have been practicing in order to decrease stress and increase happiness. If you ask them if it’s working, they would say yes–and the research would agree with them.  

In Western culture, we are inundated with messages of discontentment. Advertisers deliberately attempt to awaken wants and desires for what we don’t have. Ad copy and commercials show a “better” life and apparent happiness…but only with the newest phone, TV, car, or home

It might be good for business, but it’s lousy for humans.

It teaches us to equate happiness external things, reinforcing the “I’ll be happy when” philosophy that keeps us on a treadmill of always wanting more. More house, more pay, more job. New love, new jeans, new body. Whatever it is you currently don’t feel you have.  

The “I’m satisfied” exercise is about being content with what you have right now and appreciating what is, instead of what isn’t. It’s about practicing gratitude for the people, purpose, and health you do have.

What are you satisfied with? 

The Case for Cooperative Cancer Care

Cancer is a scary proposition.  No one wants it in their orbit, but the stats are sobering. During their lifetime, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, and 1 in 4 will die from the disease.

This week we recognized World Cancer Day, which was born on February 4, 2000, as part of the Paris Charter Against Cancer. The charter aims to promote research, prevent cancer, improve patient services, raise awareness and mobilise the global community to make progress against cancer.

Part of the charter reads:

“Since cancer knows no boundaries, and individual countries cannot address the challenges of cancer in isolation, a new co-operative approach to research, advocacy, prevention and treatment must be established.”

The ideas of “cooperative approach” and “prevention” speak volumes to naturopathic doctors. While conventional medicine works toward the best plan of management for a persons disease, it almost always leave out a solid and robust plan to manage and optimize a patient’s health during their treatment process. It’s a missing piece in the fight.

Research is showing that complimentary therapies that are focused on the health of the patient seem to consistently result in better outcomes, for example:

  • Stress management techniques like meditation and yoga to manage the emotions challenges of the disease and its treatment
  • Acupuncture for pain management and nausea
  • Diet interventions to decrease the body wasting that can happen with cancer and cancer treatment
  • High doses of nutriceuticals both orally and via IV to increase quality of life and overall treatment tolerance so patients may complete their chemotherapy treatment plan

For links to the evidence to support these therapies check out the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre.

How to Stay Well During Air Travel

Getting away to the sun and warmth is such a pleasure when it is so cold and bleak in a deep February freeze. But how do you make sure you don’t pick up a nasty bug on the plane surrounded by all the other coughing and sneezing Canucks trying to get the sunshine?

Below is what the StoneTree team recommends. We’ve used this plan on ourselves and our patients for many, many winter trips. It’s simple and it works great!

The day before you get on the plane:

  • Book in for an immune-boosting IV.  This infusion of vitamins and minerals is high in vitamin C, and super-charges your immune system

The day of the flight:

  • Upon waking drink at least 500ml of water
  • Take 2 capsules of Echinacea (a double dose of a liquid preparation)
  • (For those who cannot take Echinacea you can use oregano oil)

When you get to the airport:

  • Once through security buy two 500ml bottles of water
  • Put a packet of Emergen-C into each of them.  (If you do not have Emergen-C, you can use any other vitamin C at a dose of 1000mg)
  • While waiting to board drink one of the bottles

During your flight:

  • Take 2 more Echinacea upon boarding
  • Drink the 2nd bottle of vitamin C water during the flight.
  • Drink as much water as you can throughout the flight. Doing your best to keep your mucous membranes hydrated keeps them strong. 
  • Avoid sugar, which suppresses the immune system. 

Once you arrive at your destination:

  • Take your last dose of 2 capsules of Echinacea
  • ENJOY your trip!

On the flight home:

  • Repeat the same routine as the flight down. 

Upon arrival home:

  • If you were seating next to a “typhoid Mary” on the plane, you partied more then you rested on your vacation, or you just have that feeling you are fighting something, book in for an immune-boosting IV as soon as you can. 

Enjoy your happy, healthy and safe travels!

H1N1 is Back–Here Are Our Best Prevention Tips

This year’s flu season is in full swing, and according to authorities, it’s the worst since 2009. The predominant circulating strain this year is Influenza A-H1N1 (swine flu), and it seems to be hitting kids the hardest.

Whether or not you decide to get the flu shot there is much you can do to prevent the virus from taking hold in your kids and in yourself.

1.Decrease your exposure to the virus:

Influenza is a respiratory infection and is easily spread. Wash your hands often, and if you can’t, use hand sanitizer (triclosan-free please). Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. But most important: if you are sick, STAY HOME. Missing a day or two of work or school is better than spreading the virus around, but more important, it will help you heal.

2. Increase your body’s ability to fight potential infections:

  • GET LOTS OF SLEEP if you are feeling a little dragged out.
  • Get outside and go for a gentle walk in the fresh air. Clear out those lungs!
  • Drink lots of water and eat lots of soups, stews, and curries. Avoid sugars and white carbs. 
  • Supplement with daily vitamin D and vitamin C.

3. Boost your immune system, preventively:

Research during the last H1N1 pandemic demonstrated the value of the herbal medicine Echinacea for the possible treatment of influenza. In-vitro studies showed a decreased uptake of the virus by the human cells, and in mice models, the infected animals getting Echinacea got less sick.  

The research is not conclusive, of course, but Echinacea is a remarkably safe herb in both kids and adults. A daily dose through the cold and flu season may have some benefit.

If You’re Sick

If the flu has already got you, the best tool we have is IV vitamin C. This dramatic case study of its effectiveness in a case of swine flu in 2009 made it all the way to prime time:

We have seen IVC do wonders for all kinds of viral infections and it is a big player in our cold and flu season tool-box. 

Supporting your immune system can be different for each person. Book an appointment with your ND to determine the best plan for you.