By Lucy Richardson, MD Anderson Staff Writer
In the latest Cancer Newsline podcast from MD Anderson, Lisa Garvin talks with Richard Lee, M.D., medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center, and Laura Michaud, manager of clinical pharmacy services, about the effects supplements can have on cancer.
In this episode they share three important tips for patients who choose to take vitamin supplements.
Bring your meds with you
It's important for doctors to have an accurate list of what the patient is taking. Doctors encourage patients to not only bring a list of drugs they are taking, but to also bring the bottles the medications come in -- both prescription and non-prescription items. It's important for supplements because so many have different ingredients. If it's a brand name, there might be five different kinds of that certain brand and it's difficult to know what's in it. It's also important to know dosages and whether it's a combination product or just a single agent product.
The most important recommendation for cancer patients is to maintain open conversation with their doctors.
Consult a dietitian
One of the biggest resources at MD Anderson is dietary consults with nutritionists. They help patients track what they're eating, how they're eating it and the way the food is prepared.
Dietitians help patients make better choices with whole foods and, if they need additional assistance, suggest a good general multi-vitamin. However, "a lot of the vitamins that are out there have mega-doses in them and you really need to be careful about the amounts of things and how they add up," Michaud says.
Supplementation can be an important part of staying healthy, especially for those who have diagnosed deficiencies. But patients as a whole should think about food and nutrition as a best source of vitamins and minerals, rather than trying to achieve that through pills, powders or liquids.
Reputable online resources
Through online resources, patients can check into the efficacy and safety of herbal or natural supplements. MD Anderson has several online articles and web pages that provide information about supplements and nutrition. The Learning Center at MD Anderson can also provide information on other reputable online resources.