Is Fish Oil Messing Up Your Cancer Fight?

According to an article on WebMD there is some question about whether taking fish oil supplements can make chemotherapy ineffective. When I read this article my mind instantly picked up on a bit of irony. This irony is about how backwards the our approach to health has been in this country for decades.

Our paradigm for healthcare is that it is our job as health consumers to get sick and it’s the doctor’s job to make us better. This idea is repeatedly reinforced from childhood when we learn to play doctor. The patient gets a boo-boo and the doctor’s job is to fix it up. It’s in our media where we are taught to worship doctors who are beautiful, brilliant, successful and incredibly over-sexed. We are taught that we can trust the doctor to make the save if we can just manage to get into enough trouble.

Now the point here is not doctor bashing. The point is that we need to wake up to the reality of the responsibility that we have for our own health. I know when I am going to have a bad outcome with a patient immediately when they walk in the door and just say, “fix me”. It’s not that I don’t fix people. I do and I love it and I’d like to think I’m really good at it. The reason we are going to have a bad outcome is that this person is likely putting the responsibility for their health on me. Why should anybody else be more interested in your health than you are? It’s bad news when I’m the only one in the treatment room taking responsibility for how my patient feels and functions.

So, what does all of this have to do with fish oil and chemotherapy? Well, I thought it was ironic because fish oil is such a potent supplement. Most people don’t realize that there are numerous studies that show that fish oil is as effective for treating inflammation as an NSAID like ibuprofen or Aleve. The big difference is that NSAIDs have side effects and lead to about 16,500 deaths per year while the most common side effects of fish oil are improved neurological health, improved cholesterol profile, improved liver health and a better cardiovascular system. In fact, fish oil is even beneficial for people with metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) and type 2 diabetics. I know that most of you reading this aren’t science nerds. But when I tell you that fish oil is a great source of a class of molecules called protectins and resolvins you might guess that these are good things. The pretty much do what their names sound like. Protectins protect the nervous system and resolvins aid in the resolution of inflammation.

Chemotherapy is, of course, used when somebody has cancer. It isn’t really effective for some types of cancer but it is by far the most common cancer treatment whether the scientific studies say it will work for a type of cancer or not. The reason it is still used even when the odds are slim is because doctors and patients want to feel like they are doing something instead of nothing when they are facing a dire situation. Chemotherapy is a “scorched earth” approach to cancer treatment. It is chemical warfare on cancer cells. The problem is that it doesn’t just target these cancer cells. It typically will damage or destroy a wide variety of cells resulting in a good amount of friendly fire, even with a successful cancer treatment. The study above says that fish oil interferes with the effectiveness of chemotherapy. This makes sense, right? I mean after all… it’s loaded with protectins and resolvins. It has a protective effect against chemotherapy drugs too!

Do you see the irony yet? If people would supplement with fish oil before the onset of cancer they might find that they don’t have a need for chemotherapy because their cells have been protected by fish oil. I’m not saying that if you take fish oil you won’t get cancer. However, there is data that suggests that it can have a protective affect against some types of cancer such as breast cancer. There was a study released in July 2013 which suggested that too much fish oil could cause an increased risk of prostate cancer in men. You may have seen the news media run with this story. However, this study was not experimental, meaning that they were specifically trying to find out if fish oil supplements lead to prostate (or any) cancer. The associate was just noted that men who had prostate cancer in a certain population also took fish oil. It is not clear whether these men started taking the fish oil before or after the fish oil supplementation started. So, we can’t draw any concrete conclusions about the link between fish oil and prostate cancer from this study. Knowing what we know about fish oil it is more likely that fish oil has benefits around cancer instead of risks.

Interested in using fish oil?

If you are my patient or if you become my patient please talk to me about supplementing fish oil. I can help you to find the right dosage and a quality brand of fish oil supplement for you. I don’t just recommend getting any old supplement off the shelf. We are learning the hard way that not every supplement you grab off the shelf, even at a reputable store, contains the quality and potency of supplements you need. I have brands that I recommend including these supplements from Metagenics. Contact me if you would like more information about brands I trust. You can also keep reading this blog as this is a topic I will be addressing very soon and want you to be educated on.

I hope this article made you think about how important it is to prevent disease before it happens. The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very true! Nobody wants to go through chemotherapy. If supplementation with fish oil can help you prevent cancer then don’t wait. Take responsibility now!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Gena Mabee

    Wow, I didn’t know it could be as effective as an NSAID. I’ll have to try that, thanks? I just bought a big jar of fish oil yesterday.

  2. Jason Young, DC

    Want another fish oil tip? The most common complaint I hear about fish oil is the “fishy burps”. Try keeping your fish oil in the freezer. The capsule should stay frozen until it gets through your stomach. Once it hits your intestines no more fishy burps!

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