Sage Advice


Safe and Effective use of Glutamine in Integrative Cancer Care

April 29, 2013

Glutamine is a basic building block of cells and tissue. It is an amino acid that is found abundantly in our bodies and supplied, when under normal conditions, adequately by a balanced diet. Glutamine is to cellular health as bricks are to a chimney – critical and fundamental.

 

So why discuss something so basic?  When the body is under the stress of chemotherapy, radiation or after major surgery, glutamine becomes a “conditionally essential” amino acid. In short, we can’t get enough of this stuff, and the more we get, the better the body can manage the fall-out caused by these major stressors. Glutamine can be taken in high doses in a flavorless powder and many body builders do just that. I’m not here to help build bulging muscles, but I am dedicated to helping cancer patients rebuild while going through chemotherapy.

 

Some examples of critical times glutamine can help greatly are as follows: To help reduce throat pain and prevent inability to eat while getting radiation for squamous cell cancer of the head and neck or esophageal cancer; to prevent hand and foot syndrome from Xeloda chemotherapy; to prevent diarrhea form 5-FU chemotherapy in colon adenocarcinoma; to prevent neuropathies from Taxol for breast cancer patients; to reduce gastritis, nausea and repair the lining of our GI tract in most cases of chemotherapy; to prevent cancer related weight loss, and the list goes on and on. This is because Glutamine is fundamental to cellular health.

 

Here is the catch…Cancer cells like to use glutamine also, and can use it to fuel their own growth! Don’t throw out your glutamine powder just yet--there is a very appropriate time to use it. This is during active cancer treatment and it can be a benefit to both your body’s health and fighting cancer.

 

You must understand that chemotherapy and radiation work on the principle of targeting cells that are dividing. If more of the cancer cells dividing when these therapies are present then, theoretically, glutamine can increase their vulnerability and take out more of them each treatment. Because your healthy cells are less metabolically active, they can use the glutamine for repair rather than new cell growth and the side effects of chemo/radiation are lessened. Multiple human studies have shown just this, while also showing that patients did not have a reduction in the effectiveness of their oncology treatment. This is a key point I look at when integrating the world of natural and traditional cancer treatment.

 

The wise naturopathic oncologist will tailor a specific schedule of dosing glutamine for their patients that will overlap with active treatment, but should not be something taken while in remission or on a chemo break. There are some even finer points to be added  on how to best dose glutamine depending on the exact schedule of chemo or radiation received. Through a well researched and artfully managed approach, cancer patients can get the full power of prevention and restoration that glutamine offers without compromising their ability to fight caner. This is the power of the sage approach and one of the strongest reasons to have a fully integrative team behind you as you walk the path to successful cancer treatment.




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