Detoxification from Cancer (and its Treatments)

By Dr. Dave Allderdice, ND, FABNO

Chemotherapy is one of the most toxic treatments that the body ever experiences. It is a therapy designed to kill cells and doesn’t distinguish healthy from cancerous cells as it travels the blood stream. Medical Oncology does not offer solutions for helping patients detoxify during or after this life-changing ordeal. As a naturopath and an expert in integrative oncology, I seek to optimize wellness and recovery through detoxification. This represents a new paradigm in medicine where emphasis is placed on health rather than disease and healthy cellular function is supported both during and after chemotherapy. In doing so, patients not only feel better but we remove a cause for future cancer growth or recurrence. There are many potential hazards of detoxification particular to cancer patients which I can help you navigate as you restore your vitality.


Liver Detoxification and Chemotherapy

Fundamental to detoxification are the main organs of elimination, the liver and kidneys. Special attention is paid to the liver which processes chemotherapy and eliminates it. The safest and most effective natural detox will optimize liver function and restore liver health. Many liver directed herbs interact with chemotherapy, so the selection of herbs and timing of dosage is critical so as not to interact with the drugs nor decrease their cancer killing ability.


Detoxification during or after chemotherapy should always include the foundational approaches of maintaining high water intake, eating a proper diet rich in fiber and phytonutrients, and appropriate use of exercise. Combining these fundamentals with liver support, antioxidant therapy and the most current research make up the detox protocols I offer. I will also include IV vitamins and nutrients to facilitate an even quicker and more effective re-vitalization and look at the timing of all treatments, drug-herb-nutrient interactions and the interplay between the body’s vital systems. This personalized and holistic approach helps patients who are suffering return quickly to a life worth living.


Should Cancer Patients Take Antioxidants?

Antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage caused by chemotherapy or the lingering free radicals it creates. Antioxidants are also used by the body to clear waste and cellular debris left in the wake of chemotherapy oxidation. Concerns have been raised about antioxidants protecting the cancer cells as well, but research has consistently shown that dietary antioxidants such as Vitamins A, B, C, E, etc. reduce chemo side effects while increasing efficacy against tumors. This is opposite of what the medical world feared. Further examination of natural compounds shows that there are specific phytonutrients that are even more promising antioxidants than these standard vitamins. Grape Seed Extract, for example, has been shown to be about 50 times more effective than Vitamin C at scavenging free radicals and through multiple mechanisms can inhibit cancer cell growth. I make sure that my patients get the benefit of the most current scientific research on natural compounds. The specific antioxidants, Alpha-Lipoic Acid and Glutathione, require more caution because they are antioxidants naturally produced by our body. Patients should only add these after chemotherapy or radiation is finished because they have been scientifically shown to protect cancer cells from destruction.



Patients on chemotherapy should enhance detoxification through these simple steps:

  1. Optimize hydration – A goal to shoot for is half of your body weight in ounces of water, eg. a 120 lb person should try and consume 60 oz of water, including teas, daily.
  2. Eat plenty of fiber – whole grains, fruits and veggies are beneficial for several reasons. You can also add a daily dose of fiber in the form of freshly ground flax seeds or a psyllium based fiber capsule.
  3. Exercise – Moving your body moves your blood and lymph through the organs of elimination and sweating is a direct route of detoxification.
  4. Dietary antioxidants – Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables which contain all the best antioxidants in abundance. If you have trouble getting enough of this, adding a green super-food powder to a smoothie can boost up dietary antioxidants quickly and in an easily absorbed and natural form.
  5. Consult with a naturopathic doctor for a more directed approach and specific supplements that can increase liver and kidney health without interacting with your chemotherapy treatment.

After finishing with chemotherapy, all of the above are still very applicable. At this time stronger antioxidants can be added to your detox regiment in the form of supplementation. If your health has stabilized post treatment, doing a fast or cleanse, lead by your naturopath or other qualified practitioner, can get to the deepest levels of stored toxins and boost your vitality quickly on your road to full recovery.