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diet, parasites and cancer

Joan Marie Shields jshields at rigel.oac.uci.edu
Thu May 15 17:22:28 EST 1997

Mark Doherty <mdoherty at pop.niaid.nih.gov> wrote:
>Fair enough, but personally I'm not going to waste time, effort or money on
>diet cures for a link to cancer for which no real evidence exists.  And
>yes, I know some parasites *are* linked to some rare forms of cancer, but
>as far as I know, I don't have those or any other parasites - nor does
>anyone else of my acquaintance.  Finally, there are specific and very
>effective cures for many parasitic infections.  If I *did* have one, that's
>what I'd use - not some herbal potion of dubious relevance.

I think I would just like to insert a small but, imo, important caveat here.

My best friend, now in nursing school, is also an herbalist - has been for
some time now.  I've been working in the sciences for about 10 years - as
a research technician and now as a graduate student.  She and I have had 
some long talks about the use of herbal remedies.  When you think of it, 
many of our drugs today have their basis in herbs and other plants and 
animals - antibiotics are a good example.  HOWEVER, this doesn't mean that 
I, or my friend, advocate indescriminate use of herbal preparations in place
of medicine.  Herbal preparations should be treated the same as any other
medication - the person taking them should be educated as to their use, 
overdose and side-effects (yes, you can overdose and suffer side-effects from 
numerous herbs, vitamins and minerals - some overdoses can even lead to 

My friend tries to be an informed herbalist and she certainly would not 
try to convince someone to take an herbal remedy when they would be better
off talking to their doctor.  She does, however, look at diet and herbal 
preparations as a way of helping to strengthen the body.  When you think 
about this it makes sense.  If you are a cancer patient undergoing chemo-
or radiation therapy it is very important to make sure you are also eating
right.  A poor diet can complicate any sort of treatment a person is getting.

My friend does a lot of work with women going through menopause.  There
seems to be a lot of evidence suggesting that a change in diet and an 
increase in certain vitamins and minerals can help some of the more 
unpleasent aspects.

Regarding parasites - it seems to me that diet can certainly be a factor
in how well a body can support all these excess hungry critters.  

BTW, knowing my friend, she would probably look at most if not all of these
"magic" herbal remedies with the same suspicious eye as the rest of us.  She
would probably recommend a person talk to their doctor first and she would 
insist on the person being closely monitored by someone who knows what to 
look for should they have a bad reaction to the preparation.

I guess I just wanted to put my two cents in to say that not all herbalists
are scams - there are quite a few who are responsible and well-informed.
Same with alternative medicines - there are some out there who really don't
know what they are doing but there are some who are methodical and scientific
in their studies.  Come to think of it, if you could go back in time and 
tell some of the doctors 100 years ago what we are doing they would probably
laugh in our faces and tell us we were crazy.  Of course, back in the early
1900s many respectable doctors felt that if a woman got depressed after 
having a child they should remove her ovaries.  Sounds pretty grim nowadays 
(especially the mortality rate for those operations) but at the time... 

Joan Shields       jshields at uci.edu       http://www.ags.uci.edu/~jshields
University of California - Irvine                            
School of Social Ecology   Department of Environmental Analysis and Design
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