Is exercise better than drugs for cancer fatigue?

March 7, 2017

A recent study suggests that cancer patients may ease fatigue more effectively with exercise and psychotherapy than with medications.

Researchers conducted a meta study, which looks at data from 113 previously published studies involving more than 11,500 cancer patients with fatigue.

According to the data, exercise and psychotherapy were associated with a 26 percent to 30 percent reduction in fatigue during and after cancer treatment, the study found. Drugs, however, were tied to only a 9 percent decline in fatigue.

Cancer-related fatigue is common and may be tied to the effects of tumors or treatments. Unlike other types of exhaustion, just getting more sleep or giving aching muscles a break from strenuous activities can’t address fatigue associated with tumors.

Fatigue tied to cancer can persist for years and may be worsened by other cancer-related health problems like depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and pain.

Most participants in the studies were female, and almost half of the studies involved women with breast cancer.

Age, gender, cancer type and forms of exercise didn’t appear to influence how effective exercise or psychotherapy was relative to medications, researchers found.

Overall, the analysis included 14 drug studies, mostly looking at stimulants or drugs designed to promote wakefulness.

Among the 69 evaluations of exercise, most looked at aerobic activity alone or in combination with other types of movement.

Of the 34 psychological interventions tested in the studies, most involved therapies focused on behavior and education.

One benefit of the current study is that researchers were able to pool the data from several individual research efforts that were, alone, too small to draw meaningful conclusions about the relative advantages of different treatments, the authors note.

Limitations include the varied designs in the studies, which made it difficult to assess how factors such as race, education, income or other demographic differences might have impacted the results, the researchers also point out.

Exercise and/or psychological interventions are beneficial for treating cancer-related fatigue and based on the results of this meta study both appear superior to current pharmaceutical treatments.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2mUd4Yv JAMA Oncology, online March 2, 2017.

READ NEXT: Managing Pain without Drugs

Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths on the Rise

The Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit organization, reported that in 2013 over 44,000 Americans died as a result of drug overdose.  Drug overdoses have been rising since 2009, despite federal and state efforts to better monitor and control use of narcotics and other potentially addictive medications.  Over half of these deaths were related to prescription drugs and in fact, in 36 states more people died from a Rx drug overdose than from automobile accidents.  These numbers are staggering, especially when you consider that drugs such as narcotics (Vicodin, Percocet, etc.) do not cure any disease, they only mask a symptom, pain.

Physicians are under increased scrutiny for prescribing these dangerous drugs and are constantly looking for reliable, clinically proven alternatives.  Until recently, options were limited to NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, which can have significant side effects most specifically on the gastrointestinal tract, and medications used to treat other conditions such as SSRIs, anti-epileptics, and SNRIs,  but that may also help pain as well. The efficacy of these options are limited at best and often cause significant side effects without providing adequate pain relief.

 

Evidence Based Options for Patients and Providers

Theramine, a amino acid based treatment for pain, has been shown in multi-center clinical trials to significantly reduce pain in patients with chronic low back pain without any appreciable side effects better than over the counter doses of ibuprofen or naproxen.  Theramine is regulated as a medical food by the FDA and is manufactured in the United States at a cGMP facility using ingredients that are Generally Recognized as Safe. As a medical food, Theramine is subject to much tighter regulatory oversight than dietary supplements, providing patients and providers with piece of mind knowing that the formulations are tested and evaluated for efficacy.  There have been over 40 million individual doses of Theramine administered since 2004, without a single reported GI bleed, adverse cardiac event or stroke reported the most commonly known side effects of NSAIDs.  Theramine is not addictive and can be taken with other medications or medical conditions.  Theramine provides chronic pain patients a safe, effective and proven alternative to other potentially more dangerous pain medications.

The Nutrient Management of Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated.  Blood pressure measures the force pushing outward on your arterial walls.  Since your body needs oxygen to survive, it is carried throughout the body.  Every time that your heart beats it is pumping oxygen through a network of blood vessels and capillaries.  There are two forces to every heart beat.  The first force occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system, also known as systolic pressure.  The second force is created as the heart rests in between heartbeats, also known as diastolic pressure.  These are the two numbers that a person can see in a blood pressure reading.  Problems arise when there is too much force on the heart.  This can lead to conditions such as vascular weaknesses, vascular scarring, increased risk of blood clots, increased plaque build-up, tissue and organ damage from narrowed and blocked arteries, and increased workload on the circulatory system.  When cholesterol or plaque builds up because of scarring, the heart has to work harder in order to pump blood to the arteries.  This can eventually result in damage to the heart which can ultimately lead to heart failure.  This disease affects 76.4 million adults in the United States and can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Hypertension is usually a symptomless condition with complications.  Usually people only feel symptoms in extreme readings, for example if their systolic reading is 180 or their diastolic is 110.  This is what is known as a hypertensive crisis.  It is important that adults be familiar with their blood pressure numbers on a consistent basis in order to prevent this disease from causing serious health issues.

There are simple ways to help control a person’s blood pressure.  According to the American Heart Association, there are 8 main ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle.  Eat a better diet (including reducing salt), regular physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, avoid tobacco smoke, comply with medication prescriptions, limit alcohol, and understand hot tub safety.

Prescription medication is commonly used to help patients manage hypertension effectively.  One of the most commonly prescribed medications is lisinopril, a type of ACE Inhibitor that helps relax blood vessels keeping blood pressure low.  As with any drug therapy, there are good and bad side effects associated with lisinopril.  For example, lisinopril and other ACE inhibitors can cause a wide range of side effects, some less serious than others such as cough, dizziness, weakness, headaches, or nausea.  More serious side effects include swelling, difficulty breathing or swallowing, fever, fainting, and chest pain. Any patient taking this class of drugs should be aware of these side effects and monitor themselves at the onset of therapy and periodically throughout the course of therapy to ensure that the medication is more beneficial than harmful.

Another popular prescription option for patients with hypertension, are calcium channel blockers.  Calcium channel blockers relax and open up narrowed blood vessels by preventing calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. The common side effects of this class of medications include headache, swelling, dizziness, flushing, fatigue, nausea, and palpitations.

Diuretics are also commonly prescribed and help expel excess sodium and fluid from the body in order to help control blood pressure.  Some of the side effects associated with diuretics are arrhythmia, extreme tiredness or weakness, muscle cramps, dizziness, fever, and dehydration.

Beta-blockers are also commonly used to treat hypertension. This class of medication is used to reduce heart rate, the heart’s workload, and the heart’s output of blood by preventing certain hormones from stimulating the heart. Side effects of beta blockers include diarrhea, depression, vomiting, depression, nightmares, and hallucinations.  One of the main dangers of beta-blockers is that if they are withdrawn suddenly conditions like angina can worsen, causing heart attacks or sudden death.

Doctors often hesitated to prescribe ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and diuretics until a patient’s blood pressure reaches 160/100. Anything below that level is deemed “mild hypertension” and not considered imminently dangerous, so a drugs’ potential side effects might outweigh their benefits. For patients with mild to moderate hypertension, nutritional interventions are commonly used in an effort to prevent the disease from progressing to a life threatening state.

A safe alternative for Hypertension is a medical food like Hypertensa® which are commonly used to expand blood vessels and improve blood flow through a natural pathway.  This class of medications addresses the increased nutritional demands of hypertension.  It uses specific amino acids and nutrients that are responsible for regulating blood pressure and vascular function.  Unlike drugs, medical foods address the production of the specific neurotransmitters that drive all the automatic functions of your body including heart rate and blood pressure.  Hypertension and many drugs that treat hypertension can alter the way the body uses these substances which are derived from both the diet and internal metabolic processes, creating deficiencies which cannot be fixed by altering diet alone.  By addressing the increased metabolic requirements of hypertension with nutritional interventions, the body will have the tools that it needs to help regulate blood pressure and heart rate.