Bee Pollen for Treating Cancer
If you are already groaning, "Oh, no, another pitch for snake oil," I probably know where you are coming from. I nearly did not write about bee pollen for cancer at all. I'll tell you up front that bee pollen no cancer cure. But I can make a qualified recommendation for using bee pollen products in nutritional support. They may not help at all, or they may help a lot. A little later in this article I'll tell you how to recognize the different possibilities.
But since there is misinformation in abundance on the Internet about nutritional support for cancer in general and bee pollen in particular, I felt it was important to write this article. But before I tell you about bee pollen, let me tell you about belief and cure in cancer.
Believing Something Works for Cancer
I had bone cancer, at the time I am writing this article, 46 years ago. My parents were told I probably would live two years. This prediction was very, very wrong.
I participated in the discussion but my parents got to make the final decisions. We all reasoned that going all out to treat my cancer would only condemn to live the rest of my life in a boy's body, so I was treated with surgery and got no chemo and no radiation. My tumor was very well defined so the surgeon did not have any trouble removing all of it, along with fashioning repairs to my hip joint from my own bone. I got well, and the rest, as they say, is history.
My parents and I believed I would get well. My body complied.
Over the years I have done a lot of work with people who have cancer, especially people who have pancreatic cancer. A few of them have done just fine for weeks and then months and then years until someone says, "Oh, everybody dies of pancreatic cancer, you know. It's deadly." One friend of mine didn't know this, and was shocked.
This comment was made by a thoughtless relative of my friend at a Christmas Eve celebration. My friend went home early from the party and died Christmas afternoon. He had looked well when I had seen him three days earlier. He had been told he had to die. He believed it. His body complied.
The moral of these stories is, if you believe that your current chemotherapy drug, a new chemotherapy drug, a yet-to-be-invented chemotherapy drug, herbs, vitamins, Reiki, standing on your left foot in the full moon, or eating sardines on Tuesday, not that these are necessarily equivalent, is keeping you safe from cancer, I'm not here to refute it. If something is working for you, no one can really tell you that you are wrong, and no one should. I'm just here to tell what works and why it does. Now let's get back to the topic of bee pollen for cancer.
Bee Pollen for Cancer is Like Bee Pollen for Athletes
Surviving cancer and maybe going into remission from cancer is a lot like running a 10K race or canoeing the length of a river or swimming across the English Channel. You make it to the finish line because you have staying power.
A 100% bee-product diet is not going to give you staying power, but it can be very helpful to include honey, royal jelly, propolis, and bee pollen in your routine, assuming you've used them in the past and you know you don't have allergies.
The reason I make this suggestion is not that bee products are necessarily cancer fighters, although there is some preliminary evidence about a few of them. I personally pay attention to this level of evidence but I would not literally bet my life on it. Here's what there is to know about bee products and cancer.
- Bee pollen extracts may be useful in supporting recovery from prostate cancer, but there are some important qualifiers for this statement. The kind of bee pollen that's actually been tested is the pollen bees collect from Brassica campestris, the kind of canola that's grown in China and Canada. Whether some other pollen would work, we don't know. The effect has only been observed in the laboratory in cultures of prostate cancer cells. Since the prostate is bathed in urine, chances are the extract works, if it works, after it has passed through the body and a whole lot of enzymatic processes and into the urine. This is a promising finding for men who have prostate cancer. It's not scientific proof.
- Cancer cells burn a lot more sugar than healthy cells. (All manner of ill-informed claims are made on the basis of this observation, that is, as we say in Texas, a whole 'nother topic.) Also on the laboratory level, Turkish scientists have found that bee pollen and bee bread extracts stop the "respiratory burst" in leukemia cells. There is a technical reason this study won't be duplicated. It turns out that the cancer cells the scientists were using got contaminated. But this is also a good preliminary indication that bee pollen and bee bread might be useful in treating leukemia.
- Japanese scientists working with Chinese bee pollen and propolis extracts have found that the caffeic acid phenylethyl ester in the Chinese products stops angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels), again in laboratory work. Angiogenesis is an essential step in the growth of a tumor. Like the first two experiments, this result is encouraging but not conclusive.
- And a study of HIV-positive men in California found that allergies to bee pollen products oddly enough correlated to lower rates of a kind of cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma. This finding makes coming up with a general theory of how bee pollen and other beehive products might stop cancer itself complicated.
No matter what anyone tells you, bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly don't cure cancer. They might help slow down solid tumors of all kinds, prostate cancer in particular, and leukemia. They might not be a good idea for men who have AIDS.
But there are many other medical and natural treatments of greater value! So why on earth would someone who has cancer want to use bee pollen?
It's very simple. People who get cancer can get allergies, too.
I would like to tell you know I know of dozens of people who went into remission from stage IV cancer after they got their hay fever treated. I just know of one. She got bee pollen for hay fever, and all of a sudden, everything else she, her naturopath, and her oncologist were doing for fighting cancer started working great. She didn't live forever. She lived 21 years. But she had good quality life during most of that time, and 21 years after a stage IV diagnosis is a very, very long time.
If you have cancer, and you also have allergies, consider using bee pollen for allergy prevention. It won't make a substantial difference in your cancer treatment in and of itself. It make you feel better so that everything else you are doing works better for your cancer treatment. But just because I can't recommend bee pollen for general cancer treatment, that doesn't mean there are no other supplements or diets that help in specific situations. I have a lot more to share with you. Let's start with honey.
Honey for Making Eating Easier After Cancer Treatment
If you don't eat, you won't get better after you have cancer. And if you can't taste your food, eating will be hard.
There are a couple of situations in which honey helps restore appetite. One is when cancer treatment has weakened the immune system so that the mouth and throat are infected with yeast. This yeast overgrowth is called thrush.
Honey is antifungal, and chewing on or sucking on a product called honey leather bathes the mouth and throat in honey and helps kill the yeast. Probably the first question that comes to mind is "But what about tooth decay?" Honey also kills the bacteria that cause tooth decay. When one of the problems in maintaining appetite is thrush, honey helps a lot.
Another situation in which honey is helpful occurs when the taste buds have been damaged by chemotherapy. Honey does not just add sweetness to food. It adds a complex combination of flavors to food. If you can't taste one part of honey's taste profile, you might be able to taste another. A little honey may be more satisfying than a lot of sugar, leaving more room for other nutritious food.
Honey Also Helpful with Dry Mouth
Another complication of cancer treatment is dry mouth. If everything tastes like cardboard, it's a chore to keep up your appetite. Honey mixed into food lubricates the mouth, even if you can't salivate. And the honey also captures flavors in the food and holds them in your mouth long enough for your sense of smell to take over where your sense of taste may have left off. The reason I recommend honey over stevia or maple syrup is that honey has more a more complex flavor profile, and you are more likely to taste something, rather than nothing, if you use honey.
If it seems a little odd to be promoting honey as a way of increasing (rather than decreasing) appetite after cancer treatment, consider this: Almost half of people who get cancer don't die of the cancer itself, but of malnutrition after cancer treatment. Restoring appetite and enjoyment of food can be very important to long-term survival and remission from cancer.