Fasting is no new notion to mankind. Many religions promote fasting as a way of purifying the body and mind. What we are now learning, however, is that fasting could help to combat cancer and boost the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Research on animals discovered that fasting slowed the growth and spread of tumors and cured some cancers when it was combined with chemotherapy. Fasting and chemotherapy appear to have synergistic effects.
A professor at the University of Southern California, Valter Longo, investigated 18 different types of cancers in animals, showing that if you starve the cancer for a few days before and after you hit it with chemotherapy, the results are twice as good. In some cases, for example breast cancer, cycles of fasting were working as well as chemotherapy. The majority of cancers tested showed that either fasting alone or fasting plus chemotherapy was consistently better than the chemotherapy alone.
Pretty fascinating stuff. But what about in people?
Clinical trials in humans started two years ago, and shortly the researchers will know whether it is safe or not for cancer patients to try. Apparently the human studies will determine whether patients could tolerate short fasts of two days before and one day after chemotherapy.
How Does It Work?
The researchers contended that normal cells are very able to adapt to the conditions of starvation and know what to do and can manage for a long time. Cancer cells, however, have no idea because they are less able to adapt to different environments, and starvation is a very extreme environment.
The researchers believe the cancer cells are dying because they are confused and don’t understand the starvation environment. They try to respond by activating different pathways, for example, creating more proteins, even though they are starving. In this process they destroy themselves.
My suggestion? If you’re interested in trying this, have a chat with your oncologist. Show him/her the research that’s been done so far and together the two of you can decide if this is something that might be worth trying right now, even before the clinical trial is finished. At least it doesn’t cost anything (other than a few grumbly tummies)! I wouldn’t recommend this for patients who have already lost a lot of weight or are affected by other health risks, such as diabetes, but for those of you who are pretty healthy, it sounds like a powerful combination of therapies.
It’s all about creating a cancer-unfriendly environment (to paraphrase one of my thought leaders, Ian Gawler). Tomorrow I’ll share the best way to fast properly and safely.
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