Can Fasting Make Chemotherapy More Effective?

Itís never easy getting the news that you, a family member, or a friend has cancer. Thereís no easy way around it. And whatís harder is the long journey through treatment should one choose to do it. There are many options for treatment, but chemotherapy is one of the most common treatment forms.

Chemo†works by targeting cells that grow and divide quickly. Unfortunately, there are several types of cells in the body that grow and divide quickly that arenít cancer cells.

Chemo is notorious for disrupting cancer cells and healthy cells alike. Patients deal with often-severe side effects†like hair loss, nausea, vomiting, low appetite, constipation, anemia, or infection. Itís a torturous process for both human and cancer.

Fortunately, thereís a strategy for optimizing chemo while protecting healthy cells (and even reducing side effects): fasting.

The Benefits of Fasting for Patients on Chemo

Research on mice and humans indicates that fasting has the power to turn on the immune system in remarkable ways. While studies on humans are limited to a few pilot studies or by small sample sizes, there have been several successful studies on mice. All the studies point to the same benefits.

Reduces Side Effects

Side effects can be the worse part of chemo,†so anything to reduce the side effects can make a world of difference for patients and their families.

In a pilot trial on humans, researchers discovered that side effects were lowered after 24 hours of fasting. But for even greater effect, 72 hours associated with even lower side effects.

Protects Non-Cancer Cells

Chemotherapy works by targeting fast-growing cells, but it can be hard to differentiate between cancer and non-cancer cells. Fasting activates the immune system to protect non-cancer cells which allow cancer cells to become more vulnerable to the effects of chemotherapy.

Sensitizes Cancer Cells

More vulnerable cancer cells mean that chemotherapy can be more targeted and effective. Part of its effectiveness is thanks to an increase in specific immune cells to attack the cancer cells. So over time tumor masses in fasting mice are smaller.

The Challenges of Fasting While on Chemo

Patients receiving chemotherapy may already be fatigued, losing weight, and†lack appetite, so it might not be too difficult to start a fasting trial.

It could worsen weight loss and promote an unhealthy relationship with food. Some experts worry that fasting could worsen metabolic issues like diabetes. These challenges have not been fully backed by science in either direction.

Although the World Journal of Diabetes is beginning to find that fasting may actually be helpful in improving and balancing glucose levels rather than the opposite.

Fasting†and Your Health

Fasting is an intriguing and promising opportunity for patients receiving chemotherapy but also for people who struggle with weight loss, blood sugar issues, and those generally wishing to extend the length and quality of their lives.

At this time, the science on humans is limited and should be implemented with caution and under the supervision of a professional. But for some when it comes to fighting for your life, thereís nothing you wonít try.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

42 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S3 months ago

Thanks.

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Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE9 months ago

Thank you.

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Chad A
Chad A10 months ago

Thank you. I hope I never have to find out.

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Janet B
Janet B10 months ago

Thanks

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Winn A
Winn Adams10 months ago

Thanks

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 months ago

Thanks.

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