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Intermittent Fasting and Cancer

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 07/29/2018

You’ve heard that intermittent fasting can have amazing health benefits:

  • Significant weight loss
  • Better energy
  • Improved mental clarity
  • Potentially reverse the Fat Storing Hormone resistance that leads to diabetes

But did you also know that fasting can play a significant role in the treatment of cancer, and may even help prevent cancer? I’ll explain how, because it’s fascinating. You won’t want to miss this.

First, let’s take a look at exactly what intermittent fasting is, because there’s a lot of confusing information out there.

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What Intermittent Fasting Is

At its core, intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating and not eating. Simple. You limit your eating window to a certain number of hours each day; say, 4 or 8. Then you fast for the remaining 24 hours.

Fasting doesn’t mean you practice calorie restriction. In fact, you should eat your usual number of calories, just within the eating window rather than spread out all of your waking hours.

Depending on how long your eating window is, you’ll probably end up eating just one or two meals a day instead of three. And, you stop snacking all together.

I recommend people ease into fasting by first eliminating all snacks and sticking to three meals per day, Then, gradually push your breakfast later and later until you can comfortably go without eating from when you wake up until lunch time.

If you think it’s impossible for you to go 16 or 20 hours without eating, just know if you add healthy fats to your diet and reduce your carbohydrates, you’ll feel full for longer periods of time and won’t spike your Fat Storing Hormone with its resulting sugar crash and hunger.

In other words, if you combine fasting with Healthy KetoTM , you’ll find it relatively easy to fast without experiencing crippling hunger or other unpleasant symptoms such as irritability, headaches, and mood swings. And by the way, no you won't mess with your metabolic rate - it's a myth that fasting will ruin your metabolism.

So far, so good. Now let’s see how fasting helps with cancer.

a drawing of a woman with the words Eat and Fast on either side


How Intermittent Fasting Plays A Role In Cancer Treatment

Intermittent fasting protects against something called oxidative stress. I don’t want to get too much into complex scientific explanations, just know that oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen, and have an uneven number of electrons.

Why is having an uneven number of electrons a problem? Because the uneven number allows them to easily react with other molecules. This can cause large chain chemical reactions in your body called oxidation. Although oxidation can be either beneficial or harmful, I’m going to focus on the harmful kind for purposes of this article.

Oxidative stress destroys the mitochondria in your cells, setting up a chain reaction, which eventually causes abnormal cell growth. And uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells results in cancer.

Uncontrolled abnormal cell growth happens when the body's normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells don’t die. Instead, they grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Intermittent fasting has the unique ability to shift the cells’ energy to chemical pathways that boost cell survival and protective mechanisms to normal cells, But it does this only for healthy cells, not cancer cells. As well, one study showed that fasting activates stem cells of the immune system to renew and repair themselves. Stem cells have significant regenerative effects, and play an important role in repairing cell damage - which can help treat cancer.

The same study showed that fasting not only reduces damage to cells, it also replenishes white blood cells and replaces damaged ones, another way to help your body fight cancer.

a drawing of a cancer cell

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, the same research shows that fasting for two to four days may protect stem cells against the negative effects of chemotherapy on the immune system, along with improving people’s responses to chemo because it:

  • promotes cellular regeneration
  • protects blood against the harmful effects of chemotherapy
  • reduces the impact of side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, headaches, and cramps

Another study showed that fasting shortly before, during, and after chemotherapy can improve the quality of life of people receiving the treatments, especially people with breast cancer and ovarian cancer. They reported higher tolerance to chemotherapy, fewer chemotherapy-related side effects, and higher energy levels than people who did not fast.

You can tell the results make fasting truly promising as a cancer therapy. You don't have to try to figure out a calorie-restrictive diet, or buy special foods, or make complicated eating regimens. Fasting is simple and effective.

Now let’s take a look at fasting’s role in the prevention of cancer.


Fasting Helps Prevent Cancer Too

Since fasting has that ability to shift the cells’ energy to chemical pathways that boost cell survival and protective mechanisms to normal cells, this is why fasting can also help prevent cancer in the first place. (It can also help prevent diabetes and obesity.)

Another significant way fasting helps with cancer prevention is by way of a process called autophagy, the cellular self-cleaning process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and other parts of your cells, including cells that could become cancerous.

a drawing of the word autophagy on a place with a fork and knife on either side

And there’s more.

Fasting replenishes white blood cells and replaces damaged ones. This is important because white blood cells destroy cells that may cause diseases such as cancer. Interestingly, the number of white blood cells in the body actually decreases during fasting. However, when you start eating again, your white blood cell count rises higher than it would had you not fasted first.

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?


Help Your Health With Fasting

I’ve explained how fasting is so beneficial for you, not only if you already have cancer but to avoid cancer too. You could say that fasting is potentially one of the most potent anti-cancer tools we have today.

If you’re serious about giving your health a boost, you owe it to yourself to make intermittent fasting part of your health regimen.

You’ll feel clear-minded and energetic. You’ll experience significant weight loss. Even your skin will look vibrant. All this and potential cancer prevention too, Just from committing yourself to a simple pattern of eating and not eating on a straightforward schedule.

Or, if you’re a cancer patient, you can see how fasting could benefit you. Particularly if you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you could make it easier on yourself.

The power of fasting is magnified when you combine it with the ketogenic diet. Not only will the higher healthy fat content of your diet help you stay full between meals, but sharply reducing your carbohydrates and sugar intake will reduce or even eliminate the inflammation in your body that has been shown to be a risk for cancer and other diseases.

It’s a simple lifestyle change that could radically improve your health.

What are you waiting for?

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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