Contributed by Mandy Payne
Some research suggests that fasting helps fight cancer by lowering insulin resistance and levels of inflammation. Also, researchers believe that fasting may make cancer cells more responsive to chemotherapy while protecting other cells. Fasting may also boost the immune system to help fight cancer that is already present.
Autophagy is a cellular process in which parts of cells break down for later reuse. Autophagy is critical for maintaining proper cell function, and it also helps defend cells in the body. Autophagy plays an important role in preventing and treating cancer. Several studies in mice suggest that autophagy may prevent cancer. These studies show how lack of autophagy leads to lower levels of tumour-suppressing genes. While lower autophagy may enable initial tumour formation, it is not solely responsible for malignant tumour growth or spread.
Improving quality of life during chemotherapy.
Some researchers believe that fasting improves people’s response to chemotherapy because it does the following:
- promotes cellular regeneration
- protects blood against the harmful effects of chemotherapy
- reduces the impact of side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, headaches, and cramps
A 2018 study found that fasting can improve quality of life in people undergoing chemotherapy for breast and ovarian cancer. The study used a 60-hour fasting period starting 36 hours before the start of chemotherapy treatment.
The results show that participants fasting during chemotherapy reported higher tolerance to chemotherapy, fewer chemotherapy-related side effects, and higher energy levels when compared with those who did not fast.
Boosting the immune system to fight cancer.
A 2014 study examined whether fasting produces any cancer-fighting effects in mice stem cells. Stem cells are important due to their regenerative abilities. The researchers revealed that fasting for 2–4 days may protect stem cells against the negative effects of chemotherapy on the immune system. Fasting also activates stem cells of the immune system to renew and repair themselves. This study shows that fasting not only reduces damage to cells, it also replenishes white blood cells and replaces damaged ones.
White blood cells fight infection and destroy cells that may cause disease. When white blood cell levels drop as a result of chemotherapy, it affects the immune system negatively. This means that the body has a harder time fighting infections.
The number of white blood cells in the body decreases during fasting. However, when the fasting cycle concludes and the body receives food, white blood cell levels increase.
Fasting refers to not eating at all or consuming very few calories for a certain amount of time. Fasting cycles can last anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks.
Short and prolonged fasting periods have promising results in cancer treatment and prevention, according to multiple studies. It is currently unclear which fasting schedule produces the best results, however.
People who are curious about fasting and whether it would benefit them during their cancer treatment should consider speaking with their doctor as this approach will not be suitable for everyone.
Below I have listed a couple of articles that may be of interest together with links to their sources.