Can Fasting Support Chemotherapy?

The fact that fasting sometimes acts like a medicine in the case of rheumatic diseases and chronic lifestyle diseases and can support therapy with medicines has been the subject of research for some time. In the case of cancer, on the other hand, abstaining from eating was previously considered taboo – not least because many cancer patients do not die of the disease itself but of malnutrition. But now there is new evidence that not eating for a few days could increase the tolerability of chemotherapy. A recent study of women with breast and ovarian cancer shows that chemotherapy is better tolerated by most patients if they fast 36 hours before and 24 hours after chemotherapy administration.

Cancer cells are lured into a trap

Experts explain this effect with evolution: Normal body cells can deal well with hunger because they have learned this in the course of evolution. When you fast, healthy cells go into a kind of hibernation. Cancer cells cannot do exactly that, because they are uncompromisingly programmed for growth and do not recognize a fasting signal. They, therefore, absorb everything, including the chemotherapy drugs that ultimately kill them. Meanwhile, the healthy cells rest during the fasting break, switch to “stand-by” and absorb fewer nutrients – and cell toxins. They hardly get anything from the chemotherapy, while the greedy cancer cells are at the mercy of the toxins without protection. So the point is to lure cancer into a trap. It is by no means about starving him – because that would not work anyway, but only harm the patient.

Successful in animal experiments

In an animal experiment by an Italian researcher on which this theory is based, all fasting mice survived the chemotherapy, while two-thirds died in the normally fed control group. However, it has not yet been clarified whether these study results can be fully transferred to humans. Above all, it still needs to be researched with which types of cancer and with which compositions of chemotherapeutic agents this concept works and with which it does not. After all, a ten-year study of 2,800 nurses showed that those who regularly took 14-hour meal breaks were less likely to have recurring cancers and had a better disease prognosis.

Never fast on your own

Cancer patients should never fast without thorough education and competent care because not everyone is suitable for this. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 20 or more, after a stressful operation or if you have concomitant diseases such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, you cannot go without eating. There are also a few things to consider when fasting, such as a relief day and a build-up day, proper fluid intake, exercise, and rest breaks. Side effects such as headaches or nausea can also occur. They can be controlled through targeted measures.

A vegan diet and avoidance of sugar recommended

Even if the effect of fasting has not yet been clarified, experts already recommend eating vegan and sugar-free 48 hours before and 24 hours after chemotherapy. This means avoiding meat, cheese, dairy products, and eggs as well as sweets, chocolate, sweet fruits, and juices. In addition, experts recommend prebiotics to support intestinal flora, such as chicory, artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes, root vegetables, and especially nuts. In addition, there is much to suggest that eating more vegetables and fruit can reduce the risk of cancer coming back.

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