I don’t know about you, but I love food! I love the simplicity and pure perfection of a fresh banana, the juiciness of a ripe tomato, and the new and wonderful flavors you can create by combining whole foods and various spices. Food is also one of our most powerful allies in the pursuit of good health. As Hippocrates once said,

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Of course, not all food is created equal. And if you’re healing your body from cancer – or just working to prevent it – the timing of your food intake may be almost as important as what’s on your plate. While most of us are familiar with the concept of fasting – abstaining from food and drink for a certain period of time – a technique known as “intermittent fasting” may be especially beneficial for those healing from cancer.

Usually a much easier adjustment for most people, intermittent fasting is basically adjusting your daily eating window to a chunk of time (usually six to eight hours), instead of spreading your meals throughout the day. The typical fast with this approach is about 18 hours (and often includes time you’re asleep), but the number of calories you consume remains the same. Typically used as a weight-loss technique, intermittent fasting has also been shown to battle chronic disease and even fight aging.

Fasting and Cancer

Fasting is nothing new. In fact, the practice has been part of medical recommendations and religious practices for centuries. But now we have scientific evidence to back up what we intuitively knew: Fasting can help the body rid itself of disease. One of the first major studies took place in 1945 and showed that intermittent fasting not only prolonged life but reduced the prevalence of breast cancer tumors in rats. Another more recent study in 2009 proved the practice can even reduce the severity of side effects due to high-dose chemotherapy.

So what’s going on here? How does simply moving food from one time of day to another really make that much difference? The answer lies in how the body and its cells react to what they perceive as “starvation mode.” Valter Longo, associate professor of gerontology and biology at USC, was part of the 2009 study. His study results were explained this way:

“In essence, these cells are waiting out the lean period, much like hibernating animals. But cancerous tumors respond differently to starvation; they do not stop growing, nor do they hibernate because their genetic pathways are stuck in an ‘on’ mode. Longo realized that the starvation response might differentiate healthy cells from cancer cells by their increased stress resistance and that healthy cells might withstand much more chemotherapy than cancer cells.”

A few years later, Longo also reported that fasting alone was enough to treat many types of cancer in mice. Because the body’s healthy cells were in this hibernation mode, the cancer cells tried to find other ways to divide and spread, without much success. As Longo explained,

“The cell is, in fact, committing cellular suicide. What we’re seeing is that the cancer cell tries to compensate for the lack of all these things missing in the blood after fasting. It may be trying to replace them, but it can’t.”

Of course, fasting is no magic bullet, nor is it appropriate for everyone. For those cancer patients who have already lost 10 percent of their body weight, or who have chronic diseases (such as diabetes), fasting could prove to be dangerous. Always consult your physician before beginning any fast. At Hope4Cancer, we work with each patient to plan a customized nutrition plan and will recommend fasting when it’s most appropriate.

Fasting and Prevention

For those trying to keep cancer at bay, intermittent fasting may improve your sensitivity to insulin and reduce your insulin resistance, which has been linked to several types of cancers. There’s also some evidence that fasting induces your body’s cells to begin the process of autophagy – including neuronal and general autophagy – to clean up cellular “garbage.”

While the scientific evidence on cancer prevention is still premature – and keep in mind the majority of clinical studies have been in animals, not humans – nevertheless there is some exciting evidence showing the potential!

Fasting and You

If you’re ready to try it, the first – and I think the largest – obstacle to overcome is mental. While you may be thinking, “There’s no way I can skip breakfast!” I assure you it’s easier than you think. Plus, a big dinner the night before will actually carry over pretty well into the next day.

There are actually many different types of schedules for intermittent fasting. One of the more popular is the Leangains model, which is named after Martin Berkhan of Leangains.com. I like it because it’s the same schedule every day, which makes adjusting to it quite easy:

Before you get started, remember it’s not wise to begin fasting if your diet still needs improvement. You want to make sure you’re consuming the right calories during your periods of eating. Finally, always listen to your body. Every body responds differently, so be aware of your energy levels and adjust accordingly. And those who are hypoglycemic, diabetic, pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid any kind of fasting.

Happy fasting in the 2016!

26 thoughts on “Healing Cancer on Time: How intermittent fasting may help

  1. Hi,
    I need guidance on how I can help my Mom heal from stage 4 Her2-positive breast cancer. How do I go about contacting you through e-mail?

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Aria

      1. Hello…. What YouTube videos did he recommend? I am HER2 positive. I have researched and this makes sense.
        Gayla Saxton

  2. Hi, I am doing the 18hr fasting since April 2017, is taking raw 4 cloves garlic and 3 capsules alkaline ester Vitamin C before bedtime defeat the purpose of intermittent fasting? I was thinking no caloric solid and liquids in this 18hr window. Please help, I might take garlic and Vitamin C on the 6 hr window. Thanks a lot.

  3. Hi ,
    My dad has undergone gastrectomy surgery as he has stage 4 gastric cancer. Can you please suggest me the nutrition diet to follow for curing the cancer or control the growth of cancer cells. He is taking siddha medicines currently.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Dear Archana,
      Thank you for reaching out to us. Nutrition is very tightly blended into a treatment protocol, and is dependent on the patient’s condition. It also only one (although important) of the Seven Key Principles of Cancer Therapy, that works best in concert with the other dimensions of natural therapy. I would recommend that you Schedule a Call with one of our counselors to get a better understanding of where you need to go next with your father’s treatment. All the best! (SCHEDULE A CALL)

    1. How often you fast will depend on your health status. Let me point you to the following text in the article: “Of course, fasting is no magic bullet, nor is it appropriate for everyone. For those cancer patients who have already lost 10 percent of their body weight, or who have chronic diseases (such as diabetes), fasting could prove to be dangerous. Always consult your physician before beginning any fast. At Hope4Cancer, I work with each patient to plan a customized nutrition plan and will recommend fasting when it’s most appropriate.”

      If you have specific health conditions that you are dealing with, I would recommend that you speak with one of our counselors to get a more personalized answer. To do that click on the following link : Schedule A Call.

    1. Fasting can actually be quite beneficial for people with ulcers or who are hyperacidic. Fasting gives a chance for the digestive system to heal. However, managing acid levels is very important during the fasting process. You may want to read more about

        juice fasting

      routines that are designed to prevent acid build up during the “starvation” phase.

  4. Hi
    My brother 35 y old had cholangiocarcinoma with liver metastasis 6 monthes ago he began his chemotherapy course now he is on ketogenic diet as he had insulin resistance as a side effect from chemotherapy the resistance improved on that diet I want to know if it will be beneficial to fast and that ketogenic diet will help him to fight that type of cancer or not ……thanks

    1. Dear Habiba,
      The ketogenic diet/fasting can be a very useful nutritional tool as you have already found out. However, persisting on a ketogenic diet for too long may have consequences. There are some studies that show no long-term deleterious effects, such as this one. However many articles (some listed here) show that long-term continuation can lead to serious adverse events. In addition to that, cancer adapts rapidly to any existing diet if continued for too long. So our recommendation is that you cycle between different types of diets to keep cancer on its toes. All the time think healthy, organic, portion control, exercise (physical/mental/spiritual). Hope that helps.

  5. hi my husband was diagnosf with stage3c testicular ca last feb.2016… he undergo operation and went to 2cycles of chemotherapy….after that he never visited hospital for follow up anymore until now…im just gving him an alternative meds(herbal)…what help can u gve me?thank u

  6. I was wondering if the fasting included liquids especially water? I’m interested in fasting for prevention and I’m confused as to whether or not to eliminate liquids as well as food during the fasting period.

  7. I have Stage IV PCa(mets to ureter lymph nodes) – Dx in 01/15 and started ADT(Lupron and Casodex) and my MedOnc knew about the CHAARTED trial and got me on Taxotere within a couple of weeks. I did 6 seesions and PSA was still in teens and we decided that since I tolerated them well I would keep going. I fasted 2 days before each chemo from Dr. Longo at USC research and I did 9 more chemos.
    I still do intermittent fasting with curry/Black pepper, tomato veggie broth from 9pm to 1pm the next day and I had a PSA nadir of 0.2 in 08/16(from 840) and then with some diet mods and still fasting I was able to get to 0.1 in 08/17. Fight on – Randy

  8. Hello,

    Thank you for this article. I have been trying to practice Intermittent fasting for about a month now, though I only do 14-16th hrs instead of 18.

    My question though is that;

    Most of the articles I read, promotes skipping breakfast; however, what I found easier to do though is, skipping dinner. My last meal will usually be around 2PM, then I eat again 6AM the next day.

    Is that okay as well? Please advise.

    Thank you ahead for your help.

    More power!

    1. Very good question. If you look at the Leangains Guide, Martin says the following, “The recommendation for fasting through the earlier part of the day, as opposed to the latter part of the day, is for behavioral and social reasons. Most people simply find it easier to fast after awakening and prefer going to bed satiated. Afternoons and evenings are times to unwind and eat. For adherence reasons during dieting, I’ve also found that placing the feeding phase later in the day is ideal for most people.” That will hopefully answer your question?

  9. My mother has a colectral cancer stage 4 spread to liver, she is on oxaliplatin (once each 2 weeks x 100mg + xeloda 3000 daily x 7 days(each 2 weeks). she is not diabetic but she had a pulmonary clot after the resection operation and is having 10 mg xarelto daily . since 6 month. she lost 12 kg since she started to be ill Last november
    doctors said that the tumor is active!!
    the doctors recommend to have small portion of food each with no restricted food.
    However, the family would like to try the (Diary, Meat,) free diet.
    I am interested to know about your fasting diet and whether it could be used with my mom .
    Do you recommend the diary, Meat free diet?
    thanks

    1. Dear A.Z., Most conventional doctors do not understand the importance of diet in its relationship with cancer. Our doctors recommend all our cancer patients to embrace to a vegetarian, organic, organic, dairy-free diet. The exception to the vegetarian diet would be fish and eggs – important sources of clean protein. All that being said, nutrition is only one aspect of successfully treating cancer. My biggest recommendation is that you consider professional help at a qualified alternative treatment center. Please feel free to request a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable counselors to understand your mother’s options. Click here to schedule a call.

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