Fasting During Cancer Treatment. Is It Safe?

Fasting During Cancer Treatment. Is It Safe?

Many people perceive cancer treatment, including chemotherapy or radiation, along with meal planning and weight loss prevention, as highly critical factors. Oncological treatments frequently entail side effects such as stomach upset, vomiting, or food aversion, leading patients to encounter difficulties with eating. This subsequently results in malnutrition and muscle depletion. Consequently, healthcare providers recommend that cancer patients consume 5-6 small-calorie meals and snacks every day to evade the state of starvation, which weakens the immune system.

Nevertheless, research on food restriction as a necessary part of cancer therapies, especially chemotherapy ones, is rising, which might make the treatment even more efficient in beating the cancer and less various problems during the treatment. Fasting around chemotherapy is quite contrary since some mice and some human being’s study set up this phenomenon that cancer cells seemed more sensitive to destruction and the normal cells less affected.

Fasting and Chemotherapy in Cancer Treatment

This hypothesis suggests that fasting can supplement chemotherapy medications because cancer cells are more prone to succumb to the metabolic stresses they induce compared to healthy cells. Combining fasting with chemotherapy may create a “starvation-like” environment that cancer cells find unfavorable.

One of the USC researchers and a team of clinical trialists conducted a small clinical trial involving 20 cancer patients with a special focus on the effects of short-term fasting before prescribing chemotherapy to these patients. Only two days before starting chemotherapy, participants fasted for 24 hours and continued the same fast for up to 56 hours after. They were in the control group and ate normally. The fasting patients’ arms showed reduced adverse effects such as fatigue, tiredness, and abdominal discomfort compared to the non-fasting group.

In 2020, researchers conducted another pilot study to examine whether shorter 16-hour fasts would also provide benefits to breast cancer patients before undergoing treatment. The findings revealed that fasting was a safe treatment, as the significance of weight loss was much better compared to the control group. Side effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were observed as fasting progressed.

And some of those early studies are causing curiosity of the possibility of programmed fasting periods to boost the efficiency of chemotherapy concurrently with reduction side effects. This may be effective in the entire physical remedies of cancer.

Despite their limited sample sizes, researchers must conduct additional experiments with larger groups of cancer patients dealing with different types of cancer to definitively determine whether fasting benefits those undergoing chemotherapy.

Fasting Concerns and Precautions

The best cancer hospital in India opines that longer fasting with intention can be risky and can often adversely affect cancer patients who are already losing or have been malnourished in the course of treatment. Fasting does not reverse the underlying cause but rather may amplify these nutritional deficiencies and cause a varying number of possible adverse effects like fatigue, headaches, dizziness, low blood sugar, among others.

Some cancer specialists believe that periods of restricted calorie consumption longer than 48-72 hours can lead to a situation where some remaining cancer cells develop chemotherapy resistance, thus canceling out all initial benefits and potentially causing a tumor relapse. The most appropriate fasting durations and time ensuring their effectiveness remain a topic for discussion and research.

It is also essential to look at what could be the impact of the choice of fasting.

Water-only fasting involves abstaining from consuming any food or non-caloric beverages throughout the fasting period. Intermittent fasting contrasts starkly with allowing individuals to ingest minimal foods or non-caloric fluids during specified fasting windows. While water-only fasting requires complete abstinence, intermittent fasting allows for limited caloric intake during designated periods of abstention. This fundamental difference underscores distinct physiological and metabolic effects between the two fasting methods.

Besides, it’s also necessary that otherwise patients cannot try fasting on their own without speaking to their oncologist. Such reasons can be a contraindication for fasting or exceeding safe boundaries for some patients in case of their cancer type, stage, treatments and the other individual aspects of their case.

Looking Ahead

While more research is necessary, many experts are excited about fasting as a potential supportive measure during chemotherapy treatment because it offers simplicity, affordability, and potentially high efficiency. Fasting may enhance chemotherapy’s cancer-killing effects and alleviate unpleasant side effects.

This act surely has the potential but lots of legitimate doubts at the same time. Therefore, now it is not a solution proven and not recommended as an alternative therapy. The Best ayurvedic cancer treatment in India opines that talking to the cancer doctors is a necessity for the patients to know if fasting can be explored as long as their own health condition and risk factors are well put into account.

One of the challenges with embracing the new solution, however, is the necessity to have a thorough research done that will identify both risks and rewards. We need to conduct more clinical trials to prove the effectiveness of fasting in cancer treatments and quality of life. This research could make fasting one of the most powerful tools in the broader fight against cancer. It deserves careful optimism and extensive further study.