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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 20, 2012

Why Fast? Part Two – Cancer

By Mark Sisson
222 Comments

“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.” – Hippocrates

and:

“Instead of using medicine, rather fast a day.” – Plutarch

or even:

“No kibble today, thanks. I’m feeling a bit under the weather.” – Fido

For thousands upon thousands of years (during most of which overweight, let alone obese, people were fairly rare), therapeutic fasting was a common protocol for the healing of many a malady. From famous sages like Plato, Aristotle, and the aforementioned Hippocrates and Plutarch to cancer patients unable to eat during chemotherapy to pet dogs and cats who suddenly lose once-voracious appetites upon falling ill, it seems like the natural response to – and perhaps therapy for – major illness is to stop eating for a while.

Now, “natural” is not always good. “Is” does not necessarily imply “ought.” But I think the persistence of this phenomenon throughout nature demands that we look a little more closely into whether or not there’s something to it. From babies putting items they found on the ground into their mouths to introduce novel bacteria to their bodies, to weight lifters craving meat after a hard workout to introduce protein to their hungry muscles, to pregnant women experiencing strong food aversions to minimize the chance of introducing a toxin or poison to the growing fetus, I’m generally of the opinion that there’s usually a physiological explanation for most of our odd cravings and behaviors. I see no reason why a sudden lack of appetite wouldn’t have a similar explanation – especially one that transcends species. What if skipping meals for a day or two kickstarted internal healing in some way? Is that really so outlandish? You already know where I stand on the importance of lessons learned from watching our animal companions, and I think this time is no different.

Luckily for us, we aren’t just flailing around and making guesses. Modern science has deigned research into the phenomenon, particularly regarding cancer, worth pursuing. According to Valter Longo, a cancer researcher from USC, “normal cells” go into survival mode during starvation. They display “extreme resistance to stresses” until the “lean period” ends, much like an animal in hibernation mode. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are always “on.” Their “goal” is to grow and reproduce and consume resources. For cancer cells, there is no novel survival mode to switch on. If this is the case, fasting should both improve our resistance to cancer and our body’s ability to survive it (and the treatments used against it, like chemotherapy).

Though human trials are scant (you can’t exactly inject people with cancer cells and then try out different therapeutic protocols, the animal research is intriguing. Let’s take a look into the literature, shall we?

Animal Trial

In one of the earliest studies, forty-eight rats were split up into two groups of twenty-four. One group ate ad libitum for a week, while the other group underwent alternate day fasting. After one week of the various dietary protocols, both groups were injected with breast cancer. At nine days post-injection, 16 of 24 fasted rats remained alive, while just five of 24 ad-libitum fed rats lived. At ten days post-injection, only three of the 24 ad libitum-fed rats survived; 12 of the 24 fasted rats remained alive. Pretty large disparity, right?

That was in 1988. It wasn’t until the late 90s that more promising research was undertaken. That’s when Longo began studying in earnest the phenomenon of increased cellular resistance to oxidative stress during fasting. Figuring that since chemotherapy exerts its effects on cancer by inducing oxidative stress (to all cells, not just cancerous ones), and fasting triggers survival mode in normal cells but not cancer cells, he conducted a study on mice to determine whether fasting protected the healthy, normal cells from chemotherapy’s side effects while leaving the cancer cells sensitive to the treatment. Tumor-ridden mice were either fasted or fed normally 48 hours prior to a large dose of chemotherapy. Half of the normally-fed mice died from chemotherapy toxicity, while all of the fasted mice survived (PDF). Furthermore, fasting did not improve the survival rate of cancerous cells, meaning it only protected normal, healthy cells.

Research has continued. Longo found that “starvation-dependent stress” protects normal cells, but not cancer cells, against the effects of chemotherapy. Even a “modified” alternate day fasting regimen, in which mice were given 15% of their normal calories on “fasting” days, reduced proliferation rates of tumor cells. This “85%” fasting regimen was even more effective than the full 100%. And most recently, Longo et al found that fasting both retarded the growth of tumors while sensitizing cancer cells to the effects of chemotherapy – across a wide range of tumor types. Most importantly, they concluded that fasting could “potentially replace or augment” certain existing chemotherapy regimens! That’s not some crazy fad diet guru spouting off about ancient traditional wisdom, folks. That’s a cancer researcher.

Human Trial(s)

There has been just one of which I’m aware: a 2009 case study that delivered promising results. Ten cancer patients – four with breast cancer, two with prostate cancer, one each with ovarian, lung, uterine, and esophageal cancers – underwent fasting prior to and after chemotherapy treatment. Fasting times ranged from 48-140 hours prior to and 5-56 hours after; all were affective at reducing side effects of chemotherapy.

In the first case, a 51-year old woman with breast cancer did her first round of chemotherapy in a fasted state of 140 hours. Other than dry mouth, fatigue, and hiccups, she felt well enough to go to work and resume her normal daily activities. For the subsequent two rounds, she did not fast and instead ate her normal diet, and the side effects were extremely pronounced – severe fatigue, diarrhea, weakness, abdominal pain, nausea – and prevented her from returning to work. For her fourth round of chemotherapy, she fasted, and the side effects were again minimized. And it wasn’t just the subjective effects that improved with fasting, but also her physiological markers. Total white blood cell, absolute neutrophil counts, and platelet counts were all highest after the fasting regimens.

More human trials are underway, however. Hopefully we’ll eventually know whether the loss of appetite commonly reported during chemotherapy treatment is a bug or actually a built-in feature (I’m leaning toward the latter, personally).

Other Possible Protective Mechanisms of Prevention

Improved insulin sensitivity. As I showed in last week’s post on fasting and weight loss, intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been linked to several cancers, including prostate, breast, and pancreatic. Metabolic syndrome, which fasting seems to help prevent and reduce, is linked to cancer in general.

Autophagy. While autophagy – the process by which cells “clean up” cellular “garbage” – has a complex relationship with cancer, it’s generally a positive process that protects cells from excessive oxidative stress. Fasting has been shown to induce “profound” neuronal autophagy, as well as general autophagy.

Fasting versus caloric restriction.

It’s true that caloric restriction appears to offer anti-cancer benefits, but there are a couple ways in which fasting might be superior:

1. Fasting (acute bouts of caloric restriction) is easier than CR (chronic caloric restriction) for most people. As I mentioned in last week’s post, fasting – for some – is just an easier, more natural, more effortless way to reduce your calorie intake. That can pay huge dividends when it comes to weight loss, and it appears likely that it will help with cancer, too. If fasting is easier than constantly counting your calories, fasting is going to work better.

2. Fasting is more effective in a shorter amount of time. Whereas studies on caloric restriction and cancer employ weeks- and months-long CR regimens, studies on fasting and cancer employ hours- and days-long fasting regimens. In most cases, fasting just seems to require far less time to be effective.

It’s an exciting time for fasting and cancer research. While it’s still viewed in most circles as an “alternative” modality, fasting is now being seriously considered as a possible treatment (both adjunct and even primary) for various cancers, including breast and prostate. I can’t wait to see what comes out in the coming years.

Of course, my own feeling is that fasting is both easier and more effective if you have made the transition to a Primal Blueprint way of eating. In other words, when you have up-regulated those fat-burning systems and down-regulated the reliance on glucose, many of the other issues that can make fasting less appealing to “sugar-burners” tend to go away: cortisol levels out, muscle protein is spared, hunger subsides naturally and energy is steady.

What does this mean for you – the person who either has cancer and wants to get rid of it or who doesn’t have cancer and wants to stay that way? Researchers like Valter Longo can’t officially recommend it to cancer patients, but it seems well-tolerated and basically safe. If you or anyone you know has cancer, suggest fasting as a possible strategy. As long as a person keeps their oncologist apprised of the situation and any relevant research on the subject, it might prove helpful. And if you’re currently cancer-free, consider implementing occasional (intermittent) fasts, just to be safe. I know research like the stuff I’ve just outlined has convinced me that it’s definitely worth a shot, and there’s little if any downside.

For those of you readers who currently practice fasting, do the potential cancer benefits motivate and drive you? If you aren’t currently fasting, does this evidence make you want to? Thanks for reading!

Here’s the entire series for easy reference:

Why Fast? Part One – Weight Loss

Why Fast? Part Two – Cancer

Why Fast? Part Three – Longevity

Why Fast? Part Four – Brain Health

Why Fast? Part Five – Exercise

Why Fast? Part Six – Choosing a Method

Why Fast? Part Seven – Q&A

Dear Mark: Women and Intermittent Fasting

TAGS:  prevention

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222 Comments on "Why Fast? Part Two – Cancer"

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liberty1776
liberty1776
4 years 6 months ago

I definitely do not eat if I have a fever.

Harry Mossman
4 years 6 months ago

I mostly have lots of soup when I have a cold (“Jewish penicillin” although not just chicken.) I haven’t had the flu since starting primal two years ago but probably would fast if I did.

Kevin
Kevin
4 years 6 months ago

I am definately trying it next time I get sick.

Abel James
4 years 6 months ago

Right on, Mark. Fasting right now. Appreciate the “Fido” quote – the first thing a pup does when it’s sick is to stop eating. Another example of animal instincts trumping human “intelligence.”

Martin
Martin
4 years 1 month ago

Don’t mock human intelligence for it was this very intelligence that found out about this correlation.

jeanette mason
jeanette mason
3 years 4 months ago
i have the rarest of the neuroendocrine cancers, one of which killed steve jobs; 12 years ago i was told by the some of the leading experts that if i did not do chemo immediately i had 1 month to 1 year to live. my inner animal/muse/soul told me that poisoning my body was insane, so i did watchful waiting until my tumors were forcing rapid descents in blood sugar i do not have an insulinoma; i am a somatostatinoma, but my tumors behave as the former oma does; when my bs was at 35 despite eating every 12 hour… Read more »
Mason
Mason
2 years 3 months ago

Would love a copy of your results and details

Mason

Eric
Eric
1 year 3 months ago

Is there any chance that your ‘3 day water fasts’ caused or contributed to the illness you developed?

Luz
Luz
3 years 1 month ago

I fast and it does wonders for my acne and well being. I fast with honey and pollen as my only energy sources. I drink lots of wáter.

Casey
4 years 6 months ago

Very interesting read, Mark. I have also noticed that periodic fasting seems to have some psychological benefits. Specifically, I feel more focused during fasted days. Are there any supplements that you would recommend taking during a 24hr fast?

Katie @ Wellness Mama
4 years 6 months ago

I always drink (organic, grass-fed) gelatin powder in water as it has enough protein to protect muscles and is great for healing the gut, especially when you aren’t eating. I also take probiotics because they are more effective on an empty stomach, and magnesium before sleeping.

Dani
4 years 6 months ago

That’s awesome, where do you get organic and grass-fed gelatin powder??

Denis
4 years 2 months ago

Great Lakes has some. http://www.greatlakesgelatin.com/

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago
That really depends on your goals during the fast. Green tea contains the compound EGCG, and drinking it during the fast is a great way to end the lives of stubborn fat cells. In addition to autophagy, which will promote unused and mature fat cells to die, drinking green tea during the fast, will cause fat cell apoptosis. Coupled with the fat-buring effects of fasting and the autophagy induced, you will virtually become a slaughterhouse for unwanted fat cells. You could also supplement with the extract of green tea. I promise I’m not a tea fanatic, but I also prefer… Read more »
pdxjsw
pdxjsw
4 years 6 months ago

I have been doing IF for several years now. Unfortunately when I drink Green Tea or Yerba Mate during a fast I will end up throwing it back up within 30 minutes. I never have any issues with coffee.

Pastor Dave
4 years 5 months ago

Wow– I drink a gallon of Green tea and have no nausea at all. Coffe is fine too and ice water.

I usully begin my fast after a large cup of coffee with a little half and half–at 5am, then my next meal when I am IFing is the next morning– 4 eggs and coffee.

I do this once or twice a week and I love it.

Doug
Doug
4 years 6 months ago

Neuronal autophagy confirmed…nice call!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20534972

Maria
Maria
4 years 6 months ago

I have the same issue, I get nausea right away. Coffee is fine though.

pam
pam
4 years 6 months ago

hi, Mathew,

thanks for the information on green tea & yerba mate

i have heard some anecdotes of weight loss using green tea from a friend & her friend.

i usually fast 16 hours everyday by skipping breakfast. occasionally longer (18 – 24 hr). my brain rather enjoys the clarify.

regards,

Alessandra
Alessandra
4 years 6 months ago

I find that I’m more focused as well. I was surprised to notice this change, which is welcome because there are plenty of times when I can’t seem to focus at all.

Joe
Joe
4 years 6 months ago

+1 on the psychological benefits including increased focus, although I noticed the opposite before switching to a primal diet.

RobG
RobG
4 years 6 months ago
I just got Yogi Tea, “Healthy Fasting” blend to use with an upcoming fast. It was recommended to me. It says it has Red Clover, Burdock, and Dandelion for liver detox. Usually I just do water whenever I feel thirst. The other thing is the duration of the fast. Lengthy fasts should be supervised since electrolytes and minerals could be exhausted. Something short (I do 3 day fasts) could incorporate some juicing (for the nutrients). Another thing I’ve read (over at LeanGains) that if the goal of the fast is to burn fat, coffee (organic and not decaf, again diluted)… Read more »
Joanna
4 years 6 months ago

The benefits just continue don’t they? I have an 86 year old uncle who had prostate cancer. He fasted before and after his chemotherapy, not because he knew anything about it but just because he didn’t feel like having anything other than water. He took the bus back and forth to the hospital before and after his sessions and said they didn’t really bother him that much. It amazed me when I heard that, but possibly the fasting part was why.

Grokitmus Primal
4 years 6 months ago

I feel better when I incorporate fasting. That’s enough evidence to keep me going.

Harry Mossman
4 years 6 months ago

Ok, ok. I don’t like the idea of fasting but I will start doing it. (Blood sugar still a bit to high and a family history of cancer.)

Deanna
Deanna
4 years 6 months ago

This does make me want to fast, but every time I try, I end up super-cranky and super-hungry. It seems like frequent small meals works well for me, as anti-Primal as that sounds. Maybe I need to eat more overall so the fasts mean something. I’m not sure — if anyone has a thought on that, I’m all ears!

Steph
Steph
4 years 6 months ago
It took a while before I could fast without these issues. Headaches, shakes, crankiness…I know what you speak of. After about 8 months of eating primal, though, I started being able to skip meals without issue. Recently I’ve started skipping breakfast. I drink some coffee with cream, and that’s “breakfast”. Though I get a bit of a gnawing hunger, it’s nothing I can’t subdue with a few sips of coffee. I’m ready to eat by lunchtime, and by then I’ve usually held off eating for approximately 16 hours. Like Mark mentions, this is way easier for me than caloric restriction.… Read more »
pam
pam
4 years 6 months ago

it also took us months to be able to fast for > 12 hours.

i also have black tea + 1 TB heavy cream for breakfast.

cheers,

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago
Try eating a fairly protein-heavy meal a few hours before bed. I prefer to eat eggs because the protein digests slowly. In the morning most people have a naturally blunted appetite, so this is going to be the best time to fast. You will be fasting through the night so when you wake up you will have been fasting ten hours. Try to go a few hours and then break the fast when you feel like you need to. Try to push it out a little more each day, or every other day if you prefer. Try to stick to… Read more »
TJ
4 years 6 months ago
That’s what seems to work best for me. At night or pretty late in the afternoon, I try to load up on 1 lb. of grass fed beef or pork or fish, 8-12 pastured eggs, etc. When IF’ing, if I eat the last meal in the afternoon, I typically will eat again sometime around noon (10-2) the next day. But, if I eat pretty late, I may go until mid or late afternoon the following day. A 16 hour window is about average. However, sometimes I may eat late and then I may eat early the next day (a shortened… Read more »
Ricko
Ricko
4 years 6 months ago

I used to get like this, but I found that after I started doing few workouts on ’empty'(i.e. training first thing in the morning and also after work when my blood sugar is normally at its lowest, but not every day of course) I stopped getting cranky and having dizzy spells when I was fasting.

Merryish
Merryish
4 years 6 months ago

An “accidental” 24 hour fast last week left me gnawingly hungry, shaky, confused, cranky, and nearly incoherent. But I’ve only been paleo for a month now, so maybe I can work up to it over time.

IF of the “early dinner, skip breakfast, late lunch” variety works great for me already – I don’t notice any hunger at all and feel great doing it. It’s also clearly helping me a lot with weight loss.

Shawn
Shawn
4 years 6 months ago

If you get shaky, have a bit of bragg apple cider vinegar with some raw honey and water.

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
Sounds like you’re still carb addicted & possibly not eating enough good fats, that response is typical of a sugar and glucose metabolism & low blood sugar. If you’re properly in ketosis & fat burning mode your body, in response to a lack of food from fasting, will just start burning your stored body fat and will just continue making ketone bodies for energy which, if you are in ketosis, it has already been doing. There is a break in period, known in the Atkins & Medifast circles as the Induction Phase, I call it CARB WITHDRAWAL, where it can… Read more »
Travis
3 years 2 months ago

Little meals here and there do work, and I agree it can be hard to fast. Your brain is fighting you every step of the way and demands food making you cranky.

Christian
Christian
2 years 7 months ago

Also, try eating once a day. Only hi quality food; half of it raw, etc.

Primal Newfie
Primal Newfie
4 years 6 months ago

Since going primal I lost 50lbs and stalled, since incorperating 2 24-36 hour fast twice a week and a 48-60 hour fast once a month in 2 months I lost another 20lb and haven’t ever felt better than I do now. Also doing heavy lifting while fasting is great and actually improves my numbers. Fasting for weight loss is a great tool, everything else is just a bonus 🙂

Fatandtired
Fatandtired
4 years 6 months ago

Sweet! I too dropped 45 in four months, from 286 to 240, but have been dragging along this plateau for a few months now. I think I let all the complements people have been givivng me go to my head and falling back on the 80-20excuse. I am still 30 lbs away from my goal. I just started p90x and will start a fast tomorrow. Thanks for sharing and reigniting my motivation!

jake3_14
jake3_14
4 years 6 months ago
After reading some material on Martin Berkhan’s Leangains site, I’ve implemented his version of IF: restricting eating to an 8-hour window. This lead me to discover that I need more protein at each meal to forestall hunger. Finally, I’m in the process of cutting down to just two, high-calorie meals/day, further reducing the time I expose my body to insulin (which I seem to overproduce in response to food). It’s impossible to say whether this will prevent cancer, especially since I don’t have a family history of it. My main objective is to have a more comfortable time maintaining my… Read more »
Kevin
Kevin
4 years 6 months ago

I practice intermittent fasting right now as part of my weight loss regime. It’s worked very well for me, I try to do at least two 24/hr fasts a week and I’ve found them very easy to stick to.

Cancer benefits seem like icing on the cake to me.

Linds @ Linds Eat
4 years 6 months ago
I agree. I’ve been Paleo for 2 months as of March 18th, and begin IFing shortly there after. I try and do 1-2 24 hour fast a week, but that doesn’t always happen. I eat only when I’m hungry and so sometimes I end up fasting for 12-18 hours, unplanned. I love not having to think about constantly eating to keep my metabolism “revved” up. It was the best day of my life when I threw that idea out the window! Life is so much more enjoyable now. In the last month, I’ve noticed a significant decrease in my body… Read more »
Merryish
Merryish
4 years 6 months ago
I feel exactly the same. I struggled so much trying to eat so often during the day – just remembering to prep food all the time, trying to have 3-4 small meals on hand during my work day, trying to find time between meetings to eat it all – ugh! I felt like I was miserably choking down food constantly and it did me no good whatsoever. I’m so much happier now not having to worry about it – if I don’t have time to make food for lunch at work, so what? I skip it and feel find till… Read more »
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Dr. Mike Tremba
4 years 6 months ago

Although I’ve not researched it intensively, I’ve studied some level of similiarity regarding cellular resistance toward oxidative stress when fasting as you discuss, or supplementing with resveratrol. I can see how the research you cite can show benefits of fasting. If there’s a lot out there about resveratrol as well, I could see how both could be extremely useful in many ways.
Thanks for another great article, Mark

john
john
4 years 6 months ago

Re resveratrol – it was just recently inthe news that one of the lead researchers into this faked a lot of his data. You may want to look a little more closely before you leap.
Cheers
J

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[…] response to – and perhaps therapy for – major illness is to stop eating for a while.   Read More » Be Sociable, […]

Conrad O'Keefe
Conrad O'Keefe
4 years 6 months ago

This topic of fasting is extremely interesting. I have done some 8 to 10 hour fast in recent months and am planning to do a 5 day fast to facilitate my weight loss. I am in need of some advice on what vitamins are necessary to take during an extended fast. If anyone could chime in on this I would appreciate it. Thanks

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago

You might want to consider limiting your fast to two or three days, then eating a big meal, then resuming your fast. I say this because leptin will drop off sharply, usually around 3 days without eating. Your metabolism will slow down and you might start to experience symptoms of anhedonia. You should have a doctor supervise you if plan to be fasting past three days.

Rachel
Rachel
4 years 6 months ago

I’ve been trying out some IF lately and am wondering if my GreensPlus in the morning will negate the effects? There is no sugar or macronutrient content, although it is sweetened with stevia.

Also, would coffee throw a fast off? What about that tablespoon of coffee cream?

Just trying to figure out where to draw the line on these things coffee makes fasting so much easier 🙂

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago

If it has negligible calories then it won’t throw off the fast.

Coffee is great during a fast because it will increase levels of epinephrine and norepiphrene, causing you to feel mentally sharp and calm, as well as increasing your metabolic rate. These hormones are also responsible for burning fat. Can you believe I almost left out that fun fact?

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
Do not use ANY processed grocery store powered or liquid coffee creamers, use full whipping dream or butter as per Dave Asprey’s bulletproofexec butter coffee recipe. For protection from cancer induced by toxic foods you absolutely MUST read the ingredients list on EVERY food you buy, particularly any industrial processed “foods” you may still be using or eating, and THE SINGLE most overlooked product people use on a daily basis is coffee creamers, this stuff is killing huge numbers of Americans & other people around the world. Most coffee creamers are adulterated with partially hydrogenated trans fat soy, corn, coconut,… Read more »
yasmin
yasmin
4 years 6 months ago
Unfortunately, if you check out the shop ethical website, Nestle has a boycott call on all of their products. they employ irrisponsible marketing methods, promote bottled water (you have to have 6000 glasses of tap water to reach the same cost of 1 bottle of bottled water, also, the plastic is not recycled efficiently)Nestle also is responsible for using child labourers, denying workers rights, ties to violence, poor wages for coffee farmers and their also irresponsible users of palm oil. They have been targeted by greenpeace for supporting palm oil production and deforestation in Oraungutan habitats. I believe that now… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks for that, just another reason to stick with the butter coffee.

Karen P.
4 years 6 months ago

I just wrote today on my blog about meeting someone with cancer at Paleo FX and what sorts of thoughts about this lifestyle it prompted in me. I certainly hope for his sake, and all of our sakes, that some of this stuff we’re ardently advocating works.

Tactical111
Tactical111
2 years 11 months ago

Cancerous cells convert to fermentation for their energy from the normal “respiration” or using O2 to burn glucose of a healthy cell. A fermenting cell requires up to 20X the glucose as a normal respirating cell. Therefore, low carb eating and IFing is the natural enemy of cancer cells as you are literally starving them and/or preventing their formation in the first place. Another factor is the body’s PH which high carb diet turns acidic which is the environment cancer “grows” in.

Cin
Cin
4 years 6 months ago

When I had severe pneumonia earlier this year, the first thing to go was my appetite. There I sat in front of Christmas dinner, and I couldn’t eat it.

Did my very first fast last Friday. Planning another one this Friday.

Ham-bone
Ham-bone
4 years 6 months ago

That last quote should have been credited to Buddha…but that would have confused some

Melissa S.
Melissa S.
4 years 6 months ago

I’ve just started trying to get back into a fasting routine and this post really lit a fire under my rear! In my family, I’ve got my dad who had lymphoma, grandparents with a brain tumor and breast cancer and aunts who have had breast and uterine cancer. I originally started fasting to break my current plateau but now I have a whole new motivation. Cancer is the #1 disease I feel like I have to fend off and it’s nice to have a weapon to do it with.

Elyse
Elyse
4 years 6 months ago
Thank you for posting a very timely article for me! My husband is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma and has experienced loss of appetite as a result. At yesterday’s appointment, he was told he lost too much weight and needs to maintain body fat in preparation for the stem cell transplant in May. (The nurse actually recommended daily hot fudge sundaes–AAAAGH!!) My question is… When he was first diagnosed I researched fasting. I remember coming across an article that said it was very effective for certain types of cancer, but not helpful (maybe harmful?) for blood cancers such as multiple… Read more »
Stephanie
Stephanie
4 years 6 months ago
Thank you for mentioning about how blood cancers may react differently. My mother also has multiple myeloma and is about to start the stem cell transplant. I wanted to research this a little more to see if it is something that can benefit her. She also has very little appetite, but from what she says it seems it is because the taste of food is different. Good luck to you and your husband. -Stephanie (also, can I second your “AAAGH!!” at the food they say she should eat which includes “bread, sodas and pastries” and the do not eat list… Read more »
Fatandtired
Fatandtired
4 years 6 months ago
FYI- my mother(66yrs) was diagnosed last year, did the chemo rounds 4 mos, with no side affects, and had stem cell transplant in November last year- never seen her so sick those first few weeks after, but can’t believe how quickly she bounced back! She is doing great and we are so fortunate to live in the present day, medicinally speaking. I wish your husband all the strength in the world as he goes through his “new birthday” (you’ll see). And I might add that you need to make sure you are taking care of yourself while he’s in the… Read more »
pam
pam
4 years 6 months ago
Angela
Angela
4 years 6 months ago
I do a bi-weekly (or every 2 weeks) 24 hour fast. I do this to help clean up metabolic waste, normalize blood sugars, promote healing and to exercise control. I didn’t have much success with fasting when I used to drink coffee. I really feel drinking coffee deletes the benefits of a fast. Your adrenal glands don’t get an opportunity to rest. I have been caffeine free (coffee, tea and chocolate) for a little over a month. It was a life altering decision. I have the same stable energy all day. I do feel hunger more intensely now than when… Read more »
Shawn
Shawn
4 years 6 months ago

I am overdue for this myself. I have done some on and off since reading the Bragg book, Miracle of Fasting, a while back. I lost about 40 or so pounds and have kept it off for 2+ years. I have to agree that fasting is easier than eating less. I did a longer juice fast once and while it wasn’t to bad, I think the juice may have made it a little more difficult.

Julian
Julian
4 years 6 months ago

I’m starting to get into fasting everyday from 8PM-4PM the next day. It seems to work very feel for me when I get accustomed to it. Unfortunately when I fall off the wagon and eat in the morning, subsequent days are harder to fast successfully.

Nick Casteel
Nick Casteel
4 years 6 months ago

I have fasted for a day here and there and always find my energy increases when I fast. I have even done some extreme exercising while fasting, and think I even have more energy for then. I am thinking about adding fasting to my routine, but am trying to figure out the right mix for myself. In any regard, my limited experiences have been very positive.

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago

If you want to fast every day, you can experiment with confining your eating window from anywhere between 8 and 4 hours. You could even do one meal a day if you can eat enough in one sitting.

Also, eating at night and fasting in the morning generally feels better for most people. This is due to naturally elevated cortisol levels in the mornings. If you fast at night, cortisol may be elevated, and you may find it hard to relax and sleep.

Susan b
Susan b
4 years 6 months ago

That explains a lot. I’ve been fasting from last meal on Sunday until Tuesday morning which is around 36 hours. Monday night I can’t sleep at all, even with magnesium and melatonin. I don’t want to give up the whole 36 hours but is there anyway to sleep?

john
4 years 6 months ago

There are lots stress resistance effects of ketogenic diets as well. Can we try to tease out some mechanisms? I suspect it has something to do with alternative “fuels,” protecting mitochondria and maintaining stable energy production.

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cTo
4 years 6 months ago

This is blowing my mind-grapes. It could help explain so many things, from why severe bouts of stress and depression can kill appetite (so your cells can deal with the stress hormones), to why so many cultures have “purifying” fasts before times of physical or emotional trial (again, so your cells can deal with stress hormones and damage better), to the old wives adage, “Feed a fever, starve a cold.”

Johannah
Johannah
4 years 6 months ago
I have a stage IV cancer that has a 5-year survival rate of 5%. I have been the living primal lifestyle except for I do not have energy enough to exercise properly(this could be due to the one drug I am taking – an anti-estrogen medication since my cancer is sensitive to estrogen). Oncology doctors never talk diet it seems. When I ask them, all they say is, “balanced diet with some protein – would you like to see the dietitian?” During Chemo I saw the dietitian, spews the same old CW. I was aware of the rodent studies on… Read more »
Suhail
Suhail
4 years 6 months ago

Johannah as someone who has finished chemo for stage IV hodgkins lymphoma 4 months ago, I think I know how you feel. I wanted to improve my diet while on chemo to combat the lethargy (although it was pretty healthy according to CW). I like you was spewed out the saw CW by the dietatian. Having stumbled across marksdailyapple I experimented and found it helped me alot. I have now been primal for 4 1/2 months and have recovered from the side effects chemo pretty quick suprising my doctors and myself.

Suhail
Suhail
4 years 6 months ago

Johannah as someone who has finished chemo for stage IV hodgkins lymphoma 4 months ago, I think I know how you feel. I wanted to improve my diet while on chemo to combat the lethargy (although it was pretty healthy according to CW). I like you was spewed out the saw CW by the dietatian. Having stumbled across marksdailyapple I experimented and found it helped me alot. I have now been primal for 4 1/2 months and have recovered from the side effects chemo pretty quick suprising my doctors and myself.

Hope you all the best.

Johannah
Johannah
4 years 6 months ago

Suhail,
Thank you. I recovered from chemo well too. They tell me now that except for having cancer, according to my bloodwork I’m pretty healthy which does seem to surprise them. Wishing you great success for the future.

Kate
Kate
4 years 6 months ago

Johannah check out the website chrisbeatcancer.com ! Chris follows the paleo diet and he also has a lot of information about holistic treatments for cancer. Send him an email and he is happy to give advice about what worked for him and other success stories.

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

Here’s a link for that site: http://goo.gl/DJvLC

Johannah
Johannah
4 years 6 months ago

Kate and Cancerclasses,
Thanks for the website info.

Harobe
Harobe
4 years 6 months ago
I have been working on healing my whole body and changing my internal terrain to ward off a breast cancer diagnosis. (I’m 31 years old.) I have not had any conventional treatments other than a biopsy. Part of this decision is due to the fact I was 11 weeks pregnant when diagnosed… now 35 weeks. I was eating primal before the diagnosis, but right after, I was concerned about my level of meat consumption as most alternative cancer diets say to cut out all meat products. (Not sure I agree on that one.) My body craves meat and I pretty… Read more »
Johannah
Johannah
4 years 6 months ago

Harobe,
Thanks and I’ll check out the website. Wishing you a healthy delivery, happy baby and a wonderful future!

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
The secret to maintaining energy and immune system strength when dealing with cancer is FATS & PROTEIN. If you cut out the carbs that simply feed cancer the sugars it needs for energy to grow, all you’re left with is fats & proteins anyway. The only other option is a total food fast, so combining the two can be very effective. If you want to know more about cancer than 95% of the doctors & oncologists who have never even heard of or been taught about Otto Warburg & his Nobel Prize in 1931 for the discovery of the prime… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
You’re right about the paleo diet being naturally highly protective from cancer, and that’s so for several reasons: 1. Cancer is easier to cause than to prevent. All you gotta do is eat a Standard American industrially processed ‘food’ high carb & trans fat loaded diet. The problem is that the latency period for the development of cancers is measured in decades. It’s so gradual that by the time people are diagnosed with cancer they DON’T associate it’s development with what they’ve been eating for the last several decades, so the best time to get off that SAD & processed… Read more »
Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago
I love the appeal to ancient wisdom in the introduction. There is so much our ancestors knew and spoke about, and we take so much of it for granted. My fiancee often feels like skipping meals, and she never feels like eating breakfast. In fact the other night she asked me, “I know it’s dinner-time and I need to eat something, but I just don’t feel like eating. Is that bad?” Being a practicing IF’er myself I told her that it is GOOD for her not to eat when she doesn’t feel like eating. I wonder how many other people… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

There was a time when kids would be sent to bed without dinner for misbehaving or some other offense, but these days parents can get thrown in jail, have their kids taken away by the government and have a REALLY hard time, a permanent record, continued government intrusion & oversight & much expense getting them back for doing that, so if it happens at all anymore I’m sure they’re not talking about it.

Casey
Casey
4 years 6 months ago
I don’t think punishing a kid with (or without) food is the same as fasting, and can cause food issues in a person. But, if a kid just doesn’t want to eat dinner, that’s a totally different thing. I have no problem letting my daughter eat when she wants to eat – even if it isn’t at the same time as us. Sure, I make one meal and she can eat it when she’s hungry. I find she’ll eat a wider variety of foods if she is allowed to wait until she is actually hungry to eat. But, punish her… Read more »
ima_homer
ima_homer
4 years 6 months ago

Just last night I sent one son to bed without supper for not doing the dishes. It’s not going to kill them. I don’t force them to clean their plates either, but I would make them sit for an hour until they at least taseted the food.

John
John
4 years 6 months ago

I am so happy to see this article! I am fasting today and feeling like I am the only one not eating. I fast four times a year at the equinoxes and solstices as well as during religious fasting days such as lent. I do this for health reasons and for building mental, physical and spiritual discipline.

Plus, how much more paleo can you get? I don’t think Grok was always successful in his hunts and spring time is historically the hungry time of the year.

Matthew Caton
4 years 6 months ago

You reminded me of something I wanted to bring up.

If Grok was unsuccessful during a hunt he probably foraged for his calories. Of course hunting provides ten to a hundred times as many calories as foraging, so getting calories from foraging was probably menial. I imagine this is why 15% of calories had a more protective benefit

Sian
4 years 6 months ago

John – what a lovely way to celebrate the seasons. And it’s the spring equinox tomorrow!

Not sure I can cope with fasting during a crazy work day, but I’ll join you by fasting in the evening.

alex
alex
4 years 6 months ago

This evidence strengthens my ability to articulate why it’s beneficial to fast but I was motivated by how good it made me feel even though I don’t need to lose any weight.

TruckerLady
TruckerLady
4 years 6 months ago

Great information here, Mark. I did a 22 hour fast day before yesterday and was happy that it was so easy. My weight loss had stalled at 42 pounds and I still have another 80 to go. I’ve decided to do alternate day fasting for a couple of weeks and see what happens. The anti-cancer effects have strengthened my resolve. Thank you and sending positive thoughts to those suffering from cancers of any type.

Ashley North
Ashley North
4 years 6 months ago

I haven’t been doing any 24 hour fasts or anything but I HAVE been skipping more meals lately. Usually breakfast. I just noticed that I haven’t had to go to the grocery store yet this week and I still have plenty of eggs in the fridge. YAY Eating less=a smaller grocery bill this month. Who knew??

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Doug
Doug
4 years 6 months ago

“It’s an exciting time for fasting and cancer research. While it’s still viewed in most circles as an “alternative” modality”

Did you know the word “alternative” is based on an ancient Greek word that means “Big Pharma can’t make billions of dollars in profit on it”?

Alyssa
Alyssa
4 years 6 months ago

Lol

Keith
Keith
4 years 6 months ago

Loved this. Lol

Anon
Anon
4 years 6 months ago
Intermittent Fasting… I’ll get to the IF in a bit, please hang in there with me. Here’s my story. Lost 120 pounds on Primal, gym and later crossfit (for last 20lbs of the 120 crossfit gets that honot), I was down to 270 (at the time could still use to lose another 20-30) fitting in my old 36 inch pants (admittedly they were just a tad tighter than I would care for but I could at least put them on and not have them bursting at the seams). But no IF, couldn’t do it. Along comes life, stress and some… Read more »
Eric
4 years 6 months ago

I just passed this one on to my dad. Thanks, for bring this up, Mark.

JtC
JtC
4 years 6 months ago
“do the potential cancer benefits motivate and drive you?” After reading that post, it certainly is an additional motivating factor. I fast for spiritual growth and only recently began fasting for the physical benefits. I am VERY careful to keep the two seperate!! This is why I am a little more excited about fasting after reading this post, Mark: I’m 48. My mom and dad both died of cancer. My dad when he was only 40. 18 months ago I had colon surgery for severe displaysia. The doc said there is a good chance I wouldn’t have seen my 50th… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
And eat plenty of good staurated animal fats, primarily BUTTER! From Wikipedia re butyrate: “Butyrates are important as food for cells lining the mammalian colon (colonocytes). Without butyrates for energy, colon cells undergo autophagy (self digestion) and die.[1] Short-chain fatty acids, which include butyrate, are produced by beneficial colonic bacteria (probiotics) that feed on, or ferment prebiotics, which are plant products that contain adequate amounts of dietary fiber. These short-chain fatty acids benefit the colonocyte by increasing energy production,and cell proliferation and may protect against colon cancer(2).” It’s been known for years that people that avoid good fats have the… Read more »
JtC
JtC
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks, cc! I’ve been enjoying bacon and bullet-proof coffee ever since I happened upon Mark’s site. Also, I’ve started cooking my steaks with butter.

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

Way to go. Low fat kills, lots’a fat = lots of energy & life.

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

And from Wikipedia search, Butyric Acid (as found in butter):

“Cancer And Life Span
The role of butyrate changes differs between normal and cancerous cells. This is known as the “butyrate paradox”. Butyrate inhibits colonic tumor cells, and promotes healthy colonic epithelial cells;[11] but the signaling mechanism is not well understood.[12] A review suggested the chemopreventive benefits of butyrate depend in part on amount, time of exposure with respect to the tumorigenic process, and the type of fat in the diet.[8]”

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

Here’s the link for that: http://goo.gl/01UFz

kerri
kerri
4 years 6 months ago

Would there be a way to implement the cancer-chemo benefit of fasting for a person who is not overweight and maybe on the line for being underweight?

cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

Yeah, do a carb fast, meaning eat lots of good fats & some good animal proteins but nothing made IN an industrial plant, just plants & animals that eat plants.

Jennifer
Jennifer
4 years 6 months ago
Absolutely! Just make sure to eat your maintenance calories (or above) during your eating window. For example, if you maintain bodyweight at 2000 cal/day and you fast for 16 hours every day, just make sure to eat at least 2000 calories during your 8 hour eating window every day. Or, if you want to do alternate day fasts, look at your calorie intake over a week long period. If you only eat every other day (and your maintenance is again say 2000) make sure your calorie intake adds up to 14,000 (or more) over a 7 day period and you… Read more »
Robin
Robin
4 years 6 months ago
I started lifting weights 6 months ago and paleo dieting soon after. To my dismay, I didn’t find myself losing the post-two-babies weight I wanted to lose. I told my trainer I think I must be ‘immune’ to weight loss. That’s when he told me about fasting. I love it so much. Having 2 little kids at home, there is no way on earth I would give up coffee or wine, both are essential parts of my day, so I drink a couple of cups of coffee in the morn, fast all day, and then at dinner have whatever I… Read more »
JtC
JtC
4 years 6 months ago

“Having 2 little kids at home, there is no way on earth I would give up coffee or wine, both are essential parts of my day”

I LOVE that, Robin!! And congrats on the weight loss.

KM
KM
4 years 6 months ago

Robin, how often did you fast? i’ve just started fasting and have done 2 24 hour fasts in the past week or so, i just dont know how often i need to fast in order to get rid of the extra 40lbs im carrying!

Tiffanie
Tiffanie
4 years 6 months ago

As someone who just finished a year-long immunotherapy for Stage IIb Nodular Malignant Melanoma, I can attest that during the first month of treatment, IV Infusion 5x a week for 4 weeks, my side effects were definitely better on the days when I did not eat before or after. I will point out however that it only helped with the digestive part, not the fatigue. I am a firm believer that your body knows what it needs and when!

DigbyDe
DigbyDe
4 years 6 months ago

Animals fast when ill–we’re animals. I water-only fast at least a couple times a year from 5-10 days just to clean out the accumulated micro-junk. I’ve said for years that if I get cancer my first move will be to fast. Fasting allows the body to do repair when not over-burdened by digestion, which for much of the population is nearly constant.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
4 years 6 months ago

Paleo has allowed me to endure a pre-op 12-hour fast that turned into a 16-hour fast–it took the docs an extra 4 hours to get their shit together to remove a large splinter that had lodged parallel to my finger bone.

Happy thing was: no pain afterward. I tore up and threw away the prescription they wrote for Oxy when they sent me home. Not bad for MY FIRST SURGERY EVER! I think next time I’ll do the fast WITHOUT the finger surgery–I already eat only twice daily, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

charles grashow
charles grashow
4 years 6 months ago
http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/7/1/33 Metabolic management of glioblastoma multiforme using standard therapy together with a restricted ketogenic diet: Case Report This is the first report of confirmed GBM treated with standard therapy together with a restricted ketogenic diet. As rapid regression of GBM is rare in older patients following incomplete surgical resection and standard therapy alone, the response observed in this case could result in part from the action of the calorie restricted ketogenic diet. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01853.x/pdf Targeting energy metabolism in brain cancer with calorically restricted ketogenic diets Our results in mice with brain tumors together with previous studies in children with malignant astrocytoma… Read more »
Dawn
Dawn
4 years 6 months ago

Hooray! As a melanoma survivor, and someone who wants to stay cancer-free for the rest of my life, I really appreciated this article! I haven’t really implemented fasting in my regular regimen, but when I do feel “off,” the first thing I do is not eat.

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kip ortiz
kip ortiz
4 years 6 months ago
My quick question is: has anyone heard of IPT (insulin potentiation therapy). In short, cancer cells feed on gluclose, and are most vulnerable to chemo after feeding and preparing to divide/split into two cells. I have read articles with research that IPT before chemo accomplished two things: 1) chemo was much more effective b/c of cancer cells vulnerability while splitting, 2) dosages of half the amount of chemo or less used with IPT were way more effective then full dosages of chemo without IPT. I was obviously wondering about the possibility of combining a pre-fast with IPT before chemo to… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago
Yes, have heard of IPT and a carbohydrate restricted or ketogenic high fat & protein diet would be a requisite part of & enhance IPT so as to target and direct the chemotherapy drugs to the cancer cells specifically. If there’s anything to the theory at all it’s that IPT works by taking advantage of the fact that cancer cells do in fact have 6 to 10 times more insulin receptors than normal tissues, along with the fact that cancer cells have high glycolytic rates & requirement for sugars due to their use of the glycolysis process for energy production.… Read more »
cancerclasses
4 years 6 months ago

…how cancer operates. Damn Auto Correct. 🙂

hummingbird
hummingbird
4 years 6 months ago
I use modified alternate day fasting combined with a small eating window every day, primarily for weight loss right now, but have come to realize that I am very comfortable with the situation. I eat about 500 cals on low calorie days and 1500-1800 the rest of the time. On the low days, I don’t have anything but coffee and HWC until about 4:00 pm and generally delay eating till 8:00 in the morning or later the next day–about 12-16 hour fasting period every day. I am looking to increase the fasting hours. I feel great! I prefer the lower… Read more »
rik
rik
4 years 6 months ago

interesting post. I recently have started eating less because I just wanted to.

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