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Fasting & Chemotherapy

How to eliminate nausea, increase energy, protect DNA and healthy cells while weakening cancer cells making chemotherapy even more effective!!!!

by Lisa O’Gorman, CEC

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It’s hard to believe as I write this, in two weeks it will be a year since I started the strongest available, dose dense chemotherapy for breast cancer. It still feels very surreal and happy to say it is all in the “rear view” mirror now. I’m hoping that the title of this blog caught your attention and that you will hear me thru as to achieve the above claims. When I brought this to the attention to my oncologist, who was head oncologist for breast cancer at Sloan Kettering in Norwalk, CT, she was not familiar with the studies and was very dismissive about it. Basically, I was on my own which fueled my enthusiasm to give it a go.

It was shortly before I was to start chemo, that my best friend sent me an article: Bauersfeld et al. BMC Cancer (2018) 18:476 about the effects of short term fasting with chemotherapy for gynecological cancers and its effect on health and well-being of the person receiving it. There were several things that caught my eye and got me excited about committing to give it a try. The first thing was the findings that “short-term fasting (STF) protects healthy cells against the adverse effects of chemotherapy while making tumor cells more vulnerable to it” Even though I had the tumor removed before receiving chemotherapy, I figured any cancer cells that might be hiding didn’t stand a chance and I was showing appreciation to my healthy cells that were keeping me going. The study involved a group of women undergoing chemo for breast cancer that was divided into two groups. One group started their chemo with the short-term fasting protocol and the other group ate as usual. Then they would switch, and the fasting group would eat as normal and the eating group would fast. When it came time for the changeover, some of the women who were following the fasting protocol refused to eat as usual and dropped out of the study. I was hooked. Nausea and vomiting are known factors in every chemotherapy. Personally, I am AFRAID to vomit and would do anything to avoid it! I had been doing intermittent fasting prior to my diagnosis and that was helpful in making the transition to short-term fasting during chemotherapy. Nobody likes to eat more than I do and I understand why it isn’t a popular voluntary thing to do but I highly recommend it based on my positive experience.

So, what is short-term fasting to achieve all these amazing benefits? The fasting period starts 36 hours before chemotherapy and ends 24 hours after the chemotherapy infusion ends resulting in a total fasting period of 60 hours. During the fasting period, one is allowed unlimited amounts of clean filtered water, herbal tea, vegetable juice, vegetable broth with a total calorie intake of 350 calories. As always, speak with your doctor about your decision to do this and make sure it is appropriate and healthy for you. If you choose to adapt this protocol, I highly recommend that you also speak with the pharmacist to make sure the drugs you will be getting can me mixed with something other than a Dextrose solution. Imagine my surprise (and anger!!) when despite having sugar, dextrose, and gluten as allergens in my medical records, the second drug in my first round of chemo arrived in a dextrose solution. After I made them stop the infusion, I was told by the pharmacist that the drug HAD to mixed with dextrose or it would clog the port. After explaining to him that me not having sugar or dextrose was not a “diet” issue and that I could go blind if I had it (based on a previous experience and health challenge), he agreed to finding out if the drug could be mixed with something other than dextrose for the next round and I unwillingly continued with the infusion. I appreciated him for looking into an alternative solution to dispense the drug in. Much to his surprise, it was possible to dilute it in a non-dextrose solution which is what I got for the rest of my treatments. I have not had any sugar, dextrose or gluten for over nine years because of their inflammatory properties and other health issues I have been cured of. This is not a diet to me but rather a way of life. I mentioned this to my oncologist at the time and her response was very disappointing. She mumbled something about their “standard operating procedures”. Needless to say, I changed doctors shortly after this.

You will probably be advised to eat something before your chemo infusion to settle your stomach. Being in my fasting mindset I quickly dismissed this advice. After the first time, I revised when I ate on infusion days. I would recommend that even if you choose to fast, you have some of your calories before treatment. When I first started treatments fasting, I would get stomach pains from all the anti-nausea drugs that they pump you up with at the beginning of the infusion. I asked the pharmacist if I could skip them since I was fasting and not one bit nauseous. He said that there was no way to not get them prior without getting sick. After that conversation, I would have ¼ cup raw organic rolled oats cooked with ¾ cup water prior to treatment. That was just enough to buffer my stomach from all the pre drugs that were administered and kept me in the desired calorie range.

My personal experience with fasting and chemotherapy was quite successful. I was NEVER nauseous, was able to exercise and had a very good quality of life for the duration. Yes, I had many different side effects depending which drug was cycling thru, yes, it got uncomfortable at times, but I knew they would pass, and I don’t remember anything being debilitating. Being able to maintain my workouts even on a less intense level kept my body, brain and attitude in check.

In his book The Longevity Diet, Valter Longo, PhD, talks about fasting mimicking diet. This is a method of fasting with more than the 350 calories of the previous study. This plan is low in proteins and sugars and rich in healthy fats with a similar outcome. He explains the effect of fasting makes healthy cells create a barrier to protect them from chemotherapy drugs and weakens cancer cells making treatment much more effective. He also recommends doing fasting mimicking for a few days during the year to clean out cancer cells that every healthy individual has thousands of. In his book, he explains in depth how the fasting improves the health and metabolism of cells and how fasting promotes cancer cell death.

I don’t know if fasting with chemotherapy has become more mainstream in the last year. Regardless, I hope this has created an interest for you and you can have a conversation with your doctor if you think you want to give it a try.

Wishing you Health and Vitality in your journey!!


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