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There have been many questions on the role fasting plays in the fight against cancer and during cancer treatment.
Different studies suggest that fasting can help fight cancer by lowering the resistance of insulin and also helps in fighting the side effects of chemotherapy.
Scientists also believe that fasting can make cancer cells more responsive to chemo and at the same time protect blood and other cells from the harsh side effects of chemotherapy treatment.
Below are some of the positive effects fasting has on cancer and chemotherapy treatment.
1. It improves insulin sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to extract glucose from the body and use it as energy.
When there is food available in the body, the cells become less sensitive to insulin and create insulin resistance, meaning the cells will no longer respond to insulin signals which will lead to high levels of glucose in the blood and higher storage of fat.
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The body tries to conserve as much energy as possible when it doesn't have enough food and this task is only accomplished by making the cell membranes more sensitive to insulin.
During fasting, cells metabolize insulin more effectively and remove glucose from the blood.
When there is better insulin sensitivity in the body, it makes the conditions harder for any cancer cells to grow and develop.
2. Reverses effects of chronic illnesses
Type 2 diabetes and obesity have been said to be some of the risk factors of cancer and they are both linked to people being at a higher risk of getting multiple types of cancers and having low survival rates.
A case study carried out in 2017 that looked at the effects of intermittent fasting on type 2 diabetes showed that after a period of four months, the patient who participated had a 17.8 percent in weight reduction and had reduced their waist sizes as well.
The study showed that after two months of constant short term fasting, the type 2 diabetes patients no longer needed insulin treatment after only two months.
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3. It promotes autophagy
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Autophagy is a cellular process where parts of cells break down for reuse later. This process is critical for maintaining the proper functioning of cells and it helps defend cells in the body. Autophagy also plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Different studies and tests carried out in mice showed that the lack of autophagy leads to one having lower levels of important tumour suppressing genes.
Even though having low autophagy can enable a tumour formation, this is not exactly responsible for the growth and spreading of a malignant tumour.
4. Improves response to chemo during treatment
Scientists believe that fasting tends to improve one's response to chemotherapy because it promotes cellular regeneration, reduces the impact of chemo side effects and it protects the blood against harmful effects of chemo.
A study carried out in 2018 that used a 60 hour fasting period for testing, and started 36 hour before the start of chemo sessions discovered that fasting can help improve the quality of life of cancer patients undergoing chemo treatment for ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
The result of the research showed that the patients who were fasting during chemotherapy had reported a higher tolerance to chemo and had fewer side effects to the treatment and had high energy levels.
5. Boosts the immune system to help it fight cancer
A study conducted in 2014 that focused on whether fasting produces any cancer fighting effects in mice stem cells as stem cells are important because of their regenerative ability revealed that fasting for two to four days could protect stem cells against negative effect of chemotherapy on the immune system.
The study also revealed that fasting activated stem cells in the immune system in order to renew them and enable them to repair themselves.
According to the study, fasting does not only reduce the damage to the cells but it also replenishes white blood cells and replenishes the damaged ones.
When white blood cells levels drops due to chemotherapy, it affects the immune system since white blood cells are meant to fight infections and destroy any cells that cause diseases, which leaves one exposed to infections since the body has a harder time fighting any infection.
When fasting, the number of white blood cells tend to reduce but the number goes up once the fasting period is over and the body gets the right amount of food.
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