Fasting may sound like a drastic measure for the average person, but scientists have found that there are a variety of benefits that could make it worthwhile. While fasting is typically used as a fast and effective weight loss method, it has now been found to help reboot the immune system and assist in creating a more effective chemotherapy experience for cancer patients.
So what exactly does fasting mean? It describes refraining from food or drinks, aside from water, for a certain period of time. The key to a successful fast is to drink a lot of water in order to substitute food. Abstaining from food for even two days has been found to have positive effects on the immune system by causing it to reboot and regenerate. This helps the body with fighting infections and other issues. University of Southern California scientists stated that their research shows that people with weak immune systems, such as the elderly or cancer patients, can benefit from a period of fasting.
For a period of six months, studies were conducted on humans and mice for a two to four days at a time in order to thoroughly research the benefits of fasting. In both humans and mice, prolonged periods of fasting showed a significant reduction in white blood cells. When it came to the mice, every fasting cycle “flipped a regenerative switch” that stimulated stem cell regeneration of fresh white blood cells, which renewed the body’s defense and immune system.
The University of Southern California’s Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences, Valter Longo, stated that,” It gives the OK for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system. And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.”
He included that, “Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.” They also found that fasting lowered levels of the PKA enzyme. Reducing levels of this enzyme have been found to improve longevity, aging, cancer risk and the progression of tumors.
A clinical trial also found that fasting for 4 days before chemotherapy helped protect patients from toxicity. The University of Southern California’s assistant professor of clinical medicine, Tanya Dorff, added, “While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy. More clinical studies are needed, and any such dietary intervention should be undertaken only under the guidance of a physician.”
Further studies are currently being conducted by researchers to examine the correlation between stem cell regeneration and diet. “We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” said Professor Longo. He added, “We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system.”
This research is very significant for anyone who is suffering from diseases such as AIDS, cancer or other immune system illnesses. Individuals who are also interested in living a longer life that is free of disease and signs of aging could also be interested in the outcome of these studies. It will still take some time until the outcome is deemed feasible because the studies are still in their clinical trial phase. Further studies must be conducted in order to find out the effectiveness of fasting for cancer patients and if there are any unwanted side effects in the long run.
The University of Chicago’s Dr. Mark Ratain recently found that consuming food might in fact accelerate the efficiency of particular oral cancer medications. It could also mean that lower doses of medication can be effective.
Medical fasting has been used for thousands of years as a therapeutic treatment. It even dates back to Hippocrates, who encouraged fasting and spoke of its ability to stimulate the body into self-healing. Despite the initial results of clinical trials and studies, researchers state that further research is required until results are conclusive.