Therapeutic fasting isn’t a new concept – in fact, it was invented some time ago thanks to its immune boosting abilities. Fasting works as the body can heal itself quickly when not interrupted. The process boosts the healing of the body and works against a variety of health problems, and there are several studies which have confirmed that fact.
The science behind fasting
Although experts have known that fasting can accelerate the healing process of the body for a long time, science has only now uncovered how it works on a cellular level. Recent studies have shown that fasting for a couple of days, the body’s glycogen levels are depleted. This activates advanced processes and pathways that help the body conserve energy in order to fuel vital organs.
These mechanisms may have a variety of side-effects. One study showed that fasting can support the immune system during chemotherapy, but it can also help it regenerate in healthy people.
In animal studies, fasting has protected mice from the toxicity of chemotherapy without harming the effects of the treatment. There are reports of cancer patient on chemo who claim that fasting is the only thing that helped them not experience the harsh side-effects of the treatment.
Fasting helped mice regenerate cells
The previously mentioned animal study was done on mice and confirmed that fasting can reduce DNA damage and lower the risk of death from chemotherapy. After a few cycles of chemotherapy along with fasting, the mice had increased white blood cell count and improved production of HSC cells, which are produced by the bone marrow and increase the level of all blood cells including the white blood cells. The healthy mice in the study experienced improved regeneration of cells, and their HSC profile looked significantly better as well.
The scientists didn’t expect these results. According to one of the leaders of the study, Dr. Valter Longo, it seems like the body “eliminated its old parts during the fasting, and grew a new immune system almost from scratch!” Even more surprising, the study found out that one of the main factors behind the cell regeneration was reduced insulin-like growth factor 1. Low levels of this factor have been associated with lower risk of cancer and slower aging as well.
Would it work on humans?
That’s the big question. The scientists were allowed a small-scale study on chemotherapy patients who were told to fast 24-72 hours before a chemotherapy cycle. The results were similar to the mice study, as their cells effectively became “younger”. Fasting actually helped regenerate their immune system thanks to the body’s use of fat and glucose stores and the regeneration of immune system cells.
According to Tanya Dorff from the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center who was also a co-lead on the study, these findings can become the basis for a supplemental therapy to chemotherapy which could negate its negative side-effects. The study is very interesting, and gives chemotherapy patients a new hope of fighting the terrible disease.