keto To Stay Alive With Cancer

Yes, the title of this blog entry is provocative, it is provocative for a reason.

I am tired of hearing about cancer patients dying because they were told there was nothing they could do, or they agreed to the standard treatment even if that treatment didn’t have good statistics associated with it.

It is important to understand how cancer cells proliferate in order to understand why something so simple as staying on a ketogenic diet can keep cancer at bay.

All cells require fuel to produce ATP for energy and proliferation. Under a normal western modern-day diet, that fuel is glucose. Under conditions of extremely low carbohydrate and moderate protein intake, that fuel is fat.

All cells but cancer cells can utilize ketone bodies (specific fats) as their fuel source. Cancer cells require 19 times the amount of glucose as a normal cell for their ATP production. They can only use this one pathway to fuel production. When serum glucose levels drop below 80, cancer cells start having difficulty staying alive, let alone dividing.

In instances of low fat and high carb dieting, when someone misses a meal, they often feel weak and dizzy. But when eating a high fat diet with very low carbs, that bad feeling is not there, even when missing a meal. It’s not there because their brain is happy with ample fuel for activity. That fuel is fat.

Almost all of my cancer patients come to me thinking they haven’t been eating too many carbs, but almost all of them have signs of insulin resistance, including higher than normal fasting glucose levels and difficulty bringing their serum glucose levels below 80 on the “induction” phase of the keto diet.

Until very recently, American institutions had not been looking at ketogenic dieting as a way to treat cancer or to boost treatments. That is changing and quite rapidly. It is changing because patients are showing up to their oncologist’s office alive, well past the predicted time given. It’s changing because many patients are breezing thru treatments, surpassing the other patients on the same protocols. Oncologists are starting to pay attention.

Researchers in biochemistry and nutrition have been looking at this for years and couldn’t get the oncologists to notice. They are starting to notice.

Thomas Seyfried, a PHD researcher at Boston College has been working with glioblastoma patients and ketogenic diets. He has patients alive more than ten years out.In all other instances, glioblastoma patients are dead by the three year mark. Dr. Seyfried has been studying and publishing on this topic for many years and has been a leader in the US in terms of research regrading ketogenic diets for cancer abatement.
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A university in Germany has performed a large scale study looking at outcomes with cancer patients, in general, comparing glucose restricted ketogenic diets vs the addition of ketone fats (medium chained trigyceride oil) without the glucose restriction. The results showed, glucose restriction is necessary in order for cancer burden to be reduced.

According to Seyfried, in some cases, tumors can shrink by as much as 25% for every two weeks that patient is in ketosis. The caveat is that one can never go back to using glucose as their primary fuel source. They must stay on the alternative fuel source. While this sounds difficult, it isn’t. Nor, is it unpleasant. I have been on a ketogenic diet for almost a full year, feeling wonderful.

Many of my patients feel better than ever while on the keto diet, even if they are undergoing chemo. I have many types of patients who chose to be on a ketogenic diet just for the health benefits.

An added benefit of going keto for cancer is that previous medical issues like diabetes (type2) and high blood pressure, are all reversed very quickly. Even dementia can be reversed by switching to a ketogenic diet as most cases of dementia are actually insulin resistance of the brain cells.

It is important to note that in many cases, chemotherapy does not work. And, the steroids necessary for chemo, can add to increasing serum glucose levels thereby feeding the tumor. But even if the tumor initially shrinks from chemotherapy, which is common, steroids add to the insulin resistance and in the long term could be adding to the tendency to nurture a cancer.

It is vitally important to understand the treatments and outcomes presented by the Oncologist. I hear many patients say “I want to do everything” but if some of “everything” is actually adding to the very thing which created the cancer, it is not worth doing. An example of this is how breast cancer patients were once treated with the full Monty; radical mastectomy, chemo,radiation and bone marrow transplant. The thinking was everything should be thrown at the patient. It wasn’t until this was closely looked at by comparing the outcomes with patients who didn’t receive everything. Once this was examined, the outcomes showed patients were actually dying unnecessarily, from treatment.

Ketogenic dieting seems to enhance chemotherapy when chemo is warranted. addition, metformin, a drug which reduces insulin resistance, seems to enhance tumor reduction when taken along with a ketogenic diet.

Whether one chooses to use ketogenic, glucose restricted dieting as their sole treatment or complement it with other sound treatments, it is important the diet is started under supervision of a physician who is trained in ketogenic dieting for health reasons. The first few days of induction can be problematic and often patients who have high blood pressure, find their blood pressure lowered naturally. Spontaneous lowered blood pressure can be an issue if the patient is on medication to lower blood pressure, leaving the patient feeling faint.

In most cases, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and inflammation, will all be reversed, and fairly quickly. But the most important change is in cases with measurable tumor burden, and reducing tumor burden while the insulin resistance isn’t so out of control rendering the process impossible.

I think the Ketogenic lifestyle is not only here to stay, but is the next gluten free.

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