Based on a lecture by Marth Tettenborn, RD, in Nutrition Network’s Cancer Training

Reviewed by Tamzyn Murphy RD, MSc

In the realm of cancer treatment, innovative approaches that complement traditional methods like chemotherapy are gaining attention. In Nutrition Network’s Cancer Training, Martha Tettenborn, a registered dietitian and ovarian cancer survivor, shares her journey and professional insights into the integration of fasting with chemotherapy in cancer treatment. Tettenborn aims to educate healthcare practitioners on the benefits, mechanisms, and implementation of fasting in conjunction with chemotherapy for cancer patients.

Understanding the Benefits of Fasting

Tettenborn begins by discussing her personal journey with ovarian cancer and the anxiety she experienced upon facing chemotherapy treatment. She explains how her interest in low carb healthy fat and ketogenic lifestyles led her to explore alternative strategies to support her treatment journey. Tettenborn highlights the multifaceted benefits of fasting during chemotherapy, including its ability to deepen ketosis, stress cancer cells, and downregulate healthy cell metabolism.

Safety and Feasibility of Fasting

Addressing concerns about the safety and feasibility of fasting alongside chemotherapy, Tettenborn references research conducted by Dr. Valter Longo and his team. She discusses studies that demonstrate the safety and potential efficacy of fasting in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy, emphasizing the importance of maintaining chemotherapy effectiveness while minimizing side effects. Tettenborn highlights the positive outcomes reported by cancer patients who incorporated fasting into their treatment regimens.

Implementation Considerations

Tettenborn emphasizes the importance of individualized implementation based on factors such as chemotherapy timing and the patient’s health status. She provides guidance on designing fasting protocols tailored to different chemotherapy schedules, including extended fasts prior to chemotherapy administration and intermittent fasting strategies for daily oral chemotherapy regimens. Tettenborn also discusses the importance of ensuring adequate nutritional intake during non-fasting periods to prevent weight loss and maintain overall health.

Exploring Fasting Schedules for Different Chemotherapy Regimens

For chemotherapy administered every 2-3 weeks, Tettenborn recommends a fasting protocol that includes a 72-hour fast prior to chemotherapy, followed by regular food intake during the non-fasting period. This approach allows for extended fasting periods while ensuring sufficient recovery time between treatments.

For weekly chemotherapy regimens, Tettenborn suggests a shorter fasting period of 24 hours prior to chemotherapy, followed by regular food intake after chemotherapy administration. This intermittent fasting schedule helps minimize side effects while maintaining nutritional adequacy.

For daily oral chemotherapy regimens, Tettenborn suggests incorporating intermittent fasting by scheduling medication intake at the end of a fasting window and waiting an additional hour before eating. While evidence for this approach is limited, Tettenborn suggests it as a potential strategy for minimizing side effects.

Martha Tettenborn’s insights underscore the potential of fasting as a complementary strategy to enhance chemotherapy outcomes and improve the overall cancer journey for patients. By understanding the benefits, mechanisms, and implementation considerations of fasting in cancer treatment, healthcare practitioners can empower their patients to explore personalized approaches that optimize their cancer treatment experience. Tettenborn’s lecture provides valuable guidance for healthcare practitioners seeking to integrate fasting into cancer treatment protocols, paving the way for improved outcomes and enhanced patient care in oncology practice.

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