By Tegan Marshall, Clinical Naturopath

Rates of pancreatic, liver and endometrial cancers are on the rise and it has been found that obesity and diabetes drive these cancers. Cancer occurs due to damaged mitochondria (the organelle inside almost every cell inside your body that produces energy). As the mitochondria becomes damaged (from environmental triggers) the energy of a cell can no longer be maintained, DNA repair processes are in turn slowed down (because they require a lot of energy) and DNA becomes damaged by DNA breaks.

This activates oncogenes that transition a normal cell into a cancer cell. Once this transition has occurred the cells new identity requires 100-200x more glucose than normal cells. And because the mitochondria is damaged & dysfunctional and can no longer produce energy very well, the cell converts to glycolysis (a quick way of utilising a lot of glucose to create energy). Glucose is converted to lactate which is now the cells main energy source and it is also an acid. This acidic environment in and around the cell is highly inflammatory and it prevents the immune system from recognising the tumour. And THIS is why you need to be on a therapeutic ketogenic type diet under guidance of a health professional when you have cancer!

ALL carbohydrate sources are converted to glucose upon being digested. You have to restrict carbohydrates in order to remove the cancers energy source. Glucose drives cancer growth and turns on pathways that should not be on (in both healthy and cancer cells). Nutritional ketosis or exogenous ketones lowers blood glucose, resulting in a decrease in glycolysis and removing the cancers source of fuel.

Intermittent fasting, keto and calorie restriction combined with other treatments (both conventional, and complementary – for example IV Vitamin C, hyperbaric oxygen) are highly indicated for cancer survival. Keto, IV Vitamin C and Hyperbaric Oxygen therapies used together stimulate production of oxygen free radicals that cause cancer cells to make reactive oxygen species and kill itself from the inside out. If you’re utilising conventional treatments, inflammation in normal healthy tissue skyrockets leaving you more susceptible to more cancer – the keto diet makes cancer cells more vulnerable to treatment and protects healthy cells.

You MUST ensure you are consuming enough calories overall to avoid cachexia. And you also must ensure that you are not consuming foods that drive insulin growth factor (animal products – particularly dairy and red meat). A ‘typical’ keto diet promotes eating a lot of dairy and red meat and this is why you need to work with a practitioner to ensure that you are consuming a healthy keto style diet with the correct amount of protein, healthy fats and minimal carbohydrates that also optimises prebiotic fibres to support your gut microbiome. Further, if you have existing liver issues you definitely need to work with a practitioner as keto increases fat metabolism which requires increased load on the liver and your practitioner will be able to work with you to support your liver function and adjust your fat:protein intake as necessary. It is also important to note that it can take weeks to months to become comfortable with low blood glucose, especially if you are coming off having elevated fasting blood glucose. Another important reason to work with a practitioner who can guide you gently into the keto diet. Finally, keto should be done on a rotational basis of 3 weeks on and 3 weeks off. The timing of this should be worked appropriately into your treatment schedule by your practitioner.

For cancer prevention, intermittent fasting for 3-5 days per month stimulates autophagy and mitophagy (cell clean-up and repair mechanisms) which assists the body to purge itself of pre-cancerous cells.

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