14 May 2012

Fasting and curry – good for you, bad for cancer!

Thought for the day

Prayer is asking
Meditation is listening

Fasting may help chemo, kill cancer

It has been really tiresome defending the cancer diet I recommend against claims of it causing weight lose and being dangerous. New research suggests that the real problem may be we have not been going far enough. Full on fasting may be the way to go!

In around 2008, research emerged that suggested starvation or fasting in animals for two or three days was a useful part of treatment against cancer. There have been anecdotal stories of people emerging from concentration camps, emaciated but with the cancers they went in with completely resolved. Doubters suggested fasting assisted the cancer.

However, recent experiments reported on The ABC's Science Show have suggested fasting makes things worse for the cancer, especially when assisted by chemotherapy. Chemotherapy and fasting appear to be synergistic.

Valter Longo at the University of Southern California investigated 18 different types of cancers in animals, showing that if you starve the cancer for a few days before and after you hit it with chemo, the results are twice as good. Also in some cases, for example breast cancer, cycles of fasting were working as well as chemotherapy.

In neuroblastoma, a very aggressive childhood cancer, the fasting alone did a little bit, not very much, the chemo alone did a little bit, not very much, but when combined the results showed 20% to 40% long-term cancer-free survival.

The great majority of the cancers tested showed that either fasting alone or fasting plus chemo was consistently better than the chemo alone.

Clinical trials in humans started two years ago, and in the next couple of months the researchers will know whether it is safe or not. And the good news is that if it is safe and it is free, then it is up to the oncologist, together with the patient, to decide if this is something that might be worth trying right now, even before the clinical trial is finished.

So why does it work? The researchers contend that normal cells are very well adapted to starvation conditions, they know exactly what to do and they can manage for a long time. Cancer cells have no idea.

The researchers go on to point out that much of modern cancer research and treatment was aimed at developing a magic bullet; something that specifically kills the cancer cell. This magic bullet has not been found, so now mainstream attention has shifted to personalized, specific treatments.

However, what these researchers are looking at is different again. They are working with basic confusion. Cancer cells are a little bit less able to adapt to different environments, and starvation is one of the most extreme environments that you can encounter. The researchers think the cancer cells are dying because they are confused, they do not understand the starvation environment. They try to respond by activating all kinds of pathways, for example they try to make more proteins, even though they are starving. And so in this process they commit suicide.

Valter Longo said on the Science Show that the researchers think “it would be good for a patient to go to their oncologist and say, you know, maybe I'm running out of options, things are not working, or I'm extremely concerned about the side-effects. So that patient should be able to go to an oncologist and say what about this. And our hope is that the oncologist picks up some papers and does some reading and then determines whether this is premature based on the condition of the patient, or is something that they could do”.

Asked by Robin Williams “Is there a bounce-back effect, in other words where you've got slightly starvation reduced cancers and they've been knocked on the head by chemotherapy as well, but there's a lingering few cells, can they then bounce back if the treatment is reduced?”

Valter Longo replied “That's what usually happens with the chemotherapy alone. What we're seeing is that when you add the fasting, that is much less likely to happen, probably because you give that extra push. So now you have a population of cells, each one of them...the chemotherapy itself actually creates variation. So it generates in some sense...it can generate the one cell that then can escape and become resistant, and then you're in trouble if you get the resistant cell. What we're showing is that the fasting increases the chance that that one resistant sale is never generated, and if it is generated, it dies.”

Robyn Williams ended with: “It's exciting stuff, isn't it”.

Ian’s comments

What I like so much about this interesting research is the similarity in approach to the Healing Diet I have recommended for many years where one of the main principles has been to create a “cancer unfriendly” environment in the body by manipulating the body’s metabolism nutritionally.

However, thinking fasting may have been too severe for people affected with cancer, we have recommended the monodiet, a partial fast where some nutritional input is maintained. Results reported over years have been good, but has anyone been fasting and have their experiences to share?

If you are interested in the monodiet etc, listen to the material on the CD “Eating for Recovery”, and I have added quite a deal to the new edition of “You Can Conquer Cancer” which should be released in about 6 mths..

Does curry kill cancer?

Well not curry in general, but maybe turmeric gives it a good shake! Curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric, has been linked to a range of health benefits. Studies have already shown that it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory and benefits have been suggested in stroke and dementia patients as well.

Now a trial at hospitals in Leicester will be investigating giving curcumin alongside chemotherapy drugs. The trial will compare the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment.

Prof William Steward, from Leicester University, who is leading the study, said animal tests combining the two were "100 times better" than either on their own and that had been the "major justification for cracking on" with the trial.

"The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer.

"This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future."

Ian’s comment

This research builds on what has been suggested for a good while, turmeric has specific anti-cancer properties. It is one of the top ten anti-cancer foods we have recommended for years. The best way to take it from what we know so far is to use the fresh herb (use the dried powder if you cannot obtain this) and add it to meals. Around 5gms per day seems to be the recommended amount, and happily, you can easily eat this in a normal meal. Adding black pepper at the same time is reported to enhance the effect considerably. Tumeric can also be added to juices.


Body weight and cancer  Where the question of weight loss and gain and how it relates to cancer is discussed in detail

Eating for recovery  Where the importance of nutrition to cancer recovery is discussed, along with recommendations

There are many other blogs on cancer and nutrition, including some recipes - check the nutrition tag.


1. WEBINAR with IAN 

 Tuesday 15th July at 8.00pm EST.

The topic is Mindfulness, it is free but you need to register via the Mindbody Mastery website

 I will be talking about the two types of mindfulness and why are both important to learn and practice, we will do some practice together, and you can ask questions online that I will answer. You need to register via the above link, it starts at 8pm EST and goes for one hour.

2. Workshops in Melbourne only 2 weeks away: 

Sat & Sun July 26 & 27,  Hawthorn

The Mind that Changes Everything is a weekend where we delve into the workings of the mind, check out recent research and new techniques and share in the theory and practice of affirmations, imagery , contemplation and the deeper experiences of meditation.

Based on my book of the same name, The Mind that Changes Everything is ideal for beginners, lapsed meditators and the experienced, the weekend is highly experiential with good time for questions and discussions.

Join Ruth, like minded people and myself for a weekend enhancing the power and potential of your mind.

 For the link to the Gawler Foundation to book, click here, or for enquiries, ring 03 59671730


  1. I attended a workshop that Ian Gawler ran in Melbourne 25 years ago as a young woman with 2 parents with cancer. I was so inspired by his teaching that healing was more than just survival, that I have made it my life's work to work as an integrative psychotherapist /counsellor within the cancer community in Ottawa, Canada.
    The thousands of people around the world who have benefited from the space and
    possibilities that Ian's work has created is an unquestionable reality. None of this controversy is of any interest to us. I have never had cancer but I can still speak to the fear and distress experienced by my clients after years of doing this work. Ian's work is testament that his experience is authentic and valuable regardless of his exact pathology -which I have no reason to doubt. Retrospective diagnostic speculation aside - there is no doubt that Ian had a difficult and advanced cancer. There is also no doubt that what he learned in his journey has helped thousands of people to live better, to love longer and to experience hope and meaning.
    I personally believe that this is the heart of this matter. You have my complete faith, respect, appreciation and support and tomorrow 12 new clients with cancer will gather at our Survivorship Centre on the other side of the world, to do spiritual work around "healing" largely due to Ian Gawler's inspiration. Please feel free to share this message,
    Thank you,
    Jennifer Turner
    M.A Counselling Psychology

  2. Ian's work has involved not only people who have cancer, but also those who have various other medical conditions and those interested in achieving optimal health and wellbeing.

    He promotes the benefits of lifestyle medicine, one element of this being stress management in the form of meditation. The benefits of meditation have been well documented and its effectiveness exemplified by the fact that a number of health insurance companies in the USA and Europe offer significant reductions in premiums to people who meditate, as these individuals have been found to contribute less to health care costs.

    The combination of diet, exercise and stress management in research studies overseas has also been found to offer significant measurable benefits for a variety of medical conditions.

    Ian Gawler has been a pioneer in the field of lifestyle medicine. He has provided educational opportunities for health-care professionals and others to learn about current research and knowledge in this area.

    Lifestyle factors are responsible for many of the chronic illnesses we experience. In addition to conventional therapies, the lifestyle interventions which Ian Gawler advocates are valuable in order to optimise health and wellbeing.

    Dr Arlene Murkies

  3. Ian this research is really interesting. I have been fasting on the first day of very month for years, I think I heard the Mormons do it and the idea stuck. It always feels good when I do it and it also leaves me feeling I can take on anything I put my mind to. Great to know research agrees - it always feels as if it is doing me good.

  4. This article appeared on todays ninemsn:

    Flesh-eating bacteria victim rejects drugs

    A US woman who lost her limbs to a flesh-eating bacteria is using meditation to manage her pain instead of drugs.

    While Aimee Copeland, 24, is still in a serious condition, doctors have told her father she should be out of intensive care in two or three weeks, NYDailyNews.com reports.
    Her father, Andy Copeland, says his daughter has been in talks with doctors at the Doctors Hospital of Augusta, Georgia, about using meditation to manage pain.
    "She went through one of the dressing changes without any kind of pain medication at all the other day," he said. "It's incredible. She chose to meditate through it."
    Ms Copeland, a Georgia psychology student, had her hands and feet amputated after she developed necrotising fasciitis after cutting her leg on a homemade flying fox on May 1.
    Source: NYDailyNews.com
    Author: Emily Crane. Approving editor: Fiona Willan