The Ketogenic Diet and Cancer
While the use of “ketogenic diet” has hit peak buzzword in health and fitness circles around the world, most people are still unaware of its origins and how it was initially developed back in the 1920s, as powerful method for treating epilepsy.
In recent years however, these findings have further evolved to encompass many other significant and chronic diseases, most notably cancer.
Under normal conditions, the body is in a state of glycolysis, which means that energy is sourced by burning glucose in the blood. As most of us know, this glucose is derived from carbohydrates. When the body is starved of glucose, the body switches its primary fuel consumption from carbohydrate to fat and protein. This process is called ketosis.
At the University of Boston, Professor Thomas Seyfried has been leading research in this field for a number of years. In his groundbreaking book, Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer (Wiley, 1st ed., 2012) Seyfried argues that cancer can be best defined as a mitochondrial metabolic disease rather than as a genetic disease and that by altering the body’s metabolic environment, molecular pathology can effectively be neutralised. In the case of cancer, his findings have shown that when the body is in a state of ketosis, cancer cells are targeted and neutralised or eradicated, while the physiological health of normal cells is enhanced.
Classically, the ketogenic diet is typically proportioned into 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. However, while results are effective, the strictness of the diet can also lead to weakness, constipation and most notably, the loss of muscle mass. It also a regime that is difficult to maintain, especially for those who may be already severely impaired through illness.
At Verita Life’s Integrative Cancer Clinics, a modified version of the Ketogenic Diet has been developed, which lessens the rate of muscle weakening, without providing cancer cells with any additional fuel. In short, the slightly higher rate of protein is allowed, and is calculated per patient’s body weight at a rate of 1.2 grams per kilogram.
“The most significant aspect of our modified Ketogenic Diet is that we tailor make the menu to each and every patient. No two patients are the same, they have different body weights, different cancers and will be at different stages in their cancer journey, so we must take every aspect into consideration”, says Verita Life Naturopath Dr Brian Kunakorn. “We do not subscribe to a one size fits all approach”.
For the patients at Verita Life clinics, the modified Ketogenic diet also helps them stay positive and well nourished throughout their integrative treatment program.
“I have to commend the cooks here as they make the food very palatable, very delicious and very easy to transition into”, says Dr Louis Grondin, a recent patient at Verita Life’s clinic in Baja, Mexico. “I’ve been here for six weeks and I have to say my energy level is almost back to normal, I exercise an hour a day, which I usually did before my diagnosis, I’ve put on weight and my BMI indicates that it’s mainly muscle mass, which is what I had lost prior to treatment. I’m feeling good”.
For all its benefits however, managing and maintaining the diet is not a “magic pill”, explains Dr. Kunakorn.
“It takes time, dedication, and discipline and requires, for many, significant lifestyle changes and it also takes time for ones body to adapt. The first few days may be especially rough and most people will experience what is commonly known as ‘Keto-Flu’ which refers to fatigue, dizziness, irritability, sugar cravings, and nausea. This is an indication that the body is adjusting to the absence of carbohydrates. Staying motivated and disciplined is crucial”.
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