In Fight Cancer with a Ketogenic diet, she goes over the science behind using the keto diet as “metabolic therapy” to treat and prevent cancer. I read her book and was fascinated by some of the research that she did to support cancer treatment with ketosis.
The ketogenic diet as adjunctive therapy for cancer treatment
An important thing to realize is that a keto diet should be used in conjunction with other modalities for the treatment of cancer! In other words, do not quit your chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Now, if you wanted to use the keto diet alone along with other alternative therapies then that is your choice! We are all entitled to make our own decisions in this life.
Always ask for clearance to do a keto diet
If you have cancer or diabetes, it is always of utmost importance to ask your healthcare provider for clearance. The reason for this is because there are some individuals who may not be able to do a keto diet. Everyone is different!
First Question- What is the primary method that the ketogenic diet can treat cancer?
Ellen: Most normal cells in your body take incoming food particles and make energy through two different paths. The first path is glycolysis, and it does not need oxygen to make energy. This process breaks down only glucose or sugar (from carbohydrates) to produce a small amount of energy and make other molecules that feed into the second path.
The second, more robust cellular energy path (called cellular respiration) uses oxygen, and it happens within little structures called mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses.) The mitochondrial energy path produces way more energy, and it can burn not only glucose but also fatty acids and/or ketones to make this energy.
Cancer cells have broken mitochondria
Most cancer cells have broken mitochondria, so they cannot use fatty acids or ketones as a fuel source. Their second energy path is broken. So they are dependent on the first path of using sugar (glucose) as a primary fuel. You might say that these cancer cells are sugar addicts because it’s all they can “eat,” and they need lots of it to stay alive.
When you deprive a cancer cell of glucose, it loses its fuel
When a person follows a ketogenic diet, they stop consuming carbohydrates (sugars and starches). This causes the body to switch from using glucose or sugar as the primary fuel to using fatty acids and ketones as the main fuel. Since most normal cells can burn either type of energy, they do just fine. But cancer cells can’t use both fuels; they have to have sugar to live. Hence, being in ketosis causes cancer cells to fail.. they starve for lack of fuel.
Second Question-In your book, it seems as your focus is limiting daily carb intake to under 20 total carbs. Do you think that people can still get adequate treatment for their cancer and focus on prevention if they limit their focus on net carbs, say around 20-30 net carbs instead of limiting their total carbs?
Ellen: When you are treating cancer, the lower you can go, the better. Miriam Kalamian starts her clients at ten carbs per day( total carbs) and has them test blood sugar and ketones regularly to see how they react to various foods. The goal is always to get blood sugar and insulin down as low as possible since these are two things that drive cancer. I would advise people to read my book and hers for more information on how to customize the diet for themselves.
Third Question- What is your thought on people with type 1 diabetes doing a ketogenic diet?
Ellen: Well, I wrote a whole book on it! The entire thing about diabetes is getting on a blood sugar roller coaster when you eat carbohydrates. You eat whatever the (ADA) American Dietetic Association tells you to eat, which usually includes 40-60 carbs at each meal. Your blood sugar spikes, and you have to bolus that insulin because of this increase in your blood glucose. You will end up needing about four times as much insulin, as opposed to if you ate 10-12 carbs per meal.
Fewer hypoglycemic episodes for Type 1 diabetics
It is a dangerous thing for a Type 1 diabetic because if you give that big of a bolus of insulin, there is always the danger of hypoglycemia (where your blood sugar level drops too low, and then you are in trouble). For Type 1 diabetics, a ketogenic diet is beneficial in that it smooths out those spikes of blood sugar, and you don’t require as much insulin. My co-author on that book, Dr. Keith Runyon has type 1 diabetes, that when he put himself on a ketogenic diet, he had fewer hypoglycemic episodes. They dropped from around 3-4 per week to about one hypoglycemic episode per year. Overall, he is much less in danger of a hypoglycemic episode than someone who eats a high carb diet.
Ketoacidosis and ketosis- What is the difference between ketoacidosis and ketosis? I think a lot of Type 1 diabetics seem to fear going into ketoacidosis on a ketogenic diet?
In general, ketoacidosis has two markers. Ketoacidosis starts when someone has a very high blood sugar, like 400-500, and develops very high ketones around 20 mmol/L. Whereas ketosis from a ketogenic diet, your ketones are much lower on the scale, like around1-7 mmol/ L. I have charted in my book about that, but it is a difference between a cup of water and 2 gallons. Once you implement the diet, you would be very careful about how much insulin you give yourself. I wouldn’t have a person with type 1 diabetes do it on their own unless they were very sure they could manage it by themselves. It would be best under a physician’s care, especially when they transition to doing a keto diet. Eventually, they will get used to how to do it and could manage by themself. I think it is well worth trying for a person with diabetes. I believe it can save your life and almost eliminates hypoglycemia. If you have type 1 diabetes and want some resources, I would recommend a good group on Facebook called Typeonegrit.
Fourth Question- If someone is doing a strict ketogenic diet (20 total carbs or less), can they have days to incorporate higher carbs? If so, how often? Or do you advise against this until their cancer is controlled?
Ellen: It is very individual; my friend Miriam will add a few carbs in as time goes on. The whole thrust of ketogenic treatment is to keep blood sugar and insulin levels as low as possible. Anytime a large amount of carbohydrate is eaten, blood sugar and insulin will rise dramatically, and they can feed the cancer cells. Even if you have a cheat day, it is counterproductive. That cheat day will throw you out of ketosis, and it will take you three days to get back in, and so that is a few days that you’ve lost, where you are encouraging your cancer to re-establish itself. So no, I would advise they keep carb intake controlled, low, and steady. It is entirely individual, and it is essential to remember that cancer is very psychological.
Fifth Question- What about the ketogenic diet for cancer prevention?
Ellen: I don’t know that you can prevent cancer with a ketogenic diet. There are studies where people still get cancer even while doing a ketogenic diet. Dr. Seyfried says that doing a one week fast every year or every half year could help clear out cancer stem cells. So, you could use fasting as a way to help in prevention. I think that cancer is more than a physical thing, like how is your psychology. If you’re in despair and heartbroken, you may be more prone to getting cancer. It is dangerous to think that the ketogenic diet alone will help to prevent cancer.
Sixth Question-Do you think it is necessary to do a good detox protocol when you on keto? Like with a sauna, dry brush, etc.
Ellen: I don’t know much about detoxing because haven’t studied a lot about it. I know there are some discussions about light therapy, like laying on grounding mats to help. A dentist was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and has extended his life by two years using grounding mats ( he was told he only had six months to live). Sauna treatments and hyperbaric oxygen treatment have also been mentioned for detox.
Seventh Question- What are your thoughts on keto vegan or keto vegetarian if you are undergoing treatment for cancer?
Ellen: I think one could follow a vegetarian diet and achieve mild ketosis, but I think that it’s near to impossible to get carb intake low enough for a vegan to get into ketosis. But again, it depends on the individual.
Eighth Question- What are your thoughts on metaphysical work for cancer?
Ellen: I think that cancer is not all a physical cause. I believe everything is energy, so if your life is marred by negative emotions such as hatred or despair, it will affect your overall health. It is essential to look at the blessings in your life more than you look at the negative things in your life. The more you focus on the positive, the more likely you will improve your health.
Overall, a choice to follow a ketogenic diet for cancer will help in treatment. If you are looking to prevent cancer, following a ketogenic diet may help. However, it is essential to keep in mind that a ketogenic diet alone will not prevent cancer! You must always think about your chakras and do things to help align your metaphysical body. If you are not sure how to do this, I would highly encourage you to listen to my other podcasts on Keto and Chakra Balance for your health.
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