J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Tag: fasting

Can You Greatly Reduce Your Risk of Cancer with Lifestyle Changes?

Collage of mixed fruits and vegetables, MRI, by Wellcome Images.

Collage of mixed fruits and vegetables, MRI, by Wellcome Images.

Cancer. It’s one of the few diseases with a personality. The F*ck Cancer meme is much stronger than the F*ck Heart Disease meme, even though both kill a similar number of human beings. While both diseases can develop with no obvious warning signs, cancer is perceived as a sneakier, meaner disease.

Maybe that’s because cancer is mysterious. There are more than 200 different types, and risk factors and causes are multitudinous: genetics, chemical exposure, radiation exposure (including sunlight), age, certain viruses, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise … the list goes on.

But cancer isn’t a death sentence. As several of the older members of my family have experienced in the past few years, cancer can be successfully treated. Though my family members used both conventional treatments and lifestyle changes, sometimes cancer goes away with lifestyle changes alone.

About half of people in developed countries will be diagnosed with some kind of cancer in the course of their lives. 100% of middle-aged or older people will have small pockets of abnormal cell growth — microcancers — most of which will be either too slow-growing to ever cause a problem, or will be eliminated by the immune system. And if you get cancer and beat it, the only way you know for sure you are “cured” is when you die of something else.

Nobody is totally safe from cancer, but there are things we can do to improve our chances of not developing the disease in the first place. While genetic risk factors play a significant role, so do environmental (lifestyle) factors. The clinical research is there to prove it. We can prevent cancer (or at least improve our odds) in at least seven ways:

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Intermittent Fasting Update

Breakfast and lunch, some days.

Breakfast and lunch, once a week.

One of the more popular articles on this blog is about intermittent fasting. I still practice intermittent fasting (I.F.) about once a week, so here’s a quick update.

How

About once a week I don’t consume any calories (or artificial sweeteners) until 2pm or later. I drink water, black coffee, and sometimes tea (black or herbal). Sometimes I fast until dinner (I did so last Thursday, as Kia was observing the Fast of Esther and I tagged along).

Why

I do it mainly for health reasons. There is some evidence that intermittent fasting can help protect against diabetes, dementia, cancer, and other diseases of aging. Since I only practice I.F. once a week, the measurable effects probably aren’t large. But the subjective effects keep me coming back to this simple practice. On fasting days and for a few days after, I consistently notice the following positive effects:

  • seasonal allergies (if I have any) go away
  • mood improves
  • waistline tightens (some fat loss, some retained water loss)
  • general motivation and creativity increase
  • steady energy

My once-a-week partial fast feels like I’m giving my body a chance to “clean house” through autophagy. For more on the health effects of autophagy, here’s my original post on the topic.

Fasting and Comfort

The first few times I practiced I.F. were a little rough. I was probably experiencing some minor detox. I felt slightly irritable, a little achy, and my eyes got a little bloodshot.

Now I don’t experience any negative effects. I’m not hungry after 11am or so, my energy is steady, and my concentration is very good.

I do notice that my body temperature drops a few degrees in the afternoon on I.F. days. On really cold days I usually choose not to fast.

I prefer “quiet days” when I’m fasting. I don’t feel as social, and my senses and emotions are heightened (so I need less stimulation). I like to take long walks on I.F. days but I usually don’t lift weights or do anything physically intense.

Psychological Effects

Food can take up a lot of mental space. Not just in terms of thinking about “what’s for lunch,” but as a reward system. Do you “deserve” a treat today? Or a shot of Jameson? (It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all.) Taking a short break from food helps me recalibrate my rewards system. What other things do I look forward to in the place of food? Sometimes I read fiction when I would otherwise be eating lunch (for me, good fiction is comforting and reassuring and enjoyable, like good food).

Precautions

I don’t think skipping a meal or two once a week is risky. A simple precaution if you are just starting out would be to try I.F. on a “light” day where you don’t have much on your schedule. If you feel really terrible, you can always have something to eat. If you have health issues, check in with your doctor first. Some sensible precautions:

  • If you are addicted to caffeine (like I am), remember to drink black coffee or tea. Don’t try I.F. and caffeine withdrawal at the same time.
  • Drink enough water (so that you piss clear or light yellow).
  • Dress more warmly than you would otherwise.

The Next Level

For me, there is no next level. This is as far as I’m going with intermittent fasting. I enjoy eating with my family and friends too much to want to miss out on more than a few meals a week.

Reading articles like this one have persuaded me to stick with three meals a day in general. Restricting the “eating window” on a daily basis may have some benefits, but there are risks of cortisol dysregulation and other hormonal balance issues. My own “once a week” system is the opposite of hardcore, but I still notice clear benefits (without any side effects).

Brain Renewal Protocol

Winston Churchill’s nicknamed depression “his black dog.”

A week ago I woke up in a black mood. Instead of feeling excited about my day, I saw a series of dreary tasks ahead of me. Looking into the future, I felt despair instead of hopefulness. Things that usually bring me great pleasure (making music, time with my family and friends, drinking coffee) seemed a little less bright.

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