Latin monk St. John Cassian wrote in Making Life a Prayer, “Let us not believe that an external fast from visible food alone can possibly be sufficient for perfection of heart and purity of body unless with it there has also been united a fast of the soul.”
He wrote this rule of monastic life between years 420 and 429. That was more than 1,600 years ago. However, only recently science discovered the physical and even therapeutic value of fasting, at least, of the body.
Four researchers from Iran reported in the April 2021 issue of “Clinical Nutrition” that fasting can improve the effect of chemotherapy against tumor cells. Mehdi Sadeghian, Sepideh Rahmani, Saman Khalesi, and Ehsan Hejazi found five ways fasting does this task.
First, fasting improves the body’s repair work on damaged genetic materials in normal tissues caused by chemotherapy. However, it did not help the body repair genetic damage in tumor cells. Therefore, it maximizes tumor cell damage during chemotherapy.
Second, fasting also improves the presence of chemical ingesting blood cells among normal cells to protect organelles against damage from medication chemicals. In a still unknown mechanism, it increases immune defense against the toxic chemotherapy agent.
Third, fasting increases the effectiveness of the body’s ability to burst tumor cells during chemotherapy and thereafter. However, it simultaneously prevents normal cells from bursting.
The process of apoptosis is the ordinary process for the body to destroy cancer cells.
Fourth, fasting reduces the number of T cells that tend to prevent the effects of chemotherapy. Simultaneously, it increases stimulation of CD8 cells, which are naturally occurring killer cells that attack tumor cells. It increases the vulnerability of tumor cells against chemotherapy.
Last, fasting also improves the accumulation of unfolded proteins that protect tumor cells from immune surveillance. This allows the immune system to monitor the tumor cells and their locations in the body.
Fasting types used in the study included intermittent fasting, periodic fasting, water-only fasting, short-term fasting, and calorie restrictive fasting. However, the study summary did not include the fasting hours. Thus, no disclosure has been made if the three-hour Eucharistic fasting is adequate, or a full overnight fasting is necessary.
Clinical trials on fasting are limited yet compared to animal studies. So just use fasting judiciously.