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Can I Follow Ketogenic Diet during Chemotherapy?

Practical Tips for Navigating through The Myriad of Information on What to Eat During Chemotherapy.

Welcome to THE SMART BELLY Blog

Enjoy Eating Healthy by Trusting Your Gut Feeling

I've been passionate about cancer and nutrition since my early years as a researcher. After working on the role of casein phosphopeptides on calcium uptake in vitro on human intestinal cancer cell lines, I submitted my CV to apply as a postdoc to all laboratories in the United States that were studying Nutrition and Cancer. I was lucky enough to get a job at the Weill Cornell Cancer Center in New York, where I focused my efforts to better understand the role of certain nutrients and the progression of cancer.

The experience of research and the fact of being a pharmacist has led me to often deal with interactions between chemotherapy drugs and supplements, or with specific pre-chemo diets. Here you will find some practical advice relating to specific dietary adjustments that are particularly useful during chemotherapy. Each topic will be introduced as an answer to a question.

When and why can ketogenic be used?

If you like to know more about the mechanism behind the ketogenic diet you can read my blog: Is The Ketogenic Diet Really a Revolutionary approach? Based on J. Mercola's "Fat for Fuel" book review which also has a chapter devoted to the ketogenic diet and cancer.

If you'd like to read more specifically about the ketogenic diet and cancer, I recommend

Keto for Cancer: Ketogenic Metabolic Therapy as a Targeted Nutritional Strategy

by Miriam Kalamian.

For your convenience, I've summarized some pros and cons on this interesting topic below:


  • Brain cancer

There are several PubMed studies on this topic and more and more oncologists are recommending it.

The reason for its popularity for the brain is because most fats and proteins cannot cross the blood brain barrier. The ketogenic diet, combined with a 24-48 hour fast that shifts the body to fat burning, could be an appropriate dietary intervention to reduce the glucose and glycolytic pathways in gliomas.

  • You are not hungry or weak and if you focus your fat intake on Omega-3s you could reduce both inflammation and cachexia (loss of muscle tone which in an advanced stage can reach internal organs).

  • Your blood sugar is stabilized, so you don't have an energetic yo-yo


  • Contraindicated if you are taking cortisone which increases blood sugar and sugar cravings

  • Contraindicated in case of metastasis or liver failure

  • Contraindicated in case of renal insufficiency

  • It could cause constipation affecting the already impaired daily movements in the case of gastric or pancreatic cancer


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