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Why Cancer Loves Sugar - How to Hack Chemo with Therapeutic Fasting and Keto with Martha Tettenborn

Jun 01, 2022

Today, I am blessed to have here with me Martha Tettenborn. She is a Registered Dietitian and certified Primal Health Coach with over 30 years of experience working in various areas of nutrition. Her private health coach practice, The Cancer Doula, promotes a low-carb, whole-food-based approach to disease prevention and cancer symptom management. 

She has been a featured speaker at the Low Carb Long Weekend Summit and on numerous podcasts. Martha also instructs courses for the Nutrition Network and Udemy on the ketogenic approach to cancer treatment. 

Martha’s book, Hacking Chemo: Using Ketogenic Diet, Therapeutic Fasting and a Kickass Attitude to Power Through Cancer, is now available as an e-book and print-on-demand paperback. It tells her story of the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer and offers strategies and interventions that Martha has found very powerful in helping through this journey that is cancer.

In this episode, Martha opens up about her training as a registered dietitian; she was taught that fat was the enemy. Eventually, Martha realized that a low-carb lifestyle was actually the better way of eating. Martha does a deep dive into her cancer diagnosis and everything that she learned about cancer cells along the way. In fact, she learned a lot about how you can put pressure on cancer cells by eating a low-carb diet. Tune in as we chat about weight loss and weight gain during cancer, chemotherapy, and fasting. 


[03:30] What Martha Learned As A Registered Dietitian In The Early 1980s 

  • The low-fat guidelines were developed for all Americans, which of course, bled into Canada. 
  • Low-fat was considered cutting-edge science at the time. 
  • Martha had an extra twenty to thirty pounds that she struggled to get off. 
  • Eventually, Martha realized that fat was not the enemy. 
  • There’s satiety that happens when we are eating fat. 
  • In 2013, Martha threw herself into a low-carb lifestyle. She focuses on less processed foods, fewer carbohydrates, and more whole animal-based products in her private practice. 

[07:30] About Martha’s Cancer Diagnosis and What She Learned About Cancer Cells 

  • At age 58, Martha was shocked to learn that she had a cancer diagnosis. 
  • The only thing that dietitians were taught about cancer was to help people not lose weight. 
  • Eventually, Martha discovered that there's actually some research that supports the fact that cancer metabolizes differently. Cancer does not metabolize the same as healthy cells. 
  • Cancer uses a different metabolic process called fermentation; it takes place in the cytoplasm or the cell fluid. 
  • Cancer cells use glucose as their primary source of energy. When you eat in a way that keeps your blood glucose low, you actually can have an impact on how happy that cancer cell is. 

[16:50] How To Put Pressure On Your Cancer Cells Through A Low-Carbohydrate Diet 

  • We're getting our calories from three primary sources: protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
  • Carbohydrates are mostly in the form of sugar and starch. 
  • When cancer cells are hungry, you can make your blood sugar very low and stable. 
  • That way, you’ll put pressure on cancer cells. 
  • Overall, cancer doesn’t want your blood sugar to be low and stable.

[25:05] How Martha Would Use Fasting With Chemo To Stay Healthy 

  • Martha found out that she would need chemotherapy because they ruptured cancer inside her belly; it was considered a spill. 
  • Chemotherapy is poison; it is designed to kill cancer before killing the patient. 
  • Martha found research that discovered fasting makes chemo more effective by pressuring the cells. 
  • Fasting will help you quiet down the healthy cells; that way, chemo will stay away from them. 

[35:20] How Does Cancer Affect Your Weight Loss or Weight Gain?

  • For many hormone-dependent cancers, weight gain is often more of a problem than weight loss. 
  • However, Martha would lose a few pounds as she was fasting with chemo. 
  • When she was eating her keto diet, the pounds would come back. 
  • A lot of the weight loss of cancer is not actually directly related to nutritional intake. Instead, it is often more related to an inflammatory process than just energy.
  • Throwing calories at cancer won’t always help patients gain weight. 

[38:35] Remember That Cancer Is Not A Foreign Invader; It Is Your Own Cells

  • You can actually make lifestyle changes to keep cancer in a manageable place.
  • Cancer is not a foreign invader. Instead, cancer is your own cells.
  • If something in your life is not serving you, you can thank it for its part in your life and let it go. 
  • Despite having had cancer, Martha still loves her life and still loves her body. 



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