At 90 pounds, patient should skip fasting

DEAR DR. ROACH: My daughter-in-law has stage 1 breast cancer and has just started her chemotherapy. I am concerned about her decision to fast for two days before and one day after each treatment. She weighs only 90 pounds, and fasting while you are trying to fight cancer does not sound like a good idea. What is your opinion of fasting during chemotherapy? – K.B.

ANSWER: In theory, fasting may make cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy, and there have been studies in mice suggesting this approach might have value. However, during chemotherapy, the whole body needs good-quality nutrition, and I could not recommend fasting for someone who weighs so little, nor could I recommend two full days of fasting before chemotherapy. Until there is clear evidence that intermittent fasting is of benefit, I don’t recommend it. Your daughter-in-law, in particular, is not a good candidate, being so very thin (assuming she is of near-normal height).

DR. ROACH WRITES: A recent column from a woman complaining of yawning after 10 minutes in her husband’s car generated a remarkable amount of mail. I had concerns of it being due to allergies. Most readers brought up one of two concerns: Could there be a carbon monoxide leak, and could her symptoms be due to a cabin air filter in need of cleaning or replacement?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious, even potentially fatal possibility. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are varied, but the most common early symptoms are headache, nausea and vomiting. With greater exposure, confusion, chest pain and loss of consciousness occur. Yawning is listed in a few sources I’ve seen as a possible symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning. The fact that only the reader, not her family, had symptoms does not rule out the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible.