Cancer Prevention: the Role of the Gut Flora

Understanding how cancer develops is the first step towards prevention. Until recently cancer used to be a condition affecting mostly the elderly; since the advent of modern hygiene habits, a nutritional system poor in nutrient-rich food and fiber, and the over use of antibiotics, cancer rates have skyrocketed affecting humans of all ages. Plus toxins, drugs and factory foods have impaired the ability of the immune system to destroy aberrant cells that can potentially cause cancer.

In recent years there has been a growing interest within the scientific community on the role that the gut flora plays in health and disease. We now know that gut bacteria influence digestion and absorption, is an integral part of the immune system, modulates inflammation, and promotes cell proliferation and death. It also plays an important role in the stability of our genes.

The term “oncobiome” was created to describe an area of investigation into how specific microbes are involved in the development of cancer. It’s been discovered that some bacteria can turn against the body causing cancer, when not kept in balance with other microbes. Pathogenic bacteria have the ability to promote inflammation and actually change our DNA, leading to abnormal cell growth.

The flora also plays a critical role in the immune system. Microbes basically train our white blood cells to respond to aggressions; the rise in autoimmune disorders has been linked to the previously mentioned hygiene and toxicity hypothesis. A reduced exposure to microorganisms in childhood has increased the susceptibility to allergic diseases in children by inhibiting the development of their immune system.

What we eat has the greatest influence on our flora; the typical diet of high fat, low fiber consumed in the Western world causes detrimental shifts in bacterial composition within days. Fiber is the primary fuel for our bacteria, and a key element to prevent and manage cancer. Fiber is found in vegetables and fruits, as well as grains and legumes. High fiber sources are Brussels sprouts, flax, asparagus, cabbage, celery, artichokes, squash, peas, lentils, split-peas, chia seed, quinoa, avocado, berries, and figs. Women need 25 gr of fiber a day, men 35-40 gr.

Some foods like leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, fermented and cultured foods, asparagus, radishes, and black raspberries support the microbiome, and ideally should be consumed daily.

When supplementing with probiotics after antibiotics or chemotherapy, products with multiple strains of bacteria, and between 80 to 100 billion colonies are the most effective. Probiotics should be taken at night when the microbiota is more active.

Knowing the critical role the flora plays in the immune system should be an incentive to live and eat taking gut health into consideration. Balancing and repopulating our flora is one of the most powerful ways to prevent cancer.

Ursula Schmidt, LAc

 

References

The Oncobiome: The Role of Our Gut Terrain in the Cancer Process. Nasha Winters, ND, LAc and Jess Higgins Kelley, MNT
Townsend Letter August/ September 2017
Why a True Cancer Cure Will Not Exist within the Current Paradigm of Traditional Medical Treatment. Thomas Braun, RPh
Townsend Letter August/September 2013