According to Australian Government statistics, gastrointestinal cancer is the most common form of cancer Australians experience. Survival rates are low; the five year survival rate of people with cancer of the stomach is 25 per cent, colon 61 per cent and rectum 63 per cent. It’s a sad state of affairs, with 23,000 Australians being diagnosed each year with some sort of GI cancer.
Unfortunately, western medicine has long been focused on the treatment of symptomology when it comes to GI cancers & most funding is directed toward developing drug-based approaches to the problem. This situation is unlikely to change, however a growing body of research is pointing the finger at the heavy influence of the gut microbiome as playing a key factor in the development or prevention of GI cancers.
Studies are now showing that the ingestion of probiotics, often coupled with the ingestion of prebiotics (fibres for the live probiotic microbes to feed upon) are having anti-cancerous effects.
Scientists are finding that the nullification of certain types of carcinogenic chemicals called genotoxins (which damage genetic material leading to mutation) by certain types of microbes. To put it simply, having healthy amounts of probiotics within the gut means less toxicity present, resulting in a decreased risk for cancer development throughout the GI tract.
What research is also suggesting is that the production of short-chain fatty acids, which exert strong anti-inflammatory effects, could be another mechanism by which probiotics reduce the chance of developing certain types of cancers. Probiotic microbes use prebiotic fibres (you may have heard of resistant starch before) as fuel & produce short-chain fatty acids like butyrate & propionic acid which wash throughout the GI tract, reducing inflammation & providing nourishment to the cells of the gut lining. This anti-inflammatory effect of probiotics could certainly be a key factor in the anti-cancer equation, with most health professionals agreeing that inflammation seems to be a root cause in most disease.
So is it healthy bacteria in general or specific strains of bacteria which may be providing the anti-cancer effect on the human GI tract? This is a difficult question to answer considering that the majority of the human microbiome is still unmapped. That being said, the well demonstrated benefits of so called ‘therapeutic’ strains of bacteria like Lactobacillus & Bifidobacterium may be appropriate agents for people to begin incorporating into their health regime.
For my favourite probiotic resources check out www.kalebrock.com.au/ghp — my Gut Healing Protocol resource page.
This post was brought to you by my book The Gut Healing Protocol – an 8 week, holistic guide to rebalancing your gut!
Resources for this article include:
Wollowski, Ingrid, Gerhard Rechkem mer, and Beatrice Pool-Zobel. “Protective Role Of Probiotics And Prebiotics In Colon Cancer”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 73.2 (2001): 451s-455s. Web. 31 May 2016.
Liong, Min-Tze. “Roles Of Probiotics And Prebiotics In Colon Cancer Prevention: Postulated Mechanisms And In-Vivo Evidence”. IJMS 9.5 (2008): 854-863. Web. 31 May 2016.
“Colorectal Cancer”. University of Maryland Medical Center. N.p., 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.
Disclaimer: Remember to always work with your well qualified, nutritionally-versed practitioner when it comes to the management & treatment of illness. The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only & should not be considered medical advice.