Written by: Tiffany Balin, NP-C
Our microbiome has been studied for many years but has become of more interest over the last few years. What is the microbiome? It is our individualized compilation of beneficial bacteria that live on, and within us. Keeping our microbiome healthy is important in order to keep us healthy and thriving. Most of our microbiome is found within our gut. If found out of balance it has been linked to certain cancers, such as colon (ASCO, 2020). Also, if the gut microbiome is altered it has shown resistance to certain cancer therapies, whereas if within balance it can potentiate anti-tumor effects (Cheng, Wu, Yu, 2020).
What does this mean for your microbiome and cancer treatment?
Chemotherapy and radiation have been shown to cause damage to our microbiome. Research in human subjects is showing that a more diverse microbiome, meaning more species of beneficial bacteria, are improving effectiveness of immunotherapy. Other research is showing that those with a more diverse microbiome are more likely to be alive 3 years after a stem cell transplant, more clinical trials are underway.
What can you do to support your microbiome?
Eating foods high in fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables help to feed the good bacteria within our gut, called prebiotic foods. You can also eat foods high in probiotics such as fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha. You can also supplement with a good quality probiotic with multiple strands of bacteria to help balance any imbalances that can come with treatment. Some research is also showing the use of probiotics with chemotherapy can help control diarrhea with treatment. Please always consult with your oncologist, or integrative team prior to starting any new supplements.
Cheng WY, et al. Gut 2020;69:1867–1876. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2020-321153
ASCO (2020). Your microbiome and cancer: What to know. https://www.cancer.net/blog/2020-12/your-microbiome-and-cancer-what-know