Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2016. It has been updated and republished in June 2019.
Your body’s immune system and its role in cancer prevention really doesn’t get the attention it deserves in the prevailing paradigm of allopathic medicine.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a conventional doctor or medical expert who’s willing or knowledgeable enough to talk about natural immunity in the context of keeping your body free of cancer. At least not to the full extent of its true capacity.
And yet this information is vitally important. In fact, it just might be the most overlooked facet of cancer prevention that’s not being talked about by the conventional medical system today.
Assuming you’re getting all the nutrients you need from food and supplements (and your body is effectively flushing waste and toxins as it’s supposed to), your immune system should be fully equipped on its own to naturally thwart cancer from ever taking hold.
So why isn’t this the case for the tens of thousands of Americans who are diagnosed with cancer every year? The answer could lie in an underestimated component of your immune system that’s only just beginning to break the mainstream mold of thinking on this imperative issue: gut microflora.
Beneficial Gut Bacteria and Immunity: Are You Protected?
Inside your intestinal tract live countless trillions of diverse microorganisms that help you properly digest food and protect your body against harmful bacteria. This beneficial bacterial “ecosystem,” so to speak, is often referred to in the scientific literature as the human microbiome. A healthy gut serves an important role in both disease remediation and prevention.
A 2011 study published in the journal Expert Review of Anti-infective Therapy explains in further detail how the human body relies on a healthy microbiome to combat infectious agents. This microbiome works in synergy with the rest of the body’s immune system to prevent disease. This means these tiny microorganisms meld with your very being in a coordinated effort to maintain homeostasis, or a healthy state of balance and stability.
But there are many things that can interfere with the proper function of your microbiome. These include poor diet (processed foods are compositionally “dead” and lack the enzymes and living bacteria necessary for microbiome health), environmental pollution, chronic stress, lack of sleep, and pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics. Antibiotics, you should know, kill off not only harmful pathogens but also the good bacteria that your body relies on for proper immune function.
When a person’s gut microbiome becomes damaged or is otherwise thrown out of balance, conditions are ripe for disease formation. With cancer specifically, science is now uncovering how a compromised microbiome can unleash a cascade of system failures throughout the body that, in many cases, leads to tumor growth and full-blown cancer.
Gut Dysbiosis, Inflammation, and Cancer
Unpacking this systemic breakdown in further detail, a study published earlier this year in the journal Science Translational Medicine fleshes out how dysbiosis, or the failure of the microbiome to sync up with the rest of the immune system, can lead to cancer formation, or carcinogenesis.
The paper explains how epidemiological studies have pinned microbiome damage as a major risk factor in cancer development. Intestinal dysbiosis, the researchers found, can trigger an inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that, if left unaddressed, can lead to gut diseases such as Crohn’s disease or colorectal cancer.
Gastrointestinal microbiota help protect the intestinal lining and serve as gatekeepers. They allow nutrients into the bloodstream while blocking disease-causing pathogens and toxins from passing through. So it only makes sense that a microbiome failure is nothing short of catastrophic as far as the intestinal tract is concerned.
Gut dysbiosis has also been linked to many other forms of cancer as well, including cancers of the breast and liver. The various inflammatory responses generated by gut dysbiosis appear to be systemic in nature. This means they affect a range of systems throughout the body − both intestinally and extra-intestinally.
The intimate relationship between gut microbiota and the immune system is admittedly complex. But it can be summed up like this: in order for your immune system to effectively fight and prevent cancer, your microbiome must be in tip-top shape. And the best way you can ensure a healthy gut, besides avoiding the exposures that threaten its integrity, is to seek out foods and supplements that will help enrich it.
Getting the Probiotics You Need for a Healthy Microbiome & Cancer Prevention
You may have heard the term probiotics before. This class of nutritive, living organisms is finally gaining national attention for its role in improving digestive health and boosting immunity.
Probiotics are what so-called “living” foods, or foods that haven’t been “killed” through processing, often contain in their natural states. Probiotics are also found in foods like fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir), cultured vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi), real sourdough bread (made from living starter), and even pickles (made the traditional way). These organisms are what make these foods highly nutritious and easily digestible.
Perhaps you weren’t aware, but probiotics hail from the same category of “good” bacteria as what naturally lives in your microbiome. They’re exactly what your body needs to replenish all the beneficial bacteria that’s been damaged or that’s missing − providing the boost your immune system needs to thwart disease.
Cultured or fermented foods are rich in cancer-fighting probiotics, and they also contain what’s known as lactic acid bacteria. This is a type of probiotic that studies have shown offers specific protective benefits against cancer. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition explains how lactic acid bacteria and its so-called “probioactive cellular substances” release enzymes into the gut that exert definitive anti-tumor effects.
Other studies, including a 2013 paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, pinpoint specific probiotic strains like Lactobacillus casei as a science-based immunomodulatory mechanism that helps protect the body against many types of cancer and other diseases. Lactobacillus casei is one of the most popular probiotics available to consumers.
No matter how you look at it, probiotics are essential in any anti-cancer regimen and for a healthy gut. If you’re not already taking them, or consuming foods like yogurt that naturally contain them, you should probably start. Probiotics are just one piece of the anti-cancer puzzle, but as you’ll learn through reading the information I’m sharing with you through this site, they’re a very critical piece that your body simply can’t do without.
Gut microflora are an underestimated component of your immune system that’s starting to get more attention.
Inside your intestinal tract live trillions of diverse microorganisms that help you properly digest food and protect your body against harmful bacteria.
The best way you can ensure a healthy gut (besides avoiding the exposures such as antibiotics that harm it), is to seek out foods and supplements that will help enrich it.
Probiotics can be purchased as supplements and are also found in foods like fermented dairy, cultured vegetables, real sourdough bread, and even some pickles.
Specific probiotic strains like Lactobacillus casei help protect the body against many types of cancer and other diseases.