In the fight against cancer – or any disease, for that matter – your body’s natural immune system is your best defense. In today’s world, almost any disease, illness, or symptom receives the same treatment: drugs. Do you have a cold? Take some antibiotics. Cancer? Chemotherapy and radiation. Poor diet and high blood sugar? Here’s a pill.
But the immune system is significantly more powerful than any of these treatments, especially if we take care of it. We all face an increasingly heavy toxic load. Air pollution, herbicides, drugs… these all put a massive burden on both our immune system and detoxification pathways. But there are ways to support your immune system to help fight cancer and a plethora of other diseases.
And it all starts with your gut. In sickness and in health, you need only to look to your gut for the answers.
Gut, Bacteria, and the Immune System
That’s right! Nearly 80% of your immune system resides in the gut. This is where you’ll find a unique ecosystem containing trillions of organisms, including bacteria, yeast, and fungi. This collection of organisms is known as the “microbiota,” and it’s absolutely essential for good health.
It can be a little weird to consider that there are bacteria and fungi in your gut – after all, aren’t those things bad? Not necessarily. You see, there are countless types of bacteria, and many of them are essential for good health. These bacteria can help break down food, inhibit cancer growth, and assist with nutrient absorption.
And it starts from Day 1.
When a child is born, nearly all of its immunity comes from the mother. Their immune systems develop as they encounter various viruses and germs, but the process takes time. This suppressed immune response is necessary for the child to develop healthy gut bacteria – the foundation of a strong immune system.
An imbalance of the gut microbiota is called “dysbiosis,” and it can lead to many, many problems. Thanks to an overload of vaccines and other medication, many children never get the chance to develop a strong gut microbiota. These children can suffer from dysbiosis that leads to allergies and other immune issues for the rest of their lives.
But even once a healthy gut is established, it needs to be maintained. Just like a car or a home, it’s important that we regularly maintain our gut health to ensure a strong immune system. Poor diet, antibiotics, and chronic stress are just some of the culprits of bad gut health.
But before we talk about ways to support your gut (and what not to do), let’s take a look at all of the ways a healthy gut can improve our health.
4 Ways a Healthy Gut Affects Your Health
Perhaps the most impressive benefit of a healthy gut is its role in cancer prevention. 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.
Studies have identified microbiome damage as a major risk factor in cancer development.
Intestinal dysbiosis can trigger an inflammatory response in the gastrointestinal tract that, if left unaddressed, can lead to gut diseases such as Crohn’s disease or colorectal cancer. But that’s not all…
Gut dysbiosis has been linked to many other forms of cancer, including breast and liver cancers. Gut microbiota help to protect your intestinal lining and serve as gatekeepers, allowing nutrients into the bloodstream and blocking pathogens and toxins from getting through. When the microbiome fails, there can be catastrophic consequences for the entire intestinal system.
When a person’s gut microbiome becomes damaged or is otherwise thrown out of balance, conditions are ripe for disease formation. 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 flora can also play a huge role in determining how your body responds to cancer treatments. Over the past several years, immunotherapy has been making headlines when it comes to cancer treatments. For years, doctors have recommended the “standard” protocol of cut, burn, and poison. But this can have a devastating impact on our ability to fight disease – including cancer!
Chemotherapy is an indiscriminate killer, destroying everything in its path – including healthy cells. Combine that with radiation therapy, and most patients are left with no immune system at all. Even worse, most doctors will recommend surgery to remove the tumor. When it comes to various intestinal cancers, this often means removing huge amounts of the digestive tract (usually several feet) and all of the healthy bacteria with it.
We saw first-hand how devastating this can be. After rushing to the hospital for what we thought were gallstones, Ty’s father was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Rather than search for the root cause of the disease, the doctors moved right to invasive surgery, removing 80% of his stomach. But the surgery was botched; 25 days later, he bled to death.
Over the next 8 years, we lost 7 family members. Not to cancer, but to the toxic and deadly treatments that were pushed by their doctors. Understanding where cancer comes from and how to use the body to heal is of paramount importance so that you don’t suffer the same loss we did. But if chemotherapy is the poison, immunotherapy is the antidote.
Immunotherapy works in the exact opposite way. With immunotherapy, we target the immune system instead of the cancer. By “taking the brakes off,” the immune system kicks into overdrive, attacking cancerous cells and making sure they never return. When it comes to immunotherapy, a healthy gut is your best friend.
When it comes to the body’s ability to inhibit cancer growth, there are two types of bacteria that stand out: Bacteroidales and Bifidobacteria. A study out of the University of Chicago discovered that these gut microbes actually decreased the growth of tumors effectively without collateral damage. In other studies, immunotherapy drugs called “checkpoint inhibitors” were found to be effective in mice with healthy gut microbiota, but not in mice who had no gut bacteria.
#2. Digestion and Nutrition
Gut health is also essential for nutrient absorption and digestion. Studies show that about 3 in 4 Americans suffer from digestive issues like gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain. A major contributor could be gut dysbiosis.
Your gut flora perform countless tasks that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. The microbiota also produces vitamins, which are secreted to improve our health. The inability to properly absorb nutrients is known as malabsorption syndrome, and it’s a big deal. Without a healthy gut microbiome, it’s impossible to absorb the nutrients we need. No matter how healthy your diet, your body will become sick because it cannot benefit from the food’s nutrients.
Not ironically, it’s a poor diet that can cause malabsorption syndrome and a healthy diet that can prevent it. A healthy gut can also prevent excess weight gain and obesity. Your microbiome affects how your body stores fat, balances glucose, and responds to hunger-stimulating hormones, among other things. Some studies suggest that dysbiosis can predispose the body to obesity and diabetes almost instantly.
#3. Healthy Brain Function
Your gut also helps with brain function and emotional issues. In fact, some have referred to the gut as the “second brain.” This is because of something called the enteric nervous system, or ENS. The ENS is a network of over a billion nerve endings and over a million neurons – greater than the spinal cord and peripheral nervous systems combined. The ENS can function independently without the brain. The brain doesn’t overly influence the gut, but the gut influences the brain all the time, sending signals and creating most of the body’s serotonin, about half of its dopamine, and a myriad of other brain-influencing chemicals and hormones.
These hormones are vital to our emotional and mental health. When our gut is out of whack, it can lead to cognitive decline, anxiety, and severe depression. There is even some evidence to suggest that both Alzheimer’s and autism may be linked to gut health. Scientists are now working with psychobiotics, medicines meant to reverse brain disorders by repairing the gut microbiome.
#4. Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, also called intestinal permeability, is another condition that occurs when microscopic holes form in the digestive tract. When a person has leaky gut, tiny particles that should not get into the bloodstream get through. This inevitably leads to acute inflammation. Adding fuel to the fire, the immune system goes into overdrive in the presence of pathogens in the bloodstream.
This can lead to immune overstimulation, or autoimmunity.
Fortunately, your gut health is almost entirely in your own hands. Even those with dysbiosis can regain balance by following the right steps!
7 Ways to Heal and Maintain a Healthy Gut
The best way to maintain gut health is through your diet. Avoiding the bad stuff is just as important as eating the good stuff, and nothing is worse than sucralose. The primary ingredient in Splenda is made by binding chlorine to sugar molecules. For those who aren’t aware, chlorine is poison; in order to deal with the poison, our bodies create chemical reactions that are harmful to the body.
Alcohol is another substance that can be detrimental to a healthy gut. Even moderate drinking has been shown to cause dysbiosis. A common condition caused by alcohol consumption is dysbiosis of the small intestine. This is basically when the small intestine has too much bacteria, which begins to consume nutrients meant to be absorbed by the body. This often leads to malnourishment, gas, and bowel problems.
Other foods to avoid include excess sugar and carbs, processed fats, foods with preservatives or pesticides, and food with antibiotics. It’s no secret that the discovery of antibiotics has saved countless lives, but their overuse today is causing a much bigger problem. Antibiotics, like chemotherapy, kill without prejudice. That means destroying the good bacteria along with the bad.
#2. Say “No” to Antibiotics
In 2015, U.S. pharmacies dispensed nearly 270 million doses of antibiotics – enough for five out of every six Americans to receive antibiotics every year. The CDC reported that at least 30% of these prescriptions were unnecessary. And there’s a bigger issue: most antibiotics are used in agriculture. Due to a bacterial infection affecting citrus trees, the EPA approved the broad use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline, antibiotics used to fight tuberculosis and syphilis. This was despite warnings and condemnation from the CDC, FDA, and WHO.
In the U.S., about 80% of antibiotics sold are used on livestock. Fearing an outbreak that could cost millions, farmers routinely administer heavy antibiotics to their entire herd – even if they’re perfectly healthy! Greed from the pharmaceutical industry has made things worse, with targeted advertising encouraging widespread antibiotic use.
What this means is that your meat, poultry, dairy, fruits, and vegetables may all contain antibiotics. Couple that with the extremely liberal prescription habits in use today, and our guts are constantly under attack. You can protect yourself by buying organic food raised without hormones and saying “no” to unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.
But there is something even better you can do for your gut.
Pre- and probiotics are a veritable “silver bullet” for repairing gut health and keeping it that way. Probiotics come from the foods we eat. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), increasing probiotic content in your gut through supplementation or consuming probiotic-rich foods can help with allergy disorders, liver conditions, and even the common cold.
The best natural source of probiotics can be found in fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir are all excellent sources of fermentation. What’s more, fermented foods have been shown to treat cancer and increase longevity! If probiotics are the soil in which we grow healthy gut bacteria, then prebiotics are the fertilizer.
Prebiotics are a class of plant fiber that can’t be digested by humans but is a critical food source for probiotic bacteria. Without prebiotics, probiotics can’t do their job. Without probiotics, our gut health fails. There are two primary prebiotics that your body needs: inulin and oligofructose.
There are also two sides to your colon; one prefers inulin (the left) and the other prefers oligofructose (the right). These two prebiotics have been shown to provide maximum nourishment for your internal ecosystem. They help to multiply beneficial bacteria and combat gut dysbiosis, a bacterial imbalance in the gut that can result in indigestion, bloating, and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
#5. Essential Oils
It’s also possible to heal your gut with essential oils. Dysbiosis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and nausea can often be treated with the right essential oils. Oils like lavender and peppermint can be used not only to treat gut symptoms, but to actually restore balance the microbiome. It’s always best to check in with a professional before using essential oils – especially when ingesting them – so remember to seek guidance beforehand.
#6. Detoxify from Heavy Metals
Heavy metal poisoning has a particularly harsh effect on your gut. Vaccines are one major source of heavy metals. Water is another. Groundwater can be contaminated by any number of toxins and most major cities on the east coast still use pipes with lead in them. The best way to protect your gut is to avoid these toxins altogether (a quality water filter is key). Another way is to detoxify your body. When it comes to toxic heavy metals, you can’t do better than chelation.
#7. Eat Organic
Another major enemy of gut health is glyphosate. The key ingredient in Roundup weed killer is sprayed on fields all over the world. But all the evidence shows that glyphosate causes cancer! Specifically, a blood cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Glyphosate poisoning is one of the major causes of leaky gut. What does leaky gut do? It allows pathogens into the bloodstream and suppresses the immune system.
Toxins – immune response = cancer.
The best way to avoid these problems is to eat organic, non-gmo food. Between harmful antibiotics and harsh chemicals, almost everything you see at the store is going to damage your gut health. But even that may not be enough, as glyphosate has been found in more than half of all surface waters, soil, and sediment. In addition to eating “clean,” we need to make detoxification a regular part of our routine.
When it comes to good health, it’s clear that taking care of your gut is step #1. Your body needs a healthy gut to absorb nutrients, keep the immune system strong, prevent brain disorders, and protect against toxins. There are plenty of things you can do wrong that will lead to dysbiosis and disease. But there are also so many ways to heal your gut and ensure that it stays balanced.