We received an inquiry from a person with cancer. “I am having chemo for grade 3 ductal cancer. It was all removed and not in lymph nodes. Side effects are horrendous for diarrhoea and stomach pains. My oncologist has said I mustn’t take probiotics, as my immune system is lowered and susceptible to bacteria but without them I am unable to eat or sleep as I spend all night and day on toilet. I have read studies which say probiotics are beneficial. Even before chemo I had a delicate digestive system and probiotics were a life saver for normal bowel function. Surely it is better to have good bacteria leak into the blood stream and lymphatic system than bad bacteria and better for me to stay strong, keep nutrients in, etc. Your opinion would be appreciated. Thanks”.
Our expert Dawn Baker, trained in Oncology and Medical Esthetics, plus Nutrition expert responds as follows:
Also, Dr Brian Lawenda states that “new studies report that when your gut bacteria are compromised chemotherapy may not work as well.
Although we don’t completely understand how our gut bacteria make chemotherapy work better, one study found that chemotherapy causes our gut to become leaky, enabling intestinal bacteria to enter the bloodstream and the lymph nodes. Once in the lymph nodes, these bacteria stimulate our immune system and enhance the body’s ability to fight cancer.
These findings are profound, as we did not previous know that the health of our intestinal flora might be an important factor that could tip the balance for patients on whether their cancer treatment is effective or not.
There are many things that negatively impact the health of our gut flora, so it seems quite compelling to do everything we can to maintain these ‘good’ organisms.
One simple recommendation I give when I counsel my patients on nutrition is to encourage them to consume plenty of probiotic and prebiotic foods or take a probiotic supplement every day as a means to help support their gut health.”
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