Your Chemo Gut Health…
Keep Your Gut Healthy During and After Chemo
Did you know you have more bacteria in your body than cells? Trillions and trillions of these tiny microbes live on you and in you, but the ones that are the most powerful are those in your intestines.
It’s now well known that 70-80% of your immune system lies in your gut. This is a new and exploding field of research that we have just touched the surface of. How important these good bugs are in maintaining a balanced body system is just now being discovered.
Damaging Your Gut
There is no doubt that cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation destroy these beneficial bacteria. Along with that, any prescription medication, stress, inflammation, poor quality diet, and alcoholic beverages, all can lead to a disruption of our beneficial microbiome. Want to build up your immune system? Then you must help your gut to heal.
You have a mucosal layer in your intestines that protects your gut lining and keeps the “bad guys” out. This mucosal lining is dependent on a good microbiome to create something called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that feed other beneficial gut bacteria to make butyrate, a SCFA and vital energy source for mucus-secreting goblet cells and intestinal epithelial cells. Scientists call this cross-feeding, keeping all your bacteria thriving.
When the good bugs are destroyed, the mucosal lining becomes thin, and we start to create something called a “leaky gut.” Leaky gut is when the tight junctions on the intestinal wall open up and allow toxins, large protein molecules, unwanted pathogens, into the bloodstream. This sets off a cascade of immune responses that leads to excess inflammation. This is not a good kind of inflammation when we have a healthy immune response, this type of inflammation causes tissue damage systemically and actually lowers our body’s ability to do the cellular repair.
No doubt you have heard of Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria. These were some of the first bacteria identified as superstars for the prevention of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Type II Diabetes and obesity. There has been a whole industry of probiotics built around these two bacteria. However, we are now discovering thousands of strains of bacteria, many doing very specific things in the body.
If you are in the midst of cancer therapy, you will need to have an ongoing program of gut health. Since you are continually using drugs that destroy good bacteria, it will be essential that you feed your bacteria and restore your bacteria. If you are in the recovery and healing stage of cancer, it’s time to get very serious about restoring your gut microbiome and keeping it healthy!
One of the new kids on the block is called Akkermansia. We are on the cusp of an explosion of research on this bacteria that promises positive health outcomes with lowered inflammation, obesity, insulin resistance, and more. The great news is we can eat foods that help us keep Akkermansia along with other good bacteria active and healthy! Its SCFA metabolites feed intestinal cells and therefore strengthen the gut barrier to prevent unwanted materials from passing through. As a result, this leads to the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and reduced inflammation.
Healing Your Gut
Here is some great news… your gut heals fast! It’s one of the parts of the body that has to renew quickly as it’s exposed to food coming down all day long. Here is something else I bet you never thought about, your intestines are not really in you! You have this big tube that runs from your mouth to your rectum. Food can go straight on through and never get in you by going through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. We’ve all seen this when the corn comes out whole!
Many people tell me they take a probiotic, which is great, but with thousands of different strains, how do you know if you are getting the best ones? While taking a supplement is often very helpful for restoring a good bacterial level, eating foods that feed these bugs is even more important.
You may have heard of prebiotics, food for your good bacteria, but have you heard of polyphenols? Both of these come from plants, and polyphenols are those phytochemicals that come from colorful fruits and vegetables. One of the best ways to increase your levels of good bacteria naturally is by eating plenty of plant foods that contain prebiotics and polyphenols to feed and grow those good bugs.
Akkermansia loves ellagic acid, a polyphenol prevalent in berries and some nuts. It also loves catechins and tannins from green tea. Here is a list of foods that will contain both probiotics and polyphenols.
Chemo Gut Health Supplements
There are literally hundreds of probiotic supplements on the market. Unfortunately, many have the same strains and we have a tendency to buy the same brand over and over. My suggestion is you rotate brands with different strains. Read your labels, you may find they have one or two of the same strains, but three or four different ones. If you are currently in cancer treatment, then you will want to take these every day along with eating prebiotic-rich foods. If you are in the healing and recovery stage and done with cancer treatments, you too will want to take these daily for at least three months.
If you would like to know my favorite brands, you can access them in my online dispensary at Wellevate.
Smoothies have to be the easiest way to get some of these beneficial probiotics and polyphenols into your diet.
In a base of your favorite non-dairy milk such as cashew, almond, or coconut.
- 1 Tablespoon SBI Protect Powder by Ortho Molecular Products (bovine immunoglobulins aka colostrum)
- 2 Scoops of collagen protein (I like Vital Protein’s Collagen Peptides)
- 1 scoop of Multi Probiotic 40 Billion Powder by Douglas Labs, or another high potency, powdered probiotic.
- 1 Tablespoon pure, organic pomegranate concentrate
- 1 Tablespoon pure, organic, cranberry extract
- 1 teaspoon organic, matcha tea powder
- 1 small, organic apple
Have a handful of pecans or walnuts with your smoothie for even more healing power!
- Getting To Know Your Gut Bugs: Akkermansia Muciniphila, Hyman, Mark M.D.
- If Your Gut Could Talk, 10 Things You Should Know, Kristen Ciccolini, September 17, 2018,
- Bacteria is Best: Why a Healthy Gut Microbiome is Key to Cancer Prevention, Ty Bolinger, June 14, 2021
- Image Credit: Credit: Darryl Leja, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health
About the Author: Chris McKee
Chris McKee is a Certified Nutritionist and Certified Diet Counselor with over 30 years of experience in whole-food cooking, healthy lifestyle coaching, individual nutritional counseling and speaking to 1,000’s of people about the role of good nutrition in preventing disease.
Chris is also a Certified Nutragenomix practitioner and this allows her to look deep into your genetic profile and personalize your nutrition program based on your unique genetic fingerprint.
She runs on-line courses including her 10 Day Clean Eating Challenge, 21 Days Prepping for the Keto Diet as well as her Hope 4 Cancer Recovery program.
Chris and her husband Ed love to travel, hence the name “The Nomadic Nutritionist”. She is a grandmother of four and a great-grandma of two! She loves to cook, explore new food finds, hike and fish.
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