Protect Your Gut During Chemo
Pubmed did a survey and found that one half of the American population uses antacids. That is 163.5 Million people! 75% of those where determined to be “heavy users”, using an antacid 3-5 times daily.
When we talk about using antacids we are just talking about digestive disturbances that people are dealing with in the stomach, not even addressing what’s going on “down below!”
If the non-cancer community is dealing with digestive disturbances at this level then it’s more than likely those of you in active cancer treatment are having stomach and gut challenges.
There is no doubt that cancer treatments can damage the gut. The more we learn about the “good bacteria” that lives in the gut, the more we realize we must protect and restore the digestive tract as best we can.
Can You Protect Your Gut During Chemo?
A 2014 study investigating the effects of administering probiotics to colorectal cancer survivors for 12 weeks saw a significant decrease in symptoms for patients suffering from irritable bowel symptom, ultimately improving quality of life for those patients.1
A 2019 study also showed benefits for those receiving radiation therapy who developed diarrhea. 2
As we study the gut we have learned that it plays a huge role in our immune function. Indeed, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) is the prominent part of mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) and represents almost 70% of the entire immune system; moreover, about 80% of plasma cells [mainly immunoglobulin A (IgA)-bearing cells] reside in GALT.
So, we definitely want to protect our gut as much as possible and restore our gut when our treatment is over. Here are some tips for good gut health.
Tips For Good Gut Health
- Avoid drinking ice cold beverages before and during meals. This shuts down the hydrochloric and pepsin production in the stomach and will cause the digestion to slow, often times causing heartburn and indigestion.
- Do drink warm or room temperature beverages in moderation before a meal. A herbal tea such as peppermint or chamomile will prepare the stomach to receive the food and digest it well.
- Avoid “bad fats” such as fried food, fast food, chips and vegetable oils. These fats are very inflammatory, hard for your liver and gallbladder to digest and harden and thicken your cellular walls, preventing them from proper detoxification.
- Do eat a diet that is easy on the digestion such as steamed vegetables, fresh, organic fruits, easy to digest proteins, low inflammatory foods (less grains and white flour products) and eliminate sugar as much as possible.
- Avoid antibiotics if possible as they kill the “good” and “bad” bugs. If it’s necessary to do a round of antibiotics bake sure and go through a bottle of probiotics.
- Do eat “prebiotic” foods such as fermented foods. This may be a stretch for you if your appetite is off but if you can tolerate foods like sauerkraut and kimchi they are powerful for creating a good soil for the bacteria to grow in.
- Do eat foods such as bananas, asparagus, garlic, onion and leeks to support good bacteria.
- Avoid foods and lifestyle factors that destroy good bacteria such as alcohol, smoking, stress and lack of sleep.
- Do support your digestion. Some of these suggestions may help protect your gut during treatment as well. Aloe Vera Juice, Vitamin E, Collagen peptide protein, digestive enzymes for stomach and small intestine.3
As always, check with your treating physician before starting any supplement program.
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.
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.