The Department of Health and Human Services, in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (GA) and the National Cancer Institute; 2015, state that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in America and the third most common cancer in men and in women.(1)
In our gut we have gut microbiota (formerly known as gut flora) – the microbe population living in our intestines. Our gut microbiota contains trillions of microorganisms from thousands of different types of bacterium. Our intestinal microbiota can weigh up to 2 kg! Each and every one of us has their own unique and special micrbiota template. Our microbiota functions to ensure proper digestive functioning of our foods, especially foods that the stomach and small intestine have not been able to digest. Microbiota also helps with the production of some vitamins (B and K) and plays an important function in our immune system. Microbiota begins colonising our intestine right after birth and evolves as we grow as a result of different environmental influences and our diet. Microbiota adapts to changes in our diet and environment although in extreme cases of neglect, nutritional deficiencies, stress, and a very sedentary lifestyle, a loss of balance in gut microbiota may arise. This loss of balance is linked to health problems such as bowel disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, obesity and diabetes.
Prebiotics provide nourishment for the good bacteria to help them multiply. Prebiotics include Inulin, Xylo-oligosaccharides, Arabinogalactan, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). Prebiotics do not digest in the stomach or small intestine, and are accessible to only good bacteria and not harmful bacteria once the food source reaches the large intestine. Prebiotics stimulate the good bacteria to multiply. Prebiotics can also prevent colorectal cancer. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Wollowski I. 2001 found that ingestion of prebiotics was associated with anti cancer effects, through the detoxification of genotoxins in the gut. He concluded that “colon cancer, which in a high proportion of the population is due to somatic mutations occurring during the lifetime of an individual, could be retarded or prevented by preventing these mutations. Lactic acid bacteria and prebiotics that enhance lactic acid bacteria have been shown to deactivate genotoxic carcinogens. In model systems in vitro they have been shown to prevent mutations. DNA damage has been prevented and chemopreventive systems may be stimulated in vivo in colon tissues. From a mechanistic point of view, lactic acid bacteria offer potential as chemoprotective agents and thus further research is clearly needed to quantify the beneficial effects for prevention of human colon cancer.
Harmful microbiota also affects the brain. The toxic metabolic by-products, and inflammatory molecules produced by the harmful bacteria in the gut adversely affects the brain.
Even obesity has been linked to harmful microbiota. In a study published in the journal Diabetes in 2007, Cani et al identified that harmful bacteria produce toxins called lipopolysaccardies (LPS) which trigger inflammation as well as insulin resistance thereby promoting weight gain.
Prebiotics occur naturally in different plant-based foods. By consuming the following foods you will reduce your risk for colon cancer and obesity caused by excessive inflammation promoting foods:
Onions and leeks, Garlic, Oats, Asparagus, Jerusalem Artichokes, Artichokes, Chicory Root, Whole Grains, Soybeans and other pods vegetables, Beans, Plums, Bananas, and Black Grapes as well as Raisins, as well as fresh Honey, Nuts, Seeds.
The best foods to avoid are those foods that supply nourishment for the “harmful” bacteria: sugar, processed foods, animal fats, and animal protein. By taking antibiotics only when necessary and reducing acid blockers and anti-inflammatory medicine uptake which change microbiota for the worse, you will be reducing your risk for colon cancer and other diseases and disorders.
Credit: Galit Goldfarb