How your Gut Bacteria Can Affect Your Cancer Risk

Most people have heard of the microbiome. If we break the word down – micro meaning small, and bios meaning life = small life. In other words, it is the entire bacterial community in your body. Any part of your body that touches the outside world has beneficial bacteria in it. Eyes, ears nose, mouth, throat, lungs, intestinal tract and skin. As most know, probiotics help inoculate the microbiome with good bacteria which plays many roles in the body, one of which is in the function of the immune system. At Journey to Wellness, we recommend a probiotic to all of our patients.  However, most over the counter probiotics and fermented foods like yogurts, sauerkraut, Kombucha with live cultures, do not make it through the stomach acid. One of the jobs of your stomach acid is to kill bacteria that comes in on the food. Those with low stomach acid or on acid blocker do not have the acid to do this, or digest their food. That’s another blog for another day. There are some probiotics that are enteric coated to protect them from the stomach acid, but that is plastic. We do not want plastic in our patients. We use a probiotic that actually makes it through the stomach acid without using plastic to protect the fragile bacteria. Given, our probiotic gets to the intestinal tract we inoculate the gut daily for 2 weeks then maintain the gut microbiome with twice a week dosing.  This is the least expensive way to do probiotics. Any antibiotic will kill off the good bacteria and it is amazing how your diet will change your microbiome. Obesity and poor diet changes metabolic signaling and an individual’s dietary patterns change the breast microbiome.

 In a recent study performed in mice, researchers wanted to determine if the gut and breast microbiome were related1.  They looked at the microbiome of a control mouse and one with a high fat diet (HFD). They then did a fecal transplant from the HFD mouse to the control which changed the breast microbiome of the control group which had a pro tumor affect. They also transplanted the HFD bacteria to a petri dish that had breast cancer cells in it and it increased the growth of the breast cancer cells. This change suggests that the gut and mammary microbiomes are linked. This indicates that certain bacteria can signal cancer growth. There are several studies that demonstrate that certain diets shift the microbiome in the gut and the breast tumor microenvironment to affect tumor growth, and dietary interventions along with the right probiotic can modulate the tumor microbiota in patients with cancer.

If cancer can be signaled by some bacteria, and your bacteria is affected by diet, it is important to make sure your diet is promoting “good” bacteria, and you are taking probiotic that makes it through the stomach acid. That is what we work on with all patients.

At Journey to Wellness, we specialize in Naturopathic, complementary oncology. I am a FABNO (Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology) and the only FABNO practicing in southwest Washington. I have been working primarily with cancer patients for over 20 years. We take a 3 phased approach when working with cancer patients. In Phase 1, I investigate all possible causative factors by taking a “head to toe” approach and take the time to delve into a patient’s history and connect the dots and determine contributing factors to the cancer process. The goal is to connect the dots to determine what factors in a patient’s history increase their risk of cancer. This includes looking at diet and microbiome as contributing factors. Cancer is a multifactorial process and poor immune function (possibly as a result of a change in the microbiome) increases the risk of cancer development. Once causative factors have been identified, we work with patients to treat the things that allowed cancer to grow. In Phase 2, the goal is to help patients going through cancer treatment with well-researched protocols. These evidenced-based protocols reduce side effects without interfering with the treatments and tie up circulating tumor cells to reduce the risk of metastasis. It is important to work with someone who is trained in naturopathic oncology as many things can interfere with treatment. This can be dangerous if you do not know what you are doing. Some herbs and supplements can reduce the effectiveness of the treatment and make side effects worse. Finally in Phase 3, we help cancer patients recover from treatments and work with them to minimize the driving factors of cancer. In those with no evidence of disease, we work to reduce their recurrence rates. For patients with residual disease, we work with them to slow down the cancer process and treat it like a chronic disease with the goal of  improving their quality of life.

Whether you are a cancer patient, have a family history of cancer, or are someone that wants to reduce your risks of developing cancer, there are many proactive steps you can take. It is never too late to take steps towards improving your life. We tell our patients that they are the only person in charge of their health. We only get one body through which we experience our lives. It is a gift that needs to be proactively taken care of. 

Live every minute of every day.

Cynthia Bye, ND, FABNO
Board Certified in Naturopathic Oncology

Soto-Pantoja, D. R., Gaber, M., Arnone, A. A., Bronson, S. M., Cruz-Diaz, N., Wilson, A. S., Clear, K., Ramirez, M. U., Kucera, G. L., Levine, E. A., Lelièvre, S. A., Chaboub, L., Chiba, A., Yadav, H., Vidi, P. A., & Cook, K. L. (2021). Diet Alters Entero-Mammary Signaling to Regulate the Breast Microbiome and Tumorigenesis. Cancer research81(14), 3890–3904.