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Can Your Gut Protect You Against Cancer?

What if the best cancer prevention already exists, and it’s found in your body. Most people who are accustomed to searching for cancer cures from external sources so it may be hard to imagine that the solution for this horrible disease may lie in your gut in the form of bacteria.

More and more research shows that what happens in your gut can determine your health and wellbeing. That includes whether you’re likely to suffer from cancer or not. A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications showed how gut probiotics can help prevent cancer and may provide help in the treatment of cancer as well.

The research out of Babraham Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom, demonstrates that gut bacteria influence genes, which in turn may reduce cancer risk. We tend to think of our genes as ticking time bombs when it comes to cancer, but this new research suggests that there are other factors, including gut health and the probiotic diversity and overall numbers found in our gut.

The researchers found that short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced in the gut during the digestion of fruits and vegetables. They can move into the lining of the cells in our gut, thereby affecting our genes and the behavior of gut cells, through the increase of compounds that switch genes on or off.

On the flip side, to reduce gut bacteria, the scientists administered antibiotics and found that the reduction in bacteria caused an increase in compounds known as HDAC2, a high number of which have been linked to colorectal cancer. This research suggests our heavy reliance on antibiotics may have other ramifications other than just the formation of superbugs.

Related: 12 Proven Ways to Drastically Reduce Your Colon Cancer Risk

Fruits and vegetables are the key to increasing beneficial SCFAs and reducing harmful HDAC2. While many experts recommend getting at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, I think that number barely staves off disease and that we should be striving for 9-10 servings daily. This may sound like a lot but it is easy to achieve if you follow a few simple suggestions, including:

-Make vegetables the star of each meal, rather than just side dishes

-Eat fruit when you have a sweet tooth

-Eat a large salad daily

-Enjoy a bowl of soup blended from roasted vegetables on a regular basis (such as sweet potato, onion, garlic, squash, red or yellow peppers, etc.)

-If you don’t like vegetables try them in different ways than you’re accustomed to eating them. When I met my husband he ate exactly 4 fruits and vegetables. Now thanks to some creative and delicious cooking, most of his favorite foods are fruits and vegetables.

While the study didn’t explore the effects of fermented foods, other studies have found that eating fermented cabbage, such as that found in sauerkraut and kimchi, can reduce the risk of breast cancer. Cabbage, along with other cruciferous vegetables, has long been known to have anti-cancer properties, but when it is fermented with live cultures, the bacteria break down anti-cancer compounds known as glucosinolates into more active compounds called isothiocyanates, which are highly anti-cancerous.

Keep in mind that most of the sauerkraut and kimchi found in grocery stores has been pasteurized and has therefore lost most of its health benefits. Choose sauerkraut and kimchi found in the refrigerator section that states “contains live cultures” or something similar to reap the health benefits of these foods.

Equally important, many people continue to demand antibiotics from their doctors whenever they have a cold or flu, both of which are caused by viruses, not bacteria. That means, antibiotics will not be effective for their treatment. Worse than that, the list of problems linked to antibiotic drugs is growing and you may be needlessly causing your own suffering if you take them for viral conditions.

If you have a bacterial infection for which your doctor has prescribed antibiotics, be sure to supplement your diet with fermented foods and probiotics. A broad-spectrum probiotic supplement may he helpful to replenish lost beneficial bacteria due to antibiotic use. Ideally, choose one that includes: L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. plantarum, L. bulgaricus, L. reuteri and S. thermophilus as these strains have research-proven benefits against antibiotic-related concerns.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-news World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, president of ScentsationalWellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight Extend Your Life.

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