Good gut health can help you heal better and faster.
‘All disease begins in the gut”.
In my previous blog, I spoke about the microbiome within us and its role in maintaining optimal cross talk between so many of our body’s functions. The gut microbiome has been especially thought to play an essential role in physiological processes such as digestion and immunity as well as anxiety, mood, and pain via the gut–brain axis.
Maintaining good gut health through the foods you eat is one way to maintain control when so many things feel out of your control during your cancer journey.
“It is not enough for a cancer patient to receive appropriate conventional therapy for his or her disease. To improve quality and quantity of life, a regimen of good nutrition is essential.”
–Linus Pauling, PhD, twice Nobel laureate
Nutrition is an important part of cancer treatment and recovery; eating a balanced meal is necessary to maintain a healthy gut. A healthy gut makes it easier for your body to make repairs at the cellular level. In fact, even after a cell begins to experience damage, your gut health can still help short-circuit the cancer process, support you through treatment, lay the foundation for good bowel movements, strengthen your ability to ward off infections and overall boost your mental and physical health.
So, how do you keep your gut healthy?
Every person’s gut microbiome is unique, so what may work for someone else may not necessarily work for you. Talk to your doctor. Your cancer treatment team may suggest prebiotics to strengthen the microbiome and probiotics to restore the balance with good bacteria that may be wiped out by treatment. Having said that, here are a few things you can keep in mind.
- A diet that contains a lot of plant-based foods - fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes - promotes optimal gut health. High in prebiotics, they serve as the food for the probiotics (good bacteria).
- Beans, berries, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, nuts and seeds have natural insoluble fiber that allow probiotics to thrive. During and after therapy, probiotic supplements that contain multiple types of microorganisms can help restore the good bacteria in the gut.
- An increase in fiber in your diet may lead to gas, bloating, or diarrhea, but these side effects usually clear up within a few days or weeks. If you have colon or rectal cancer, you must consult your oncologist before starting on high fiber foods.
When the bacteria in your microbiome feed on the fiber and resistant starch in your diet, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The main SCFAs produced are acetate, propionate and butyrate. Acetate regulates the pH of the gut, controls appetite, and protects against disease causing bacteria and viruses. Butyrate can serve as an energy source for colon cells, prevent leaky gut and is anti-inflammatory. Propionate has cholesterol-lowering, appetite regulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
As you can see, what you eat greatly impacts how you feel. There is data that shows that simple lifestyle changes such as eating wholefoods and a plant-based diet, decreasing stress in your life, consistent physical activity, and being an active part of a community can slow the progression of localized prostate cancer. Your microbiome is finely tuned to these changes as well.
So, listen to your gut. Support it with the right foods so it can support you in your cancer journey.