Probiotics and Chemotherapy
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, mostly bacteria, which upon ingestion, improve health. Although these bacteria are different from the ones naturally present in our gut, the effects produced by them are similar so they provide ample health benefits.
Bacteria can be both good and bad. The good or helpful bacteria improve health while the others cause diseases. Probiotics are among those good bacteria. The total number of bacteria present in our gut is 10 times greater than the total number of cells in our body, and this bacterial flora is essential for normal working of our digestive tract. Several crucial functions of gut are impaired without these bacteria such as removal of required nutrients from food and their absorption in the body.
Probiotics are highly recommended for cancer patients going through chemotherapy or radiation therapy as they can help overcome many of the side effects of these cancer treatments such as deteriorated gut health and suppressed immunity as discussed later in detail.
Although chemotherapy mainly targets cancerous cells, it can also damage healthy cells, especially those lining the digestive tract. These cells are very important for the efficient absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. As a result, the person with damaged gut cannot effectively absorb essential nutrients and eventually becomes malnourished.
Probiotics not only improve digestive health in patients undergoing chemotherapy but they also reduce depression and boost immunity. Probiotic supplements are quite popular these days but live, probiotic-rich fermented foods prove to be much more efficient in delivering the much-needed bacteria into the intestinal tract.
Some Natural Sources of Probiotics:
Some natural sources rich in probiotics include sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, traditional buttermilk, pickles and other fermented vegetables. Adding a little of these in daily diet of patients undergoing chemotherapy can speed up their recovery progress while helping them maintain their physical health. But nausea from chemotherapy can make chewing down these food items a little difficult. The easy solution to this situation is drinking sauerkraut kvass, the fermented brine, consuming which can help you achieve same health benefits as eating sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut is recently being called the new superfood because numerous scientific researches demonstrating its beneficial effects on human health. It produces several positive effects when consumed like it:
-Promotes absorption of required nutrients from Gastrointestinal Tract
-Stimulates immune system
-Improves overall gastrointestinal health
It has also been found to be immensely helpful not only during the treatment of cancer but also for its prevention.
Cancer is undoubtedly one of the deadliest and most painful diseases to experience. Cancer itself as well as its treatment is extremely agonizing. If you or a loved one is fighting cancer, it is important that you are aware how useful probiotics derived from organic sources such as Sauerkraut can be during the treatment process. Probiotics help maintain homeostasis thus reducing the side effects of cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy can be both a physically and mentally challenging treatment procedure. It is the leading cause of death for patients fighting cancer. It comes with endless side effects. It kills the natural bacterial flora of intestine which helps with the digestion of food. As a result, the patient becomes malnourished due to poor absorption of nutrients through GIT. Not just that, but as the number of intestinal bacteria declines, chemotherapy becomes less effective prolonging the treatment process. So, to keep the body in the normal functioning state, it is important to maintain the amount of these friendly gut bacteria. Probiotics are immensely helpful to keep the population of these organisms within the required range.
Sauerkraut is made by fermenting cabbage and thus it is rich in probiotics. Cabbage also contains glucosinolates which are anticarcinogenic compounds. They work to lower the possibility of development of cancer by activating antioxidants. These antioxidants, in turn, fight inflammation and help prevent not only cancer but also heart diseases and diabetes mellitus.
During the production of Sauerkraut, beneficial bacteria, lacto-bacilli, are produced and many nutrients in cabbage are broken down to simpler compounds. This promotes their easy absorption from gastrointestinal tract and thus increases their bioavailability. The probiotic lacto-bacilli helps to break down sugars present in cabbage and produce compounds which are helpful to fight off cancer; especially breast, prostate and bladder cancer.
Probiotic bacteria target cancer cells and destroy them. The carcinogens present in the body and in cancerous cells are also detoxified by probiotics. They stimulate natural defense mechanisms of the body by boosting immune system. They also help to create an environment not suitable for the development of cancer by the production of certain organic compounds. Thus, they inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and help destroy the ones already present.
The so called organic sauerkraut available in the market is pasteurized at high temperature which helps increase its shelf life but also ends up killing not only the harmful bacteria but beneficial bacteria as well. So, the industrialized sauerkraut usually does not contain any live cultures of probiotics and hence fails to serve any health benefit. However, some organic alternatives made by using traditional methods such as Hampton’s Brine sauerkraut and sauerkraut kvass can supply you with probiotics and nutrition. The delicious taste is a plus!
The Side Effects of Chemotherapy and the Role of Probiotics:
The side effects of chemotherapy are horrendous. The appetite of the patient is decreased and even if the patient manages to eat anything, the essential nutrients are poorly absorbed. As a result, the patient becomes malnourished.
Introducing Sauerkraut or sauerkraut kvass as a part of regular diet of cancer patients can produce tremendously positive results. Apart from boosting immune system, regular intake of sauerkraut/sauerkraut kvass also helps to promote the growth of anti-inflammatory bacteria present in the gut. These bacteria protect the body against several harmful diseases.
Studies have proved that probiotics present in sauerkraut are also helpful in subduing indigestion, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and other GIT disorders. This is particularly true when they are ingested by eating natural foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles etc.
Probiotics can also help those cancer patients who are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics not only kill harmful infectious bacteria but also disturb the flora of beneficial bacteria present in different parts of the body such as gut. Probiotics can help these bacteria to regrow thus restoring the balance back to normal.
Probiotics also produce beneficial effects for the improvement of irritable bowel syndrome in patients who have survived colorectal cancer. Lacto-fermented sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, cancer fighting compounds, antioxidants and dietary fibers making them an excellent dietary choice for cancer patients.
Chemotherapy causes a number of gastrointestinal disorders as it damages the mucosal cell lining of the tract. It results into inflammation and pain. Nutrients and water are absorbed poorly causing a state of constant diarrhea. The studies show that probiotics can help the damaged digestive tract to digest the food more efficiently. They also help in regeneration of cells and healing of GIT. A research article published in 2009 “Journal of Paternal and Enteral Nutrition” revealed that probiotics helped overcome chemotherapy induced diarrhea in breast cancer patients. Cancer treatment also lowers the immunity and as a result the patient becomes more susceptible to infections. So, chemotherapy causes diarrhea in one way or another which promotes extensive loss of water and nutrients from the body of the patient. Probiotic-rich food items such as sauerkraut kvass can help efficiently cope with the situation.
Lactobacillus, a probiotic, also helps with boosting immunity. As the immunity of cancer patients is already suppressed, this friendly bacterium can help to improve the situation a great deal. Lactobacillus has been known to inhibit several pathogenic bacterial infections such as salmonella, E-coli and pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. It also lowers down the risk of development of post-operative infection. The probability of viral and fungal infections and development of certain respiratory diseases such as bronchitis is reduced as well. Thus, probiotics can be a great choice to give a boost to your immunity.
Some other digestive issues which probiotics, such as lactobacillus, can help to resolve include flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia and ulcerative colitis.
Appetite, suppressed in cancer patients due to chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also be improved by taking probiotics.
Researches have shown that probiotics also help to improve quality of sleep and increase duration of sleep.
The low cost of probiotic-rich food and the fact that they are unlikely to produce any harmful effects, it is highly recommended to add them to daily diet of cancer patients. Several hospitals these days automatically put a patient who is taking antibiotics on probiotics to make up for the loss of beneficial bacteria in the body.
Opting out for natural sources of probiotics can turn out to be a great choice for cancer patients. They can not only help with improving their digestive health but also their overall health. Adding some delicious sauerkraut to daily diet can be enough to supply for the daily need of probiotics, and if patient cannot eat sauerkraut, drinking sauerkraut kvass can provide the same health benefits.