Good intestinal health is related to important functions in the body, it is a fundamental part of a strong immune system and essential in the prevention of diseases, it is even related to the state of mind. The human colon is a sea full of life with millions of bacteria of hundreds of different species, in many cases an imbalance is related to infection or disease. Doctors and scientists around the world have studied a lot about the role that intestinal bacteria (also called microbiota, microbioma o flora intestinal) in many diseases, including cancer. In such a way that it is no secret to say that one of the main challenges for people with cancer is to maintain a good balance in the microbiota and it is associated with serious consequences: it delays the benefits of treatment, prevents the correct absorption of nutrients, causes effects delicate side effects and of course impairs recovery. Fortunately, there are some foods that will be essential for strengthen gut health and speed recovery.
Nutrition plays a role in approximately the 30% of cancer cases. Also, about a third of cancer could be prevented through a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular exercise. After not smoking, excess weight is the leading preventable cause of cancer. That is why following a healthy lifestyle is key in recovering from treatment and a great help to reduce the risk of recurrence.
A normal bacterial balance occurs when there are many more good bacteria outnumbering the bad, and it is easier for a healthy person to make certain lifestyle adjustments that promote good gut health. However, it has been proven that Cancer in most cases tends to wreak havoc on the human microbiota. What happens is that the disease overloads the immune system and thus increases the risk of presenting a flourishing of bad bacteria in the intestine. There is also another very relevant factor: chemotherapyAlthough it is the most popular treatment to fight cancer and save lives, medical studies have shown that it is usually very aggressive and ends up killing all the good bacteria that intervene in digestion. That is why one of the main symptoms of chemotherapy is diarrhea, which generates a rather complicated picture since it depletes the good bacteria even more.
As if that were not enough, many of cancer patients take multiple antibiotics, which end up destroying the few remaining good bacteria. These can cause different infections, including the most notorious one being infection by Clostridium difficile, known simply as C. diff and characterized by inflammation in the colon. Often caused by alterations in the intestinal flora and a compromised immune system, it is estimated that this type of infection occurs in 10% of cancer patients.
How to reduce the effects of chemotherapy through diet?
To help reduce the effects of chemotherapy on the microbiome, one of the main recommendations of doctors and nutritionists is to bet on the consumption of prebiotics to strengthen the microbiota. And probiotics to restore the good bacteria lost or destroyed by the treatment. They are also a great ally to combat symptoms such as inflammation, gas, diarrhea and constipation, they are found in a wide range of fermented products and as daily supplements.
According to information released by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research, after chemotherapy treatment it is essential to consume a balanced diet based on healthy fresh foods. Also the quality of the diet will be of great help to maintain a healthy weight and a balanced nutrition, in addition to accelerating the recovery after this aggressive treatment.
– Foods rich in proteins. The consumption of both quality protein sources is recommended: vegetable and animal origin. The best recommendations for vegetable proteins: legumes especially beans, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, oats and soybeans. As well as lean animal proteins: chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
– Fruits and vegetables. Of course they are one of the most important categories in any healthy diet, however in a specific way they play a key role in chemotherapy rehabilitation. Bet on a colorful variety and take advantage of the seasonal options, they are always the freshest. In particular, the consumption of bananas, apples, peaches, papaya, spinach, blueberries and berries, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale is recommended. A good way to enjoy them is through 100% fresh and natural juices and smoothies.
– Low-fat dairy and dairy alternatives. They are a good source of calories and protein, and they also contain vitamins and minerals that benefit health. Experts recommend consuming milk, cheese, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and kefir, plus some are incredibly high in probiotics.
– Whole grains and starchy vegetables. These types of foods are important because they are extremely nutritious, low in calories, versatile and very comforting. There are great alternatives like oatmeal, quinoa, barley, brown rice, popcorn, corn, potatoes, peas, winter squash, and 100% whole grain products like bread, pasta, cereals, and cookies.
– Healthy fats. They are a great ally to regain the appetite that is normally affected and provide calories full of nutrients, generally accelerating recovery. Bet on the consumption of extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, organic nut butters (without sugars or additives), avocado, nuts and seeds. They are characterized by its content in healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. And things like nuts, seeds, and avocado are conspicuous for their fiber content, which increases stool bulk and feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut.
– Natural broths. Taste changes are normal during and after chemotherapy, and water is commonly said to taste different. In these cases, broths are an excellent alternative to keep hydration in optimal condition and are also wonderful for cases of poor appetite. By slowly boiling the broths (these usually contain vegetables, herbs, meat, chicken or fish), electrolytes are released into the liquid. These particles are loaded with nutrients like sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium, so they significantly benefit recovery and are very friendly to a deteriorated intestinal system. For extra nutrients, especially when you have a dry mouth or poor appetite, nutrition experts recommend adding a scoop of unflavored protein powder, such as collagen powder.
It may interest you:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.