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Antibiotics used to fight infections or block cancer pathways can kill good bacteria in the colon. To help reduce the effects of chemotherapy on the microbiome, doctors and nutritionists often turn to prebiotics to bolster the microbiome and probiotics to restore good bacteria lost or destroyed by treatment.
Apart from us all needing to take care of our gut bacteria, it was vital for us to make sure we did everything to improve Stu's chances of the CeGat immunotherapy being effective. So we took a number of steps. Sounds a bit complicated for me to explain so I will need some help from the experts. Here we go.
What is the gut microbiome?
Human microbiota is made of trillions of viruses, fungi and other microorganisms. The human microbiota has 10 times more microorganisms than human cells. Microorganisms make up about 3 percent of our total body mass, or about six pounds of a 200-pound adult. Imbalances in human gut flora have been linked to autoimmune diseases and heart disease. Gut bacteria play a fundamental role in the induction, training, regulation, and function of the host immune system.
We had Stu's microbiome tested as part of a series of tests completed by Patrice Surley and Dr Callebout. The GI Map through Nordic Labs showed what bacteria, pathogens, parasites, fungus, viruses were high, low and normal. A couple of things were flagged up that would be keeping Stu's immune system busy when he needed it to be detecting cancer cells. You can order that test through Patrice Surley.
Did Stu take probiotics?
Early on Stu was taking probiotics recommended by his kinesiologist Hilary but after consulting with Dr Castro we switched to VSL#3 which has a higher concentration of live bacteria at 450billion. Marketed as "Remarkable Concentrated Poly-biotic" Stu drank it like a shot each morning. You can find more information about it here.
Symprove was also recommended by other cancer patients which I have recently started taking myself every morning whilst going through our IVF treatment and I admit it tastes much better than VSL#3 but they are different products. You can find out more information about Symprove here. I have a discount link which gives you £20 off your first order but please bear in mind that by using it that it's an affiliate link and also gives me £20 off my next order. I chose the plain flavour because mango was one of the foods that our kinesiologist advised against due to toxoplasma.
Some tips that we were given to maintain Stu's microbiome:
- Diversify what we ate. A diverse menu of foods encourages the growth of many types of bacteria, which makes for a healthy microbiome.
- Eat fermented foods. These foods contain and feed probiotics and help promote healthy gut bacteria. Fermented foods include live yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso.
- Eat more fruit, vegetables and beans. Limiting animal fats and eating a plant-based diet will increase fibre intake and promote a healthy gut. We didn't cut out meat but did limit it to chicken and fish where possible.
- Cut out processed food, eat whole foods and grains. Processing often strips fibre and nutrients from many grains, such as wheat and rice. Whole grains are rich in fibre and good for the gut. We ate very little bread and if we did it was sourdough.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. We cut out all sugar products but research indicates that sugar substitutes such as aspartame can damage gut flora.
Here are some interesting articles that explain gut microbiomes way better than I can:
The Role of Gut Microbiota in Tumour Immunotherapy
The Brain-Gut Connection
Why Is Good Gut Health So Important – The Inside Story?
What to Know About the Gut Brain Link
The Gut–Brain Axis, Paving the Way to Brain Cancer
Healthy gut may aid cancer treatment
So why is gut health so important?
I wonder whether it's a British thing or whether its universal that some people don't like to talk about anything to do with our guts and poo. There isn't a creature on this planet that doesn't poop in some way or another.
Coming from a family that doesn't get uncomfortable about these things I didn't find it strange to talk to Stu about poo and I've seen some things that wives aren't usually privy to. In my heart all these things brought us closer, there was nothing we couldn't talk about including poo.
Cancer treatments as well as antibiotics can wreak havoc on our gut bacteria. Cancer puts a strain on the immune system, which may allow bad bacteria in the gut to flourish.
Stu started improving his microbiome early on but we didnt understand the full reasons why until we started doing research. It wasn't part of the advice given by the NHS teams but when we started looking outside the basic information and treatments given by his first medical team and looked at it from a holistic approach, we discovered so much information that made sense. I don't know why it's not an imperative part of SOC to talk about diet and gut health but hopefully one day it will be. Taking a probiotic was the start of looking at the whole picture and of course with hindsight I wish we were both doing this way before brain cancer crashed into our lives.