Arizona Advanced Medicine Clinic

The Gut Microbiome and Cancer

National institute of Health

In 2007 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided funding for the Microbiome Project - a consortium of researchers seeking to define the normal bacterial population of the human body. And on June 14th of 2012 some 200 scientists from 80 institutions published much of this research[1] in a coordinated fashion in a special edition of Nature magazine as well as several other Public Library of Science (PLoS).

The scientists used genome sequencing techniques - much like the technique used for the stool analysis we do on our patients with inflammatory illness - to define the normal composition of organisms in our gut, our skin, our nose, our mouth, our ears, our vaginas.

Several interesting findings came from this research

First, the technique of growing organisms in culture (the standard way to analyze stool in laboratory tests typically covered by your insurance) manages to identify only a few organisms. The technique of identifying DNA and RNA found only in bacteria is much better, because it identifies ALL the organisms in a sample, not just the ones the ones that we can persuade to grow in an artificial medium.

bacteria Second, the number of organisms is ten times the number of cells in the human body. The contents of the intestinal tract form the largest organ in the body. And healthy individuals do not all carry the same bacterial population.[2] Interesting…

Third, we ALL carry pathogens - organisms that can potentially cause disease - in our gut. Whether they make us ill seems to depend more on our individual state of health, rather than the nature of the germ. So sorry, Louis Pasteur. Germs are important, to who they live in is even more important.

“We have defined the boundaries of normal microbial variation in humans,” said James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH Division of Program Coordination, Planning and Strategic Initiatives, which includes the NIH Common Fund. “We now have a very good idea of what is normal for a healthy Western population and are beginning to learn how changes in the microbiome correlate with physiology and disease.”

microbiome bacteriaOf somewhat humbling note is the fact that bacteria in our gut are responsible for our survival. They contribute more genes for production of enzymes than our own gut tissues provide - by a factor of 360! Bacteria produce vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds that we cannot produce on our own.

What does this all have to do with cancer? There is as yet no direct proof of a link. However, we do know that there is a link between dietary saturated fat and the resulting inflammatory immune response, with development of colitis in an experimental mouse population.[3]

We also know that cancer is a disease of inflammation - like the wound that never heals. Inflammation in the gut is clearly related to the development of cancer at the end of a spectrum that goes all the way from stomach ache through irritable bowel syndrome to Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis, finally ending up at cancer, if the inflammation is never resolved.

The concept is beginning to appear in the literature with regards to humans as well. One article concludes that “dietary bioactive compounds and the intestinal microbiota create a complex milieu that directly affects the carcinogenic events of the colon.”[4] Another article concludes: “A complex interrelationship exists between the intestinal microbiota and colon cancer risk, which can be modified by dietary behavior.”[5]

In other words, be careful what you eat. Feed your gut bacteria. Do not try to kill them all off with antibiotics, because you will just be shooting yourself in the foot. Our gut bacteria are our friends, not our enemies - unless we try to kill them. Even the friendliest of allies get nasty when you shoot at them.

How do we feed our gut bacteria so that they will sustain our health rather than turning against us?

First, give them healthy food. Real food. Fruits and vegetables we can recognize at the grocery store check-out line.

Second, consider organic food. Especially check out the EWG list of which foods have the highest pesticide residues, and purchase at least those organic.

Third, avoid genetically modified foods, to reduce the level of pesticides and herbicides within your intestinal tract.

Fourth, consider taking probiotics, to provide additional friendly troops to the army of gut bacteria, and to restore good GI function where there may have been leaky gut.

Fifth, consider taking a prebiotic, to nourish the GI tract, promote healthy bacterial population, and prevent colon cancer.[6]

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we treat the gut first, before anything else, in order to give the body its best chance of healing. Without good health of the GI tract, there is no ongoing health of the body.

Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? Science is beginning to fall in line with the old wives…


[1] Downloaded 6/16/2012 from http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm[2] Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature 486,207-214(14 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11234[3] Devkota S, Wang YW, Chang EB et al. Dietary-fat-induced taurocholic acid promotes pathobiont expansion and colitis in Il10-/- mice. Nature (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11225.[4] Macdonald RS, Wagner K. Influence of Dietary Phytochemicals and Microbiota on Colon Cancer Risk. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 May 31.[5] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.[6] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.
The Gut Microbiome and Cancer

We also know that cancer is a disease of inflammation - like the wound that never heals. Inflammation in the gut is clearly related to the development of cancer at the end of a spectrum that goes all the way from stomach ache through irritable bowel syndrome to Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative colitis, finally ending up at cancer, if the inflammation is never resolved.

The concept is beginning to appear in the literature with regards to humans as well. One article concludes that “dietary bioactive compounds and the intestinal microbiota create a complex milieu that directly affects the carcinogenic events of the colon.”[4] Another article concludes: “A complex interrelationship exists between the intestinal microbiota and colon cancer risk, which can be modified by dietary behavior.”[5]

In other words, be careful what you eat. Feed your gut bacteria. Do not try to kill them all off with antibiotics, because you will just be shooting yourself in the foot. Our gut bacteria are our friends, not our enemies - unless we try to kill them. Even the friendliest of allies get nasty when you shoot at them.

How do we feed our gut bacteria so that they will sustain our health rather than turning against us?

First, give them healthy food. Real food. Fruits and vegetables we can recognize at the grocery store check-out line.

Second, consider organic food. Especially check out the EWG list of which foods have the highest pesticide residues, and purchase at least those organic.

Third, avoid genetically modified foods, to reduce the level of pesticides and herbicides within your intestinal tract.

Fourth, consider taking probiotics, to provide additional friendly troops to the army of gut bacteria, and to restore good GI function where there may have been leaky gut.

Fifth, consider taking a prebiotic, to nourish the GI tract, promote healthy bacterial population, and prevent colon cancer.[6]

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we treat the gut first, before anything else, in order to give the body its best chance of healing. Without good health of the GI tract, there is no ongoing health of the body.

Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? Science is beginning to fall in line with the old wives…


[1] Downloaded 6/16/2012 from http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm[2] Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature 486,207-214(14 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11234[3] Devkota S, Wang YW, Chang EB et al. Dietary-fat-induced taurocholic acid promotes pathobiont expansion and colitis in Il10-/- mice. Nature (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11225.[4] Macdonald RS, Wagner K. Influence of Dietary Phytochemicals and Microbiota on Colon Cancer Risk. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 May 31.[5] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.[6] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.
The Gut Microbiome and Cancer

In other words, be careful what you eat. Feed your gut bacteria. Do not try to kill them all off with antibiotics, because you will just be shooting yourself in the foot. Our gut bacteria are our friends, not our enemies - unless we try to kill them. Even the friendliest of allies get nasty when you shoot at them.

How do we feed our gut bacteria so that they will sustain our health rather than turning against us?

First, give them healthy food. Real food. Fruits and vegetables we can recognize at the grocery store check-out line.

Second, consider organic food. Especially check out the EWG list of which foods have the highest pesticide residues, and purchase at least those organic.

Third, avoid genetically modified foods, to reduce the level of pesticides and herbicides within your intestinal tract.

Fourth, consider taking probiotics, to provide additional friendly troops to the army of gut bacteria, and to restore good GI function where there may have been leaky gut.

Fifth, consider taking a prebiotic, to nourish the GI tract, promote healthy bacterial population, and prevent colon cancer.[6]

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we treat the gut first, before anything else, in order to give the body its best chance of healing. Without good health of the GI tract, there is no ongoing health of the body.

Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? Science is beginning to fall in line with the old wives…


[1] Downloaded 6/16/2012 from http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jun2012/nhgri-13.htm[2] Human Microbiome Project Consortium. Structure, function and diversity of the healthy human microbiome. Nature 486,207-214(14 June 2012) doi:10.1038/nature11234[3] Devkota S, Wang YW, Chang EB et al. Dietary-fat-induced taurocholic acid promotes pathobiont expansion and colitis in Il10-/- mice. Nature (2012) doi:10.1038/nature11225.[4] Macdonald RS, Wagner K. Influence of Dietary Phytochemicals and Microbiota on Colon Cancer Risk. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 May 31.[5] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.[6] Davis CD, Milner JA. Gastrointestinal microflora, food components and colon cancer prevention. J Nutr Biochem. 2009 Oct;20(10):743-52.
The Gut Microbiome and Cancer

At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we treat the gut first, before anything else, in order to give the body its best chance of healing. Without good health of the GI tract, there is no ongoing health of the body.

Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? Science is beginning to fall in line with the old wives…

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