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Can Probiotics Help Prevent Colon Cancer?

Rachel Morrell

Can Probiotics Help Prevent Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is predicted to cause 50,260 deaths in 2017, which means it is still the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. About one in 20 Americans will receive a colon cancer diagnosis in his or her lifetime.

Probiotics are receiving considerable attention in their ability to prevent and treat colon cancer associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Along with IBD, other risk factors for colon cancer include smoking, lack of physical activity, family history and high body mass index. Some studies suggest that probiotics can help prevent tumor formation by influencing the microbiome.

Dr. James Versalovic, a professor of pathology and immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, recently performed a study on probiotics that can help prevent or treat colorectal cancer. Dr. Versalovic and his research team focused on Lactobacillus reuteri, or L. reuteri, which is found in the gut of mammals. This bacterium is known to reduce inflammation in the intestine by converting histadine into histamine, which helps regulate immune response.

To learn more about how L. reuteri affects colon tumor development, the team performed a study on mice. Both groups of mice were injected with a carcinogenic chemical that stimulates inflammation, but only one group was given L. reuteri. After 15 weeks of treatment, the mice that were given L. reuteri exhibited fewer and smaller colon tumors than mice who did not receive L. reuteri.

Dr. Versalovic is hopeful that probiotics like L. reuteri that convert histadine into histamine can help treat colon cancer in humans. More research needs to be done on how histamine affects colon tumors, but the results of this study are encouraging.

“Our results suggest a significant role for histamine in the suppression of chronic intestinal inflammation and colorectal tumorigenesis [tumor formation]," says Dr. Versalovic. "We have also shown that cells, both microbial and mammalian, can share metabolites or chemical compounds that together promote human health and prevent disease" (Source: Medical News Today).

This study emphasizes the importance of gut health and a healthy, well-balanced diet. L. reuteri is only one of many beneficial strains of bacteria that reduce inflammation and promote digestive health. Probiotics do not have to be purchased at health food stores and taken as supplements, although that is one method you can try. There are many foods that contain probiotics. L. reuteri, for example, can be found in many meat and dairy products. Other good sources of probiotics include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.

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Choosing the Right Probiotic for You

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