probiotics - the new cancer fighter...

Research into probiotics, the friendly bacteria that live in your intestines, has produced big breakthroughs in our understanding of health. These bacteria boost immunity and help protect us against invasion by undesirable organisms. Increasingly, though, researchers are proving that among their benefits, one of the most significant is their help in lowering your risk of cancer. 

When good bacteria (flora) flourish, they crowd out health-wrecking pathogens. Researchers on ageing are now starting to understand how a decrease in these bacteria may be one reason for increased cancer and other illnesses as we age. Protecting your flora with probiotic supplements and the right nutrients, may be the key to optimal well being, and disease prevention.

Normally, each of us carries around about two pounds of bacteria in our digestive tract. They are bugs are a mixture of the good and the bad. For best health, friendly bacteria should outnumber the harmful by four to one. 

Cancer Fighters
As we age, our susceptibility to cancer increases. For instance, according to the National Cancer Institute, your chances of developing colon cancer at age seventy-five is one hundred times greater than it was at age twenty-five. Similarly, your chances of bladder cancer grow as you grow older. During the past fifty years, as America has aged, the incidence of bladder cancer has ballooned more than fifty percent. 

Japanese studies have found that giving people with bladder cancer high doses of probiotics can double the average time that elapsed before they were susceptible to the return of more tumours.

In a follow-up study, when these researchers gave bladder cancer victims stronger and more varied doses of probiotics, they found that they again doubled the time people were tumour-free. In addition, tumours that returned were less aggressive and took longer to grow.

Fighting Colon Cancer
Research into other cancers also gives scientists reason to believe probiotics may lower the risk of malignancies. A study of people who had been treated for colon cancers or had intestinal polyps removed showed that taking probiotics along with prebiotics (special fibre called oligosaccharides that nourish beneficial bacteria) decreased their cancer risk. 

In this study, probiotics improved the immune response of people with colon cancer and their cells made more interferon gamma, a natural substance that fights harmful viruses. In addition those who took the pro and prebiotics had less damage to their cells' DNA, a problem that otherwise might increase cancer risk. 

In a review of two dozen studies researchers found strong evidence that when probiotic bacteria fed on prebiotics in the digestive tract, the by-products had the potential to “inhibit (cancer) cell growth, modulate differentiation and reduce metastasis activities.”

In other words, the bacteria's fermentation processes slowed cancerous developments and kept tumour growth to a minimum. 

As Gregor Reid, PhD, probiotic researcher and professor at the University of Western Ontario says, “You have ten times more bacterial than human cells and half our excrement is bacteria…I feel that everyone should be taking some probiotics. 

Once you get into specific reasons such as to prevent diabetes, or help with obesity or prevent vaginal infections or cardiovascular disease, in the future you will find specific probiotics targeted for such purposes.”

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