MICROBIAL HEALTH and BREAST CANCER
Microbes are live organisms, such as bacteria and yeast, that live in and on our bodies. Some provide essential health benefits such as supporting digestion, reducing cancer risk, affecting genetic expression, improving detoxification, reducing inflammation, and helping to minimize the effects of cancer treatment.
However, some organisms are pathogenic and appear to be either causative, meaning that they play a role in the development of disease, or they are opportunistic, meaning that they have an easier time growing in a weakened system.
There is an established pattern of bacterial imbalance in those with breast cancer. When we correct this imbalance by eradicating the pathogenic organisms and supplementing the normal health-protective organisms, we change the internal environment which reduces the ability of cancer to grow.
The human microbiota refers to the collection of microbes inhabiting the human body. These organisms live inside of us, mostly in our colon but also in smaller numbers in our small intestine and on our skin. The intestinal microbiome plays an important role in human physiology and health.
The human microbiome is the ecological community of symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space. These microorganisms are mostly types of bacteria, but also fungus and other microscopic organisms. It is now estimated that the human microbiome consists of about one hundred trillion microbial cells, outnumbering human cells ten to one. In other words, the human body contains over ten times more microbial cells than human cells. These microbes are so small that although we carry around trillions of these organisms, their total weight is estimated to be about 2 pounds in total.
Current Microbiome Research
The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was launched in 2008 by the US National Institutes of Health with the goal of identifying and characterizing all human microorganisms. From this has come the collection of information we have to date on the genetic makeup of microbes that inhabit the human body. Some organisms are health-supportive and necessary for our survival and some are pathogenic which means they can cause disease. Their mechanisms of action comprise a very intense area of research.
The HMP is a large-scale attempt at identifying these organisms with DNA sequencing. Although this project is ongoing, researchers have already linked many pathogenic origins to specific diseases including diabetes, obesity, autism, schizophrenia, and cancer.
Future Microbiome Applications
The research being done to identify the various microbes that live in and on us, is providing the knowledge we need to be able to replace lost microbes via implants and supplementation. This research is also helping us better understand how the abnormalities in our microbial colonies lead to maldigestion, immune diseases, and malignancies.
Microbes and Estrogens
We need microflora to do jobs for us such as metabolizing hormones. (both phytoestrogens and human-made estrogens)
Microbes and Digestion
Microbes also transform nutrients so that we can metabolize or absorb them properly.
Microbes and Infection
The healthful bacteria also protect us from disease-causing infections from bacteria, fungus, and viruses. When our healthy flora is growing and colonizing along our intestinal walls, they keep the unhealthy fungus and bacteria from adhering and growing.
They also promote immune function and since nearly 70 percent of the immune system’s function happens in the colon, these organisms can inhibit tumor formation.
Initial Colonization in our Bodies
When we are born, we have our first exposure to these healthy organisms through our mother’s birth canal and through our mother’s milk. As babies, we ingest more bacteria from sucking on objects, crawling in soil, and putting our hands in our mouths. And as adults, we continue to colonize more bacteria in our digestive tracts by picking up organisms from foods especially cultured or fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir.
Each organism that colonizes in or on us, finds its niche where it may grow for many years. When we take antibiotics, we kill off many bad (pathogenic) bacteria but also healthful organisms. Other medications also reduce the number of desired bacteria in our gut, such as NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs), steroids, and even chemotherapy.
Imbalance in microbial communities is called microbial dysbiosis. When the microbial ecology is disturbed by illness, medications, diet, genetic conditions, or hormonal imbalance, it often leads to abnormalities. Reduced levels of normal microbes have been found to lead to lower circulating lymphocytes and increased neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, a finding which has been associated with a decreased survival in women with breast cancers. Dysbiosis also plays a role in the recycling of estrogens via circulation through the liver, increasing the effect of estrogen, which is another leading cause of breast malignancy.
Causes of Dysbiosis
Many factors influence microbial growth. A poor diet is the leading cause of dysbiosis. A low fiber and high sugar diet can lead to the growth of fungus and unhealthy bacteria. Also, antibiotic use greatly reduces microbial numbers of both pathogenic and healthful organisms. Stress hormones such as cortisol can also hinder the growth of our beneficial microbes.
Chlorine in drinking water and hand sanitizers such as triclosan can damage microbes in the digestive tract. Dietary sugar feeds microbes including fungus and bacteria, that flourish from exposure to sugar and can become pathogenic when numbers increase. For example, Candida, Proteus mirabilis and Klebsiella pneumonia are often part of a normal healthy ecology but they easily overgrow from exposure to dietary sugar and in large numbers can cause symptoms such as gastrointestinal upset, bloating, diarrhea, foggy brain, and fatigue.
Breast Protective Microbes
When researchers investigated the potential role of microbiota in breast cancer, they tested breast tumor tissue and normal tissue from the same patient. Researchers concluded that bacteria may be influencing the local immune microenvironment (Lakritz, 2014).
Pathogenic Bacteria and Breast Cancer
Researchers who study breast microbiota DNA found that breast cancer patients have lower numbers of helpful bacteria in their intestines and they also have a specific imbalance in the ducts in their breasts.
Microbiologists have discovered several key organisms that are in abundance in women who don’t have breast cancer. This led to research testing the introduction of these healthy bacteria for women who have breast cancer in the hopes that they could offer protection or therapeutic benefit. Astoundingly, they have proven to offer significant protection and inhibitory effects.
They found that the bacterium methylobacterium radiotolerans was common in tumor tissue, while the bacterium sphingomonas yanoikuyae was common in normal healthy tissue (Caiyun, 2014). This is a significant finding and could lead to adjuvant treatment in which the healthy organism is replenished via supplements.
Fungus and bacteria play a more complex role in epigenetics. Bacteria break down estrogen, reducing the amount of estrogen metabolites circulating in the body, which in turn reduces the amount of estrogen triggering receptor sites. Microbes also do this by breaking down the estrogen via enterohepatic circulation as well as metabolizing phytoestrogens that either come from the foods we eat or from the hormones that we produce internally.
Microbes also play a key role in methylation. They are able to liberate methyl groups from foods and nutrients, which makes these methyl groups available to methylate genes, thus turning them down or off. This is a very important step in reducing the potential risk from genes that trigger breast cancer.
Probiotics and Breast Cancer
A recent study evaluated the immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus (Aragon, 2014). Researchers found that oral administration of Lactobacillus provided antitumor support as it reduced tumor growth rate and increased lymphocyte proliferation.
Sources of Protective Microbes
The standard American diet (SAD) does not support healthy microbial gut growth. SAD is low in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, and high in processed foods, sugar, and artificial sweeteners.
Cultured foods contain naturally occurring bacteria such as those found in sourdough and those with culture added such as cultured coconut milk, cultured yogurt, Kim Chee, tempeh, and miso.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria (sometimes referred to as “friendly germs”) that help to maintain the health of the intestinal tract and aid in digestion. They also help keep potentially harmful organisms in the gut (harmful bacteria and yeasts) under control. Most probiotics come from food sources, especially cultured milk products. Probiotics can be consumed as capsules, tablets, beverages, powders, yogurts, and other foods.
Prebiotics are complex sugars (such as lactulose, lactitol, a variety of fructo-oligosaccharides, and inulin) that are used as fuel by healthful bacteria to stimulate their growth and activity while suppressing the growth and activity of harmful organisms. Other foods that may support probiotic activity include Japanese miso, tempeh, kefir, raw milk, kombucha, bananas, garlic, and onions. When prebiotics and probiotics are combined in one product, it is called a synbiotic.
Non-digestible carbohydrates act as prebiotics that stimulate the growth of certain intestinal bacteria that support healthy colon conditions. A few effective prebiotics are fructooligosaccharides, and digestion resistant maltodextrin reduced which all were found to inhibit tumor growth and cellular proliferation while increasing apoptosis. These probiotics also provided an epigenetic effect on tumor expression genes. They have been found to have a particularly protective effect against ER+ tumors.
Probiotics are thought to work by colonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing organisms, thereby restoring proper balance to the intestinal flora. They compete with harmful organisms for nutrients and may also produce substances that inhibit the growth of harmful organisms in the gut.
Probiotic bacteria have been found to stimulate the body’s immune system. They may also aid in healing several gastrointestinal illnesses such as inflammatory bowel diseases, antibiotic-related diarrhea, Clostridium difficile toxin-induced colitis, infectious diarrhea, hepatic encephalopathy, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergies.
Internal Ecology and Digestion
Probiotics have been found to enhance the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, calcium, and phosphorus. They may also help overcome lactose intolerance and restore healthful bacteria after a course of antibiotic therapy has altered the normal gastrointestinal flora.
An exciting breast cancer study found that the probiotic supplement Lactobacillus casei was found to delay or block tumor development via modulation of the immune response (Utz, 2019).
Lactobacilli are a normal part of the flora in a healthy colon. They have been found to boost immune function and protect against malignancies. The immunomodulatory effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus alters the cytokine production enhancing antitumor immunity by reducing the tumor growth rate and increasing lymphocyte proliferation.
Sources: Supplements, some probiotic cultured yogurts.
Lactobacillus reuteri (L. reuteri) is an important bacterial organism in breast tissue which has been found to provide protection against cancer development as well as significantly inhibiting the growth of existing breast cancer.
This probiotic protects against the progression of breast cancer. Some nutrients become genetic triggers when activated by microbes. For example, anthocyanins from fruits and vegetables become bioactive when they are metabolized by bacteria in the gut. These activated anthocyanins have the ability to turn on tumor suppressor genes.
This discovery is so compelling that researchers are considering the use of L. reuteri supplementation an effective public health approach to help counteract the accumulated dietary and genetic carcinogenic events integral in the Westernized diet and lifestyle.
Chemopreventive efficacy of a new probiotic bacterial strain, Lactobacillus Plantarum LS/07, prebiotic oligofructose-enriched inulin on breast cancer. Long-term administration of Lactobacillus Plantarum LS/07 with and without inulin is effective against breast cancer, at least partially, through immunomodulatory mechanisms.
Stool tests such as the Microbiology Analysis stool test from Genova Diagnostics are available through NDs and integrative medicine doctor’s offices. These kits allow us to send samples to the lab for analysis which looks for healthy as well as pathogenic organisms (bacteria, fungus, and parasites). Lab reports provide information about pathogenic organisms discovered and how to eradicate (kill them).
Microbial Health – Checklist
· Increase fermented foods in your diet.
· Consider taking probiotic supplements.
· Order the Microbiology Analysis (Genova Diagnostics) through Daniella – [email protected] you receive your test results, follow the recommendation for eradicating pathogenic organisms and supplementing with probiotics as needed.