Volume 3 Issue 1

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T wenty years ago, the concept of probiotics was little understood. Today, as research accumulates and the role of probiotics is defined, U.S. doctors are beginning to use probiotics and prebiotics to treat a variety of diseases. e next step in probiotic and prebiotic research is to determine how they can be used to prevent disease. As the critical role of gut flora in optimal health becomes more evident, it's clear that there's tremendous potential in adding good bacteria to your diet. In this chapter, you discover what research is showing about how probiotics can help prevent or treat a wide range of diseases and conditions — from certain types of cancer to heart, kidney, and liver disease — as well as how probiotics may help promote weight management and longevity. Exploring Cancer Prevention Few words in the medical world are more ominous than cancer. Tremendous advances in the past few decades have changed the way cancers are treated, upping the success rates for some cancers. Research also is delving into what you can do to prevent cancer, aside from the obvious things like avoiding cigarettes that can lead to lung cancer and high-fat diets that can lead to colon cancer. at research has identified things you can do to increase the odds that you won't get particular kinds of cancer. A high fiber diet helps protect against colon cancer, for example. In the following sections, I discuss the current understanding of how cancer works and why it's so tough to beat, as well as intriguing research that indicates probiotics may help prevent certain types of cancer. Understanding current cancer theory "Cancer" is actually a collection of about 100 diseases that share some characteristics but differ in ways that make treatment challenging. In simple terms, cancer occurs when normal cells become abnormal as a result of genetic changes. Sometimes these genetic changes are inherited, but most oen they occur because of environmental factors: diet, behaviors such as smoking, or exposure to harsh chemicals, pollutants, and even certain viruses. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells ✓ Don't stop growing when they should. ✓ Don't die when they should. ✓ Divide more oen and more rapidly than they should. ✓ Can migrate to other parts of the body and lie dormant for lengthy periods. Cancer treatment typically consists of surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy — or some combination of these options. e problem with current treatments is that they all damage or destroy healthy, normal cells in addition to the cancer cells. Researchers are looking for ways to better target just cancer cells; meanwhile, other researchers are trying to determine ways you can prevent cancer cells from forming in the firstplace. Seeing how probiotics may prevent cancer Initial studies of the effects of probiotics on cancer appear promising. In one series of experiments, for example, two groups of rats were fed cancer-causing agents, but the rats in Group I were given probiotics. Group I rats didn't develop tumors, whereas the second group did. e probiotic anti-cancer effect may be related to increased production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). One SCFA, butyrate, inhibits the growth of cancer cells and stimulates activity of an enzyme that acts as a detoxification system for potentially harmful compounds. Combating colon cancer Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. Animal and in vitro (meaning in a culture dish in a lab) studies have shown that probiotics may lower colon cancer risk by reducing the incidence and number of tumors. Preliminary data suggests that Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria prevent mutation in genes, decreasing colon cancer incidence. Animals that received Lactobacillus GG showed a reduction in the activity of bacterial enzymes that play a role in causing cancer. e data from human trials is circumstantial, and more studies are required to determine whether probiotics reduce Exploring the Promise of Probiotics in Preventing Disease Page 30| Abby's Magazine -

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