Whereas many of us have had a purely emotional “gut” feeling about a person, a situation, or an impending decision, your physical gut (and its feeling) is entirely different. Researchers have been studying the actual composition of our gut and the impact that gut bacteria has on your risk for colon cancer, and the good news is that the results are seemingly promising.
Learning About The Microbiome System
A person’s own microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms containing bacteria, fungi, and viruses found within the body, with a large portion of those microorganisms in our gut. Studies are discovering that depending on the type of bacteria found in our gut, we can predict the likelihood of bowel or colon cancer. It is also becoming widely accepted that the makeup of our microbiome is a direct link to our health as well as to disease in general.
Researchers are concluding that colon cancer is not only genetic, but a microbial disease as well. Since colon cancer is the third largest cause of death for both men and women, these studies are impactful for patients of today as well as those in the future.
In Search of Microbiome Balance
Our gut contains both good and bad bacteria. The good bacteria in our gut reduces the risk for colorectal cancer and provides protection from disease. For this reason, many adults take probiotic supplements or increase their intake of natural foods like yogurt and certain types of cheeses to help improve this balance.
There should be a normal balance of good and bad bacteria, but when this balance gets disrupted, a unique disease known as dysbiosis can be the result.
Factors Affecting the Development of Colon Cancer
There is no disagreement that gut bacteria has an impact on your risk for colon cancer, but how so, and to what extent?
- Inflammation plays a large part in predicting the development of colon cancer. The same gut bacteria that exacerbates inflammation can do the same for colorectal cancer. It is a significant risk for cancer, and when inflammation chronically affects the gut, your risk increases further. Inflammation causes uncontrolled division of cells like E.coli bacteria, which is known to influence cancerous cell growth.
- DNA damage can occur due to the disruptive balance of bacteria.
- Early use of antibiotics can also be a factor. The general theory accepted here is that the more antibiotics the body is regularly exposed to, the smarter diseases become at resisting them. This doesn’t mean individuals should never take antibiotics, but rather, that they should watch out for being overprescribed for these medications.
So, in addition to smoking and other lifestyle behaviors, we can add the impact of gut bacteria on to the running list of items that can increase a person’s risk for colon cancer.
Studies continue and there are many unknown variables that should be taken into account before jumping to a conclusion about your own health. There is ongoing research about developing drugs to remove individual bad types of bacteria in adults with colon cancer, which is very encouraging for future patients.
Researchers are also finding that changes in the gut microbiome are present in the very earliest stages of colon cancer development. This discovery could lead to some vital diagnostic clues and causes for colorectal cancer.
In the meantime, eat lots of veggies, stop smoking, reduce your intake of processed foods, maintain a healthy weight, and don’t forget to exercise. Contact Colorectal Surgical Associates if you are experiencing unusual bowel changes or if you are ready to schedule a colonoscopy.
As always, if you have any further questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call (816) 941-0800 today!