How Good Gut Health can help Breast Cancer Recovery
Cancer Rehabilitation Specialist and Occupational Therapist, Kate Perkins, recently spoke with Drs Sue Read and Cecelia Kitic, about how good gut health and exercise can contribute to overall breast cancer recovery.
Microbiota is the community of bugs that live in our gut. This community are like the soldiers of good gut health. They help us combat any nasties that try to invade our system, forming a barrier effect. Healthy and balanced gut microbiota is key to ensuring proper digestive functioning and overall wellbeing.
The breakdown of this community is known as dysbiosis and refers to when the bugs can't do their job properly, which can often be seen in patients undergoing cancer treatment.
These bugs will also impact how responsive you are to chemotherapy, which is another reason why maintaining good gut healthy is especially important for cancer patients.
How does cancer treatment affect gut health?
Different types of cancer treatment can affect your good gut health community of microbiota. Treatment leading to dysbiosis means your community can have a low diversity, so it can't do the jobs it wants to anymore, and that leads to issues including problems with digestion, bowel issues and can also affect our taste buds, emotional state and other functions in the body.
Stress can also be a key trigger for the gut. If your gut bugs feel stress, they will stop working and that can disrupt the entire functioning of our bodies. High inflammation in the gut can cause toxins to travel into the bloodstream and affect your lymphatic system.
Following cancer treatment, it's so important to regain and restore a good gut function, and having good gut health before starting cancer treatment can definitely help you bounce back more quickly and get your system functioning again more smoothly, once treatment has finished.
What can you do to ensure optimal gut health?
A combination of diet and exercise are the best ways to ensure your gut health is in great shape. Our experts recommend that diets focusing on whole foods including fermented foods, foods high in fibre, probiotic foods (such as yoghurt) and foods with lots of antioxidants in them are key. A plant-based Mediterranean diet containing small amounts of meat and large portions of salads and vegetables can also help to improve your gut health.
Consulting a qualified dietician can help design an eating plan that will benefit you, as every person is different when it comes to individual eating habits and preferences, so talking to an expert about the best way to build up gut resilience prior to cancer treatment will only make it easier to restore good gut functioning afterwards.
Achieving Good Gut Health
Here we have detailed many ways to achieve optimal gut health to give yourself the best fighting chance of recovery following cancer treatment. In summary, we recommend:
• Optimise your gut health BEFORE starting cancer treatment through diet and exercise.
• Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet rich in fibre, fermented food and probiotics.
• Seek the right support from qualified dieticians and other experts.
• Maintain regular exercise to keep inflammation low in the body, and be strong and fit.
• Keep stress low, inside your body and out.
Left: Cecilia Kitic. Right: Dr Sue Read.