Could A Healthy Gut Make You More Responsive To Cancer Treatment?

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

Image by Lyuba Burakova / Stocksy

There's another reason to celebrate the gut microbiome—a healthy gut might actually be able to save lives. According to scientists at the Lawson Health Research Institute, all it takes to strengthen your immune system is to improve your gut health, a process that we know is as easy as increasing your ingestion of probiotics and dietary fiber. How's that for functional food?

These Lawson Health Research Institute scientists are implementing a preliminary study that would discover whether a fecal transplant of a healthy microbiome can help patients with melanoma become more receptive to immunotherapy treatments. During immunotherapy treatments, patients take certain drugs to stimulate their immune systems in order to attack tumors in their bodies. A fecal transplant, according to these researchers, would make their immune systems more receptive to the drugs and, in turn, could help more people successfully fight their cancer. 

"We know that some people's immune systems don't respond well, and it seems to be associated with the microbes within your gut," Michael Silverman, M.D., a Lawson associate scientist, said in a video filmed by the research institute. "The goal is to give people healthy microbes to replenish the microbes in their gut so that their immune system responds optimally, and they're able to control the tumor."

These scientists are planning to study a sample of 20 melanoma patients who will each undergo a fecal transplant followed by rounds of immunotherapy. The results, if this study goes in favor of the transplants, will be groundbreaking for patients with this deadly skin cancer.  

This research is especially exciting, as the scientists believe that these fecal transplants are not only partial to melanoma but could have significant effects for other cancers as well. 

"We're one of the first in the world to study fecal transplants in cancer patients," Saman Maleki, Ph.D., another Lawson associate scientist, said in a news release. "This study is as cutting-edge as it gets with potential applications for multiple disease sites."

As if we needed another reason to improve our gut health, this research could have great implications for the future of cancer treatment, allowing more people to have a higher success rate with immunotherapy. 

And although a fecal transplant is definitely a quick and effective way to completely transform the microbiome, there are other lifestyle changes we can make to ensure a healthy gut. Habits like upping your fiber intake or investing in probiotics could be an easier, less invasive way to strengthen the immune system before a fecal transplant becomes necessary. Plus, if you do end up needing immunotherapy treatment down the road, it's a good place to start with an already strong and healthy gut microbiome.

So if you needed a sign to finally hop on the fiber-rich bandwagon and start stocking your shelves with dark, leafy greens and whole grains, consider this your call to action.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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