Williams Cancer Institute

Healthy Gut Flora for a Successful Immunotherapy Outcome

Healthy Gut Flora for a Successful Immunotherapy Outcome


It may be surprising how many people disregard the gut, especially when it comes to understanding how the immune system functions. But in today’s blog, you will have a better insight on why it’s important to take care of the gut flora and which bacteria specifically are essential components for the function of immunotherapy.

The gut plays a major role in the immune system, and here’s why.

To appreciate the role of the intestinal flora, it’s crucial to take in the complexity of how the digestive system functions and the benefits of certain bacteria and yeasts that aid in the digestive process. Having the appropriate bacteria and amount in the intestines is critical for the function of today’s current immune checkpoint inhibitors. This means that utilizing the powerful immunotherapy drugs while having a well-balanced and healthy digestive system will be immensely beneficial for the overall cancer treatment.

As evolution occurred and humans began to consume more meat, the biodiversity of the gut diminished and to this day has lead many people to suffer from gastrointestinal health issues. As a means to preserve food for longer storage, the preservatives used have killed all microorganisms present in our food, including the good bacteria that our gut needs. Unfortunately, preservation is now more likely to kill the healthy bacteria our bodies need, rather than nurture and maintain them. Our guts remain a critical defense system against disease, but the modern human gut has been weakened by our dietary and lifestyle changes.

Again with the double-sword theme: antibiotics.

The widespread use of antibiotics is another example of how saving lives has come at a cost to human health. Medicine was revolutionized when Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch introduced the early form of antibiotics in the late 19th century to treat Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria present in livestock and humans. Since then antibiotics became widespread in the mid 20th century and to this day is used carelessly in the medical profession. You may be wondering how this affects cancer treatments.

Many cancer patients receive antibiotic therapy during their treatment and because their immune system is already compromised, they can easily develop infections. It’s extremely important to use antibiotics appropriately since some are known to have anti-cancer properties. Studies are now showing that treatment with antibiotics up to one month prior to starting immunotherapy may have negative effects. Other studies are indicating that having a healthy microbiome for the starting dose of immunotherapy can be protective and aid in the overall treatment.

Treating your gut should be the foundation of any cancer treatment. Understanding what to avoid in your nutritional intake and what to supplement with is a key factor towards improving your digestive system. This includes chemicals, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners that are added to the standard diet. These substances cause detrimental harm to the microbiome.

Thankfully, there are some essential probiotics such as Bifidobacterium which can be purchased over the counter or even found in yogurts and fermented foods that can be implemented into your diet. A study conducted in 2015, demonstrated that this bacteria was essential for the function of anti-tumoral immunity involving immune checkpoint inhibitors. However caution not to take general probiotics or too much Bífido, as it could reduce diversity. High bacterial diversity is another aspect that is important to improve the function of immunotherapy. Diversity can be improved with high fiber and some prebiotics. Prebiotics are more like the food for the bacteria, but do not contain bacteria themselves. This is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics.

To further read on more of this valuable information, feel free to check Dr. Williams’s book “The Immunotherapy Revolution,” where he goes into depth about Immunotherapy and proper gut health.

Please consult with a physician for medical advice before taking any supplements.

Autor: Diana Medina 

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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