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New research finds connection between gut health and breast cancer

New research finds a connection between gut health and breast cancer.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — You are what you eat, especially when it comes to fighting breast cancer. .

Research out of the University of Virginia Medical School found that an unhealthy gut can trigger changes in normal breast tissue that helps breast cancer spread to other parts of the body.

Dr. Russell Jones, is a researcher at the Van Andel Institute focusing on metabolism and cancer agrees with the findings, "And so when it comes to breast cancer, one of the big things that we've really figured out over the last, I would say 20 years, is that our immune system plays a really important role in helping to prevent and fight cancer, right. So we our bodies have a natural system for preventing and fighting cancer." 

Dr. Jones says this theory that your gut bacteria impacts your immune system can be applied to more than just breast cancer, "There's lots of data out there that suggests sort of the classic Western diet, higher sugar, more fat, fat. Actually, it changes your microbiome in your gut over time. And so those bacteria are not as good at supporting your immune system. So from experiment models on it animals on a high fat diet to patients that are on a sort of a Western High fat high sugar diet, both of those conditions that have changes your microbiomes, they don't support your immune system as well. And so if you tie it all back, what it really means is that a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole foods, and fiber actually provides the right environment for your microbiome to provide the most healthy support for your immune system." 

It's one of the reasons why intermittent fasting has become the new health craze for those trying to live longer and cancer free. Dr. Jones is currently focusing on this relationship to fighting cancer in his research at VAI, "Work in my lab in particular is looking at what we call caloric restriction, which is limiting the types of the amount of calories that you take in, it's been linked with extending lifespan, but what we've actually found is that caloric restriction can really train your immune system to fight cancer better. So it's a really interesting potential therapeutic avenue for, for fighting and preventing cancer. We also have a new investigator Evan Lian, who just moved here from Boston who's looking at, again, the ketogenic diet, and other dietary interventions and how these diets can help tumor cells grow or be susceptible to new therapies, just by sort of combining this concept of using a conventional anti cancer therapy alongside a dietary change that is tailored to the type of cancer that you have to really improve, you know, treatment and outcomes. So those are some of the really interesting stuff. I think, really, the to me, the biggest area of growth is how we can use diet and nutrition, to train our immune system to fight cancer better."

You can learn more about research being done on the gut microbiome and it's relationship to cancer and other diseases at VAI.org.

13 On Your Side Health Reporter Valerie Lego 

Val has been reporting on health and medical stories in West Michigan for 16 years. She is an 18-time Emmy Award Winner. Her health reporting credentials include fellowships from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Association of Health Care Journalists

Contact me: vallego@13OnYourSide.com

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