(All the articles published in past are available at www.shyamhemoncclinic.com/blog/)
Question: In last part we discussed about importance of mental health in cancer prevention. Depression increases risk of obesity several fold. And obesity increases risk of several cancers. Thus, cancer prevention means holistic health. We discussed role of dry fruits, known to reduce cancers, other diseases, and reduce weight. We discussed dietary fiber, vegetarian diet very well known to be healthy. And then we stopped at why dietary fiber would be an important component of diet, when fiber itself has no known substance of nutritional value – no calories, no vitamins or minerals!!!
We stopped at a very complex word Brain Gut Microbiota axis. And its connection to the Neuro-Endocrine-Immune pathway.
Ans: Yes, we were talking about role of intestines, and 40 trillion microorganisms within intestines. And how they control our physical and mental health. They produce several hormones, neurotransmitters. Same as other endocrine glands and brain!!! Means we have a brain in our tummy! The word “Gut Feeling” makes some sense now? Or why we feel “happy and content” after a good meal? And why our ancestors talked so much about keeping belly light!
This is a very new area of research. Hence details are still coming up. But practically every field of medicine has now started talking about it. For example, in field of cancer, people undergoing cancer treatment have better results if they have certain bacterial composition in their intestines. Latest drugs in cancer immunotherapy (check point inhibitors) performance is altered by this composition as well. Additionally, these bacteria, fungi and viruses also affect results of BMT (bone marrow transplant/hematopoietic stem cell transplant). They also affect immunity and risk of resistant bacterial infection. “Fecal transplant” yes, you heard right. Transplanting feces of one human into another human to alter the composition of microorganisms in intestines is already in clinical practice in the field of BMT. This is no longer a science fiction or futuristic research. Already in practice, including in India. We have a very high rate of resistant gram negative infections in India, and fecal transplant is one of the ways to fight this problem as well. And I would not be surprised if this gets into other fields of medicine soon as well.
Apart from cancer, relevant for us, is the research in mental health. Research in depression using Mediterranean diet has shown clear benefit in a randomized trial of diet versus counselling. People with feeling of higher quality of life have certain bacterial composition different from those who are feeling sad or feel lower quality of life. Published in 2018, 2019. Amazing research! Objective basis behind feelings. Other studies have shown that dietary soluble fibers stimulate the growth of “good bacteria” in intestines.
Que: Oh! So that is why dietary fiber is good for our health.
Ans: Yes, likely one of the reasons at least. This is a very early research. But consistently showing from most areas that gut and its microbes have a strong effect on our health. And slowly learning the pieces of puzzle as to what affects these microbes and gut health. But while awaiting definitive answers, we can say one thing with common sense. “That it is important to keep gut healthy for better health.” And that healthy diet, How to Eat are important parts of this process. Avoiding constipation and keeping belly light also makes sense in the same line. Something which our ancestors emphasized a lot. Constipation or clean bowels can be easily linked to composition of bacteria in our gut. So is the link between hygienic food and gut microbes. Means eating out, especially too frequently or at places that are not hygienic is likely not healthy for our gut.
In time of covid pandemic, also note the word Immunity in NeuroEndocrineImmune pathways controlled by gut and its microbes. Means good gut health is important for our immunity as well.
Que: Amazing research. I cannot believe the concept of fecal transplant already in practice. Can you elaborate?
Ans: Yes. Fecal transplant is basically putting a very small amount of fecal microbes from one person, into the intestine of another person. Usually done by putting it through feeding tube. Idea is that this will change composition of bacteria to more healthy composition. As of now, the role is mainly limited to reducing serious resistant bacterial infections. Since immunocompromised patients are prone to these deadly infections. And 90% of these infections arise from our own gut when our immunity is very low after BMT or from cancer and chemotherapy effects. You will be surprised to know that since drug resistance is very high in India, a lot of these “fecal bacteria” are imported from countries with low prevalence of drug resistance!!! We are not Atmanirbhar even for feces!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE IS HOWEVER: Gut health is important. Good gut health prevents not just cancer, but several other diseases. And more importantly it makes us positively healthy, makes us feel good too. Vegetarian food, high fiber diet, dry fruits, fruits, vegetables are healthy.
How to Eat is important. Avoiding constipation is important.
May 14, 2022
Dr Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 9998084001. Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad. email@example.com