Colon Cancer QuestionsWendy Mcphail
In a 2015 study by Dr. Cynthia Sears and colleagues at the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, it was found that two bacterial strains invaded the mucus of the colon in people with colon cancer who were not genetically predisposed to it. (See study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25959674?access_num=25959674&link_type=MED&dopt=Abstract
Now, more recent news informs us that researchers from Johns Hopkins University studied people who have an inherited form of colon cancer and and found that two particular types of bacteria were present in all cases. Usually, bacteria can’t travel past the protective layer that lines the colon. But two can – Bacteroides fragilis and Escherichia coli— and they can reach the epithelial cells, where tumors typically originate. Once past the protective layer, the bacteria grow into a long, thin film, covering the intestinal lining with colonies of the microbes. I have often spoken of this ‘thin film’ as a Biofilm, a gelatinous covering which harbors parasites and unhealthy bacteria. Without the removal of the biofilm and recovery of the proper lining of the colon, these unhealthy microbes will proliferate and continue their destruction. E. coli specifically releases a toxin that damages DNA of colon cells, while B. fragilis produces another poison that both damages DNA and inflames the cells. Together they enhance the growth of tumors.
Most articles discussing this ‘new’ find say that we are powerless to stop this colonization of the colon. This is where their belief in ‘genetic’ predispositions, in my opinion, goes very wrong. These discoveries give us scientific information – but do not connect the dots regarding our lifestyles and personal accountability. There are previous studies showing that the entire core microbiome (not just these two bacteria named above) directly affect the development of Colorectal cancer, so this news is not entirely ‘new’ – see study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5221561/
As a Nutritionist and a Colon Hydrotherapist for many years, this particular finding is not new to me. Back in the late 90’s I was diagnosed with 4 autoimmune disorders (breast cancer came a few years later) and I had horrible digestion and bowel issues. After a fecal exam I discovered this bacteria Escherichia coli was in my colon in dominant amounts. For much of my young life I had used Antibiotics which had destroyed the healthy flora and these unwanted unhealthy bacteria had taken over. “New” discoveries like this one beg the question: is there a part we have played with our lifestyle choices that have created this condition, or does it just “turn up” out of the blue? And can we effectively change our microbiome and recover vibrant health?
These times we live in are rife with opportunities for our Microbiome (our inner ‘ecology’ of microbes) to become unbalanced, and eventually toxic enough to lead to cancer. Antibiotics, Corticosteroids, Over the Counter Drugs, poison-laden genetically modified foods and grains (GMOs), Vaccines laden with thimersol and other poisons, Rancid trans fats and Sugar in almost every dish not to mention lifestyle issues like Smoking, Alcohol, etc. It is easy to want to throw our hands up in the air in frustration. What can we do?
Our genes do not determine disease. Colon Cancer is not a predetermined health issue for you because of your genes, nor is it definitive even if it has been determined that you carry Bacteroides fragilis and Escherichia coli. Certain circumstances in life can cause genes to be silenced or expressed over time. In other words, they can be turned off (becoming dormant) or turned on (becoming active). Research in the new field of epigenetics is finding that our lifestyle choices — the foods we put in our bodies, the chemicals we are exposed to, how active we opt to be – even our social environments – can actually alter our health at the level of the gene. These choices can have big effects on our risk for disease, even if our genes seem to be working against us.
We are not completely at the mercy of our genes. In many ways, they are at the mercy of our health and lifestyle decisions and habits. Family history can be a strong predictor of disease, but we have power to change it. Making healthy lifestyle choices could mean the difference between experiencing a significant health issue and avoiding it.
Gut health recovery done naturopathically (not with allopathic drugs) involves the use of natural herbs/antifungals along with certain fiber combinations to remove the Biofilm and kill the bacteria/fungus. There are also enzymes that destroy the biofilm if it is very stubborn. Until that biofilm is removed there is no way to restore the GI Tract to health as it harbors the bugs. After the removal of the negative microbes we rebuild the gut via diet and probiotics. It is a process of recovery, but one well-worth the effort and time. Over the years I have learned that when people educate themselves and then apply it – there is no stopping their health independence and growth!
Wendy McPhail, CNC, FDN-P, NBCCT