When most of think about probiotics, we think of maybe some product like Activia yogurt, a commonly consumed culture of Lactobacillus acidophilous. Other strains of probiotic bacteria, however, can be very helpful for people who have pancreatic cancer.
Many people with this form of cancer have surgery. A little over 50 per cent people who have partial removal of the pancreas develop various kinds of intestinal infections. Friendly bacteria don't bring the risk of post-operative bacteria down to zero, but physicians at the Niigata General Hospital in Japan have found that giving their patients a mixture of Enterococcus faecalis T-110, Clostridium butyricum TO-A, and Bacillus mesentericus TO-A reduced the rate of infections from a little over 50 per cent to a little under 25 per cent.
There is also evidence from studies conducted at the University Hospital in Linköping, Sweden that giving lab animals symbiotic bacteria can stop the inflammation that causes pancreatitis that contributes to the development of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
Inflammation of the pancreas is accompanied by the accumulation of free radicals of oxygen, often referred to as reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this case, the use of the term "species" does not mean that the oxygen is alive (as one natural health "expert" maintains), but rather that oxygen can exist in different electrical forms. These ROS are also found in other kinds of abdominal injuries.
The antioxidant glutathione neutralizes the ROS and stops inflammation. The role of probiotic bacteria in this process is to stimulate the pancreas to make more glutathione, which stops the inflammation. In studies with animals, Lactobacillus fermentum is especially useful.
So does every pancreatic cancer patient need to run out and get probiotics, preferably in a capsule form that bypasses digestion in the stomach? The answer is no. In fact, it's absolutely not.
When Scandinavian scientists tried giving probiotics to pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis patients after they got sick, they found that patients actually got worse. If patients got probiotics before they got sick, then the antioxidant effect seemed to reduce inflammation and the patients got better.
It seems that the bacteria send signals to the pancreas to get ready for infection. A healthy pancreas gets ready to survive infection, whereas a sick pancreas gets ready to "take itself out." Probiotics are great for health maintenance, and they are probably helpful if taken before surgery, but they should be left alone once surgery has been performed or when cancer is active.
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