Being Well

Benefits of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention

Foods like yogurt have live cultures that keep your immune system healthy. Add probiotics to your diet to reap their benefits, which include potential cancer prevention.

You may have heard of the benefits of probiotics, but you’re unsure what they do exactly. Probiotics are good bacteria that live in your intestines and can help lower your risk for cancer by boosting your immune system to work at its best. In fact, 70 percent of your immune system is in your intestines, according to the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education, so what you put into your body makes a difference. The bacteria help digest your food and process the nutrients, and probiotics can help keep those good bacteria

How Can Probiotics Help Prevent Cancer?

According to the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, one of the benefits of probiotics, especially with fermented dairy, is the antitumor effects. The probiotics inhibit genetic mutation activity as well as lower enzymes known for promoting tumors. Probiotics are thought also to slow or prevent various types of cancer growth. For example, one of the benefits of probiotics is they possibly slow or stop the growth of breast cancer, though more studies are needed, according to Breastcancer.org.

A study discussed by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) showed the growth of good bacteria from ingested probiotics positively changed the bacteria balance in the gut, decreasing the amount of the bad bacteria clostridium, known to cause colon cancer. One reason it’s thought that colon and bladder cancer increases as you age is because you have fewer probiotics in your body, according to the Center for Advancement in Cancer Education. Adding more to your diet could prevent cancer from developing. Probiotics enhance the activity of your immune cells and help eliminate environmental toxins from your body.

What Are Your Best Sources of Probiotics?

Probiotic foods contain live bacteria. You may have heard of yogurts with active or live cultures. Those cultures are probiotics. Fermented foods are another type to look for. You might also recognize some of these names of probiotics: lactic acid bacteria, lactobacillus acidophilus and L. acidophilus.

Here are probiotic foods to look for to boost your immune system and possibly decrease your cancer chances:

  • Dairy: Probiotics can be found in organic and low-fat plain yogurts. Look for the live cultures on the label, as not all yogurts contain them. Dairy drinks like Kefir are good sources of probiotics, too. Kefir is a fermented milk drink that contains kefir, a live bacteria and yeast, which is added to the dairy.
  • Fermented Products: Kimchi, a fermented Korean dish, contains cabbage and sometimes other vegetables, spices and lactic acid bacteria. Sauerkraut is better known in the United States, made from cabbage fermented in lactic acid bacteria as well. Pickles are another option. Kombucha tea is gaining popularity, a drink fermented with bacteria and yeast. Fermented soybeans, found in miso soup, and tempeh, are popular Asian foods that contain probiotics.
  • Cheese: Certain cheeses contain probiotics from the aging process. You’ll find probiotics in mozzarella, Gouda, cheddar and cottage cheese.
  • Supplements: If you want to ensure you’re getting probiotics in your diet, you can use supplements. The AICR recommends that you look for one where you’ll get at least one billion live bacteria a day.

Probiotics don’t usually have negative side effects, other than sometimes giving you gas or causing bloating. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about their effect on your diet or if you have any questions or concerns.

What you eat affects you. See how your diet and habits can help you prevent cancer.

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Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Deborah Abrams Kaplan