Recent studies have linked eating yogurt and fiber to helping prevent lung cancer. Although there is no definitive proof, the theory behind the effect of probiotics and prebiotics — special plant fibers that help to grow healthy bacteria in your gut — on lung health is that the combination of both enhances anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory activities in the respiratory system.
According to Dr. Kenneth Johnson, a board-certified hematologist and oncologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, prebiotics generate short-chain fatty acids, which play an important role in reducing inflammation in the gut and may alter the immune system. Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, are excellent sources of prebiotics that encourage the production of short-chain fatty acids.
“Probiotics can change and enhance the gut microbial environment, a collection of trillions of microorganisms living in your intestine that directly impact your health. This may result in the activation of cytokines — small proteins that are important in the communication between cells — as well as an increase in the cells of the immune system,” says Dr. Johnson.
The interaction of prebiotics and probiotics is believed to be the mechanism behind potential lung cancer prevention, as they both help to create a healthier gut microbiome, which leads to reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of disease. In fact, one study found that the participants who ate the most fiber and yogurt reduced their risk of lung cancer by 33%.
Here, Dr. Johnson explains how to include prebiotics and probiotics in your diet.
How many prebiotics and probiotics should we take?
Although studies on prebiotics and probiotics make it difficult to identify the proper amount that one should consume, it is safe to say that a diet rich in fiber and yogurt should supply the amount needed to offer a benefit.
What is the best way to take supplemental probiotics?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate pill forms of probiotics purchased over the counter. Therefore, there is a possibility that the ingredients listed on the label are not in the supplement. However, yogurt with active cultures has probiotics and can be part of a healthy diet, as opposed to taking a pill or liquid supplement with questionable ingredients.
Are there any health risks associated with taking prebiotics or probiotics?
Patients with a compromised immune system can be vulnerable to infections from probiotics because of the active cultures in some yogurts. These patients should talk to their doctor before adding them to their diet.
Should someone with a family history of cancer take prebiotics and probiotics?
There is no definitive proof of the positive impact that probiotics may have on family members of patients with cancer. However, patients with cancer and their family members, along with individuals who have no history with cancer, are always encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle. This includes a diet high in fiber and yogurt to derive the potential benefits of prebiotics and probiotics.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your lung health or before adding supplements of any kind to your daily diet. Together, you can determine how to make and maintain healthy lifestyle choices for better overall health and wellness.