Prostates and Probiotics

“Colony Forming Units” (CFUs) may sound like something out of a real-time strategy video game, but they are actually a real-life unit of measure for probiotics. Those are the “good” bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our gastrointestinal system, the ones that foods such as yogurt and kombucha advertise as being so helpful.  If you are undergoing radiation therapy, you may want to be mindful of your food's CFU count.

Taking probiotics offers a number of benefits for those undergoing radiation therapy for prostate and other pelvic cancers:

Targeted radiation therapy can wipe out all traces of disease in selected patients with cancer that has spread to only a few sites. Probiotics can increase the predictability of targeting. The higher the CFU, the better.

Radiation can often introduce toxins into the body parts suffering from cancer. Radiation enteritis is a common side effect for cancers of the anal canal, bladder, cervix, pancreas, prostate, rectum, vulva and uterus. It can contribute to discomfort, annoying trips to the bathroom, accidents, dehydration and generally sick feelings. Probiotics can also reduce the toxicity of this procedure.

Avoiding radiation's toxic side effects via probiotic consumption will not only reduce your suffering, it may even boost the probability of your cure. Traditionally, extended radiation treatment causes tumor re-population and the resultant decrease in cure rates. While it has been a concern for ovarian cancer, it is also prevalent in other types of cancer. Reduced side effects lead to fewer treatment breaks for patients of these types of cancers.

A random study was once conducted in Korea involving 80 patients of prostate cancer. The results showed that taking a capsule of Lactobacillus acidophilus twice daily during treatment actually reduces the rectal volume changes.

Clostridium difficile (“C. diff”) infection is common after patients undergo chemotherapy and radiation. While this condition complicates the patient’s infection control and management, it also increases the risks of suffering other major illnesses. For this reason, taking probiotics can help in the prevention of C. diff.

A recent Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer  report concludes that probiotics lead to the reduction of gastrointestinal mucositis and reduced risk of sepsis.