Could Probiotics help Colorectal Cancer Patients Feel Better?
Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or CRC, is one of the major health problems in the world, representing the most common malignancy of the gastrointestinal tract.
The treatment modalities include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. CRC patients who have completed treatment are known to suffer from infections and chronic bowel symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, loose stool, and constipation that affect quality of life significantly.
Recently, it has become increasingly evident that an imbalance of intestinal bacterial population is related to the morbidity of the patients after surgery. Decreased levels of ´good´ bacteria have been reported after surgery in CRC patients.
Probiotics Beneficial Effects on CRC Patients
The human healthy gastrointestinal tract is colonized with a diverse community of bacteria that play important roles in the development of the mucosal immune system, the maintenance of a physiological environment, the provision of essential nutrients, and the prevention of colonization by pathogenic bacteria.
Probiotic bacteria may be defined as ‘live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host, and they most frequently belong to the lactic acid bacteria [LAB] category, such as Lactobacillus spp. and Bifidobacterium spp.
Because disruption of gut microbial balance may aggravate infections and bowel symptoms in CRC, supplementation with probiotics could restore the normal gut flora, defend against pathogens and effectively resolve bowel symptoms in the colon.
Probiotics Improve Quality of Life in Colon Cancer Patients
Infection following abdominal operation remains a major factor affecting the morbidity of colon cancer patients after surgery. In a recent study one hundred patients with colorectal carcinoma were randomly divided into the control group (n=50) and the probiotics group (n = 50). Patients in the probiotics group received daily encapsulated bacteria containing L. plantarum, L. acidophilus and B. longum.
The results strongly suggested that the use of probiotics improved the capacity of the gut ecosystem to survive surgically induced injury, leading to fewer post-operative infections .
The positive effects of probiotics on bowel symptoms and quality of life in CRC patients are extensively studied. In one study, patients with bowel symptoms received during 12 weeks the probiotics L. rhamnosus and L. acidophilus. Supplementation with probiotics significantly decreased the proportion of patients suffering from irritable bowel symptoms and improved colorectal cancer-related quality of life, fatigue-related quality of life, and mental health scores as compared to the placebo group .
Similarly, functional outcome and health-related quality of life were significantly improved in patients who underwent surgical resection of CRC following L. acidophilus and Bacillus natto treatment .
Conclusion: Probiotic Treatment for CRC Patients
Based on current presented evidence, the use of probiotics to maintain gut microbiota balance and diversity is important for enhancing host defenses, especially during recovery from major colon cancer surgery. In addition, preoperative oral intake of probiotics combined with post-operative treatment in patients who need gastrointestinal surgery is recommended.
Researches resources: Colon Cancer and Probiotics. Liu Z., Qin H., Yang Z., Xia Y., Liu W., Yang J., Jiang Y., Zhang H., Yang Z., Wang Y. & Zheng Q. Randomised clinical trial: the effects of perioperative probiotic treatment on barrier function and post-operative infectious complications in colorectal cancer surgery – a double-blind study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011; 33(1):50-63.The clinical trial registration number is ChiCTR-TRC-00000423. . Jee-Yon L., Sang-Hui C., Justin Y. J., Mi-Kyung L., Ji-Hye P., Duk-Chul L., Ji-Won L., Nam-Kyu K. Effects of 12 weeks of probiotic supplementation on quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Digestive and Liver Disease. 2014; 46:1126–1132. The clinical trial registration number is KCT0001053.  Ohigashi S, Hoshino Y, Ohde S, Onodera H. Functional outcome, quality of life, and efficacy of probiotics in postoperative patients with colorectal cancer. Surg Today. 2011; 41: 1200-1206.
* Also read about colon cancer in Wikipedia.