What does the gut have to do with cancer?

Dr. John Bastyr, a legend in the naturopathic field, taught that treating the gut was the foundation for preventing and addressing cancer. Flash-forward more than 30 years and the research shows that the gut relationship with cancer and immunity, once considered heresy, is a well-demonstrated function of human physiology.

The bacteria in one’s gut can affect it’s host’s immunity and this growing body of knowledge continues to underscore the importance of the gut biome, immune system function, and cancer. i,ii


The evidence is mature enough to suggest that managing gut flora and function should translate to value for cancer survivors as well, but no silver bullet has been identified. Probiotics have been shown to be effective in maintaining gut flora and should be used with caution since some have been found to contain pathogens and have resulted in documented deaths in immune-compromised patients. We always run laboratory microbial testing for patients to ensure the probiotics we recommend fit their needs.

Generally speaking, the approach of integrative oncology is to restore gut function to as normal as possible. Given the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and some treatments on the gut function of cancer patients, we approach this with a comprehensive review of your whole health. We then address the issues that can affect the gut biome such as gas, bloating, burping, indigestion, reflux/GERD, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, etc. We also evaluate how well you absorb nutrients and how your elimination is working.


We address these with botanical remedies, carefully selected digestive enzymes, and other targeted therapies that help to decrease inflammation in the gut, bolster the microbiome and improve overall function. We also frequently help with nutrition, diet, and stress management, including mind-body approaches and therapy, to ensure we achieve the best results possible.

As the research continues to evolve, so will the specific treatments we use in integrative oncology, and we’ll be ready to assist you on your journey.

Morgan Schuster, ND

i. Jin, Y., Dong, H., Xia, L., Yang, Y., Zhu, Y., Shen, Y., . . . Lu, S. (2019). The diversity of gut microbiome is associated with favorable responses to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy in Chinese non-small cell lung cancer patients. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. doi:10.1016/j.jtho.2019.04.007 ii Bai, J., Behera, M., & Bruner, D. W. (2017).

ii. The gut microbiome, symptoms, and targeted interventions in children with cancer: A systematic review. Supportive Care in Cancer,26(2), 427-439. doi:10.1007/s00520-017-3982-3