Thursday, November 17, 2011

Probiotics Shown Effective in Radiation Protection

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown that taking a probiotic before radiation therapy can protect the intestine from damage — at least in mice. And as things usually work out, this implies a connection to the same protection in humans.

The new study suggests that taking a probiotic also may help cancer patients avoid intestinal injury, a common problem in those receiving radiation therapy for abdominal cancers. The research is published online in the journal Gut. Radiation therapy often is used to treat prostate, cervical, bladder, endometrial and other abdominal cancers. But the therapy can kill both cancer cells and healthy ones, leading to severe bouts of diarrhea if the lining of the intestine gets damaged.

“For many patients, this means radiation therapy must be discontinued, or the radiation dose reduced, while the intestine heals,” says senior investigator William F. Stenson, MD, Professor in Gastroenterology at Washington University. “Probiotics may provide a way to protect the lining of the small intestine from some of that damage.”

Stenson has been searching for ways to repair and protect healthy tissue from radiation. This study showed that the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), among other Lactobacillus probiotic strains, protected the lining of the small intestine in mice receiving radiation.

“The lining of the intestine is only one cell-layer thick,” Stenson says. “This layer of epithelial cells separates the rest of the body from what’s inside the intestine. If the epithelium breaks down as the result of radiation, the bacteria that normally reside in the intestine can be released, travel through the body and cause serious problems such as sepsis.”

The researchers found that the probiotic was effective only if given to mice before radiation exposure. If the mice received the probiotic after damage to the intestinal lining had occurred, the LGG treatment could not repair it. Because the probiotic protected intestinal cells in mice exposed, the investigators believe it may be time to study probiotic use in patients receiving radiation therapy for abdominal cancers.

“In earlier human studies, patients usually took a probiotic after diarrhea developed when the cells in the intestine already were injured,” says first author Matthew A. Ciorba, MD. “Our study suggests we should give the probiotic prior to the onset of symptoms, or even before the initiation of radiation because, at least in this scenario, the key function of the probiotic seems to be preventing damage, rather than facilitating repair.”

The investigators sought to evaluate LGG’s protective effects in a way that would leave little doubt about whether it was preventing injury, and if so, how it was protecting the cells that line the intestine. “Some human studies have looked at the possibility that probiotics might reduce diarrhea, but most of those studies have not been quite as rigorous as we would like, and the mechanism by which the probiotics might work has not been addressed,” Stenson says.

If human studies are launched, Ciorba says one bit of encouraging news is that the doses of probiotic given to mice were not exceptionally large, and their intestines were protected. So people wouldn’t need mega-doses of the probiotic to get protection.
“The bacteria we use is similar to what’s found in yogurt or in commercially available probiotics,” he says. “So theoretically, there shouldn’t be risk associated with this preventative treatment strategy any more than there would be in a patient with abdominal cancer eating yogurt.”


Saturday, November 12, 2011

How "Natural" Is This?

I was recently looking at Rhodiola supplements on Vitacost, one of those big discount vitamin and herb stores on the web. I couldn't find the quality brands but I saw something with their own brand name on it. I was OK with the price, it was about half of the norm. But when I looked at the ingredients, I was absolutely shocked. This was a "100% natural product" sold by a store that promotes healthy products and healthy lifestyles. And one of the major ingredients in this product (besides the herb) was something called Hydromellose.

Hypromellose turns out to be a very friendly sounding name for a very nasty sounding chemical ingredient. This is, to me, unbelievable that it shows up in the "other ingredients" and that their capsule is actually made from this stuff. Hypromellose is actually short for hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, otherwise known as HPMC. It is a semisynthetic, inert, viscoelastic polymer used as an ophthalmic lubricant and for other industrial purposes. That's right -- it's in the ingredients list of something that I would be swallowing three times a day every day of my life.

Next time you're thinking of cheapening up on your dietary supplements, think twice before you start downing products with ingredients like this or some of the other nasty items that show up in supplements, like stearic acid and magnesium stearate.