What gut bacteria can teach us about cancer treatment

At one time, the role of gut bacteria in human health was marginalized as a side note that health experts found interesting but not integral. But as more and more research has made clear, the number and diversity of bacteria in the gut can often make the difference between health and disease. Two new studies have found that gut bacteria can also determine the effectiveness of the treatments that are used to fight cancer, forcing doctors to take a closer look at the lessons they can learn from this once overlooked aspect of human health.

In one experiment, researchers at the University of Lille in France looked at ipilimumab — a cancer drug used to treat advanced melanoma — and found that not only did the medication affect the amount of bacteria that was in the gut, but its own effectiveness went hand-in-hand with the level of bacteria trial participants had in their intestines. So the very drug that needed gut bacteria in order to work was the thing that was destroying participants’ gut bacteria levels. Researchers found that when they gave participants supplemental levels of bacteria along with ipilimumab, they responded better to treatment.

A second study — conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago — confirmed the importance of gut bacteria in cancer treatment. For this study, researchers looked at the growth of tumors in two sets of animal subjects and compared that to the profile of bacteria in their intestines. Researchers found that mice who had the bacteria Bifidobacteria in their guts had slower tumor growth than those who did not. When the team transplanted this bacteria into the intestines of the mice that did not have it, they too experienced slowed tumor growth. And this was without any additional drug or treatment.

The takeaway from these two studies is that gut bacteria is very important in the treatment of disease. Of course, both of these studies were conducted on mice, so more work needs to be done to further define the role of gut bacteria in human health. But even at this stage of the game, many health experts are recommending that health care providers evaluate gut bacteria for their patients before beginning any type of treatment and replenish bacteria as necessary to improve the effectiveness of treatment.

credit: jenn Savegde

5 surprising ways to great skin!

There’s so much misinformation out there regarding skin care, not to mention plenty of old-wives’ tales (some of which are actually right) and lots of well-intentioned bad advice. That’s because skin care is tricky, and depends on your skin type. However, there are some tried and true rules — most of which violate at least a rule or two you may have heard elsewhere — that really do work for all skin types.

How have I learned the information below? From speaking with skin experts, makeup artists (natural and conventional) and testing out literally thousands of products over the last 10 years that I’ve been reviewing natural beauty products.

1. You don’t need to wash your face with hot water to get it clean.

In fact, hot water can cause redness and irritation in people with sensitive skin, and for those with normal skin, it can still dry out delicate facial skin, leaving it more susceptible to all kinds of issues, from red, flaky dermis to acne. Wash your face with mildly warm to air-temperature water. It will get the job done without irritating your skin. The same goes for the rest of your body; it may feel good to burn it up in the shower, but especially as cool weather draws closer, this is guaranteed to irritate your skin.

2. Oil is good for your skin, not bad.

Many vegetable oils are old-school ways of moisturizing the skin that we have long ignored. (I can’t be the only one who has heard stories of her great-grandmother lathering her hands up with olive oil and then wearing cotton gloves to bed). You can wash your face with coconut oil or slather it on after you’ve showered; same with sesame oil and olive oil (go with the smell you prefer). After using an oil a couple of times, you will notice that your skin — whether oily or dry — evens out and is either less oily or more naturally moisturized. Most new formulations of high-end beauty products contain skin-protecting oils because they work (use argan or sea buckthorn oils on your face if you want to start with a lighter lipid first).

3. You don’t need to scrub to exfoliate.

Scrubbing with most drug-store brand cleansing scrubs is much too harsh for most skin types (more frequent and harder face-washing can actually exacerbate acne, so lighten up). Instead of using toxin- and chemical-packed scrubs in a tube, exfoliate naturally using fruit. As long as you are not allergic (obviously), rubbing the inside skin of a fresh mango, mashed strawberries, or fresh pineapple chunks directly on your face, leaving the natural, fruit acid AHAs on there for a few minutes, then rinsing off, is the best exfoliator you can get. This method may be a little too much for extra-sensitive skin, but works well for all other skin types.

4. What matters most for healthy skin is not what you put on it, but what you eat.

A healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and veggies, lots of water, and maybe a skin-benefiting tea, minimal alcohol and plenty of sweat-drenching exercise will make skin glow more than any expensive cleanser or moisturizer. You’ll feel great too.

5. Chocolate doesn’t cause acne, but bread and pasta might.

There have never been any conclusive studies linking chocolate-eating to acne, though there have been some that connect high-glycemic foods to breakouts.

credit: Starr Varten