Rates of leukemia — the most common childhood cancer — are increasing by 1 percent each year in wealthy, industrialized countries. And its cause has long eluded researchers.
But a brand-new study suggests the GI microbiome may play a part in protecting children from this dreaded disease.
Even though the mainstream doesn’t recognize the remarkable roles the microbiome plays in your body, I’ve written quite a bit about it lately.
It’s the environment in your gut where trillions of healthy bacteria (probiotics) thrive. And it helps protect you from deadly infections and diseases. Plus, as this new study suggests, it may even play a role in preventing leukemia…
The “two-step” process that causes leukemia
As I published in the journal Human Pathology in 1991, cancer was nearly non-existent in prehistoric and ancient populations. And since it’s a fatal disease (especially without treatment), it should’ve been weeded out by natural selection, according to the theory of evolution. Especially a cancer like leukemia, which causes death in children, long before their ability to reproduce.
So — clearly — there must be something more at play than just a genetic abnormality. And that’s just what Mel Greaves, with Institute of Cancer Research in London, set out to study.
Greaves recently reviewed more than 30 years of research — including his own — on the genetics, cell biology, immunology, epidemiology, and animal modeling of childhood leukemia.
He found that leukemia is the result of a “two-step process.”
This “two-step process” is nothing new to cancer research. It’s been around for decades, and it factored into my Ph.D. dissertation on childhood diet and adult risk of breast cancer.
Hidden “pre-leukemic” clone cells
Basically, Greaves found that children who develop leukemia all carry a common genetic abnormality. In fact, one in 20 children born in industrialized countries have it. This genetic component occurs before birth with a change in utero. And the change generates a hidden clone of cells that are “pre-leukemic.”
But only 1 percent of children with this identifiable gene defect actually go on to develop leukemia.
And the second step actually “promotes” the cancer…
Lack of exposure to germs in early life
Greaves found that children who grew up in excessively clean households and interacted less with other children during their first year of life developed fewer infections. Although this initially sounds like a positive thing, it’s anything but…
This lack of exposure to microbial infections early in life can inhibit the development of the acquired immune system (which is responsible for immunological memory — a vital property of the immune system where your body recognizes and responds to pathogens its previously encountered). So, a poor initial immune response to a specific pathogen could very well lead to leukemia.
Similar associations appear to be at play for lymphoma, allergies, autoimmune, and other diseases. And it makes a lot of sense…
You see, our acquired immune systems evolved entirely to fight infections. Today, this response should start when infants are first exposed in the first few weeks and months of life. The immune system then becomes primed to recognize these infections, so it knows how to deal with them later.
But in the absence of priming in early life, later immune responses become abnormally regulated. In fact, without early exposure, later infections can trigger secondary mutations of cells.
So, what does all this have to do with the microbiome?
Well, germs typically first come in contact with the skin and the gastro-intestinal tract, the two biggest parts of the microbiome. But with limited early exposure to germs, the microbiome doesn’t develop and adapt. So, when an infection does finally occur, the immune response goes haywire.
Tragically, in our modern, industrialized world, many parents purposefully try to raise their children in germ-free, nearly sterile environments. Clearly, this misguided strategy has major, tragic implications.
Plus, in my view, a third factor is also at work — lack of breastfeeding.
A mother’s milk contains all the immune system benefits that can determine how well the child will react to a lifetime of exposure to infections. This is particularly crucial when the baby is in utero, where antibodies are produced by the mother’s immune system and transported via placenta. This determines the first three to six months of the infant’s life, creating “passive immunity” for its immune system.
So, here are a few takeaways from this eye-opening study that people of all ages should follow:
1.) Don’t over-clean your environment
Parents need not be overzealous about hygiene for children. (Although adults should practice good hygiene when around crowds of children.) Additionally, you should avoid cleaning your home with harsh chemicals and sterilizers; instead, use products with natural or organic ingredients. (I prefer a simple 50/50 mix of white distilled vinegar and tap water.) Also, be sure to avoid using hand-sanitizers whenever possible (which also strip your skin of good bacteria).
Parents should allow their children some exposure to germs. Furthermore, they should allow their children to play outdoors in Nature, in the dirt and mud.
2.) Carefully consider vaccines
American children are the most highly vaccinated people on the planet. These poor little pincushions receive some 49 doses of 14 different vaccines before the age of six. But they’re also among the most chronically ill children in Western nations.
And is it any wonder?
As I’ve said before, we simply don’t know enough about how vaccines alter the microbiome and immune system. And in my view, we should re-evaluate the need for the ever-proliferating pack of disastrous, required childhood vaccines.
According to the U.K. researchers, we should develop prophylactic vaccines that mimic the natural infections that occur during infancy and childhood.
3.) Maintain a balanced diet
Of course, diet plays the leading role in maintaining a healthy microbiome. After breastfeeding, young children should move on to a healthy, balanced diet that limits artificial ingredients and packaged foods, especially cereals and sugary juices marketed for children, which disrupt gut health.
Also, adults and children should eat foods that support healthy gut bacteria. My favorites include plain yogurts, cheeses, and sauerkraut, as well as traditionally processed Korean kimchi, soy sauce, and fish sauces.
4.) Avoid antibiotics
This step is pretty obvious. You want to avoid taking antibiotics. They destroy bacteria in your microbiome — including helpful probiotic bacteria.
5.) Avoid harmful chemicals
As I explained in the October 2017 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Revealed: poison in your pasta”), some evidence suggests pesticides that contaminate our food supply, lawns, and gardens also cause leukemia and lymphoma in adults. Probably because they poison the normal human microbiome. (Subscribers can find that archived article on my website, www.DrMicozzi.com, by logging in with their username and password. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to become one.)
It’s not surprising that Greaves’ new research draws on 30 years of real-world research across many different disciplines. After all, breakthroughs in understanding human health only come when researchers gather evidence across the boundaries of medical specialization and academic research “silos” to present a synthetic, holistic picture.
And in this case, putting his head outside the silo turned up some pretty remarkable findings.
P.S. I’ve taken a similar holistic approach with my Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol. My no-nonsense, all-natural secrets for a lifetime of prevention and survival are available now. Click here to learn more, or sign up today.
“Childhood leukaemia may be preventable by exposure to infections in early life,” BMJ 2018;361:k2246