Huntsville, AL – Most people know about chronic conditions that come with obesity. For example, most people associate the risk of heart disease and diabetes to chronic obesity, because those are so common. Heck, it’s the one thing that health organizations tells us repeatedly. But when you address bariatric surgery, and how it can relate to certain types of cancer, that is when people get wary.
They have a right to be mistrustful. There are con artists more than willing to prey on the desperation of other people. Combine that with a general population that has a problem with scientific literacy, and you get a lot of false claims that people will believe. The results are a mix of people having a hard time discerning fact from fiction. So, it sounds outlandish when some doctors or scientists say that bariatric surgery decreases the risk of colon cancer.
However, this one holds a lot more validity to it. And I say this with the knowledge of how our digestive anatomy works.
Our Anatomy of the Lower Digestive System
Bariatric surgery involves the manipulation of the stomach, jejunum and duodenum. The last two organs are part of the small intestine. The small intestine serves as a bridge between the stomach and the large intestine or colon. It is also important to note that the duodenum, is often part of the bariatric surgical process. There is even a type of bariatric surgery that mentions part of the small intestine by name ,the duodenal switch.
Those three parts of our digestive system are responsible for not only breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. They are also responsible for the creation/storage of our fat and the housing of our good bacteria. The idea sounds confusing if not a little farfetched. However, there is more than enough evidence through direct observation and documentation to verify that our digestive system is its own environment of living bacteria.
According to Medical Sciences, an official scientific journal is in the archives of the US National Library of Medicine, ” The stomach harbors only 101 bacteria per gram content. There are increasing densities and bacterial diversities in the duodenum (103/g), jejunum (104/g), ileum (107/g), and colon (1012 bacteria/gram).”
So, it is an environment that houses our good bacteria. But that is only scratches the surface of what it is.
Warped DNA in Obesity and Colorectal Cancer
Another journal explains it this way. “We are born with gut microbiota. It evolves as we age, mostly maintaining a relationship with its host. A growing body of clinical evidence suggests an intricate relationship between the gut microbiota and the immune system. With ageing, the gut microbiota develops significant imbalances in the major phyla resulting in impaired immune responses. Advanced age, antibiotic use, underlying diseases, infections, hormonal differences, circadian rhythm, and malnutrition, either alone or in combination, contribute to these impairments.”
Bad nutrition, lack of sleep, changes in hormones, aging or our immediate environment can warp the very DNA in our gut. And when that DNA warps, it breaks our immune system. We have a limited understanding about the microbiome. However, we know that chronic conditions can warp the DNA in our microbiome.
With obesity, the excess production of fat cells and the hormones they release result from warped DNA in our microbiome. Colorectal cancer also involves warped microbiome DNA. Doctors even use DNA testing on stool samples to determine whether colorectal cancer is present. If the DNA is abnormal and blood is present in the stool, then it can point to signs that colorectal cancer is present.
The Effects of Bariatric Surgery
When patients go through the process of bariatric surgery, a there is a dramatic shift in the microbiome. Dieting, exercise, emotional changes, and hormones all play a part in the microbiome already. So, all these changes at once would cause a shift. Who is to say that it doesn’t do the same thing to the microbiome in your colon? If the bacterial environment changes in your small intestine, how unreasonable would it be for these changes to spread to the large intestine from the small? We already know that:
- The small intestine connects the colon and stomach.
- All three parts have a microbiome.
- Both colonic cancer and obesity are chronic conditions that involve abnormal DNA in that microbiome.
- Every microbiome responds to drastic environmental changes.
So, while there is only one study that comes out stating that bariatric surgery can decrease the risk of colon cancer, I think it has a strong foundation.
But, it will still need verification. Because the science requires repeated results before calling something a fact. And that is a good thing. Even though it slows down the process of discovery it also puts weak assumptions to a halt. There is a reason people say “Trust but verify”.
Still, bariatric surgery decreasing the risk of colon cancer doesn’t sound too outrageous.