Scientists from the University of Gothenburg and elsewhere found that a diet rich in fiber could significantly reduce radiation-induced gut inflammation.
They found that dietary oat bran can offset chronic gut damage caused by radiotherapy. The finding provides critical new insights for radiology patients.
The research is published in Nutrients and was conducted by Dr. Andrea Stringer et al.
Cancer patients are often advised to follow a restricted fiber diet. This is because a diet high in fiber is believed to exacerbate bloating and diarrhea—both common side effects of radiotherapy.
Yet, this advice is not unequivocally evidence-based, with insufficient fiber potentially being counterproductive and exacerbating gastrointestinal toxicity.
This study compared the effects of high-fiber and no-fiber diets, finding that a fiber-free diet is actually worse for subjects undergoing radiotherapy treatment.
The team found a diet without fiber generates inflammatory cytokines which are present for a long time following radiation, resulting in increased inflammation of the digestive system.
Conversely, a fiber-rich diet decreases the presence of cytokines to reduce radiation-induced inflammation, both in the short and the long term.
Intestinal issues following radiotherapy are problematic for many cancer survivors.
In Europe, approximately one million pelvic-organ cancer survivors suffer from compromised intestinal health due to radiation-induced gut symptoms.
This is also commonplace in Australia and around the world with no immediate cure or effective treatment.
The team says if doctors can prevent some of the inflammation resulting from radiation simply by adjusting dietary fiber levels, they could improve long-term, and possibly life-long, intestinal health among cancer survivors.
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