Hippocrates was prophetic when he made the statement that “All disease begins in the gut”. Cancer causing agents in food such as food dyes, aflatoxins (think nuts), pesticide residues, heavy metals, nitrites and artificial sweeteners, as well as non-food sources such as alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs have become ubiquitous in our food supply. However, they all share one major thing in common. They all require bio-activation. Bio-activation most often requires an enzyme system to occur. These enzyme systems occur to the greatest extent in the gut micro-flora (the bacteria that inhabit the gastrointestinal (GI) tract). A balanced bacterial population in the gut tends to detoxify carcinogenic substances far better than an unbalanced one. In doing so, the load of carcinogens that get activated becomes much more manageable for the rest of the body’s defenses. In an unbalanced bacterial population, carcinogenic substances get activated to a much greater degree. When too much of these substances accumulate, cancer cells are much more likely to proliferate. Once cancer begins, the oral chemotherapeutic drugs that are taken, will likely add to this toxic load and put further strain on the immune system. Most often, pharmaceuticals of any kind undergo bio-activation and conjugation (transformation into a usable form) both in the gut as well as in the liver. However, the secondary and tertiary products that they are transformed into can sometimes be more toxic than the primary drug in question. It is for this reason that a well-balanced bacterial population in the gut is so important to health. So how does one get balanced gut bacterial populations? The most important way is to make fermented foods a regular part of your diet. Foods such as Kefir, Miso, Natto, Sourkraut and Kimchee are high in beneficial bacteria for supplying your gut with. Those big brand name yogurts such as Activia™ and Yoplait™ would be good as well if they didn’t have all of the added sugar and flavoring agents in them. Another way to ensure that you have a balanced gut is to severely restrict the amount of sugar in your diet, and keep the glycemic load (foods which score high on the glycemic index) lowered. This will lower the inflammation in your body (especially in your gut), not to mention make you feel better. Another problem, which is only starting to receive attention, is the fate of pharmaceuticals after they have left the body. They don’t just magically disappear with the flush of a toilet, but end up in sewage and eventually the environment. For those who live in the country, just remember that septic systems were never really designed to break down pharmaceutical drug metabolites into benign molecules, which may mean that they will end up in the environment as well. When your gut is healthy, you and the environment will be too. Then you will also be able to make David Suzuki “granola-disciples” green with envy.