• Melanie

The truth about probiotics and how to boost your energy after cancer

Updated: May 1, 2019

Cancer treatment like chemotherapy or radiotherapy can wipe the good bacteria in our body. Get your energy back up and learn how to make your probiotics drink at home in 7 easy steps in my video and blog with gut health expert Dr Heather Way.



Are probiotics good for you?


There I said it. If you've had chemotherapy, radiotherapy or maybe you just want to get your energy back up (don’t we all need a little push!) – then you might be thinking: could probiotics be the answer?

Buckle up babes because it's time for some serious myth busting with Dr Heather Way from The Australian Centre for Genomic Analysis – the gut health champion who helped me get back on track after cancer. With a PhD in molecular pathology, Dr Heather is in to bugs, so don't be alarmed when she talks about bacteria like it's her children!

Who should watch this?

  • You have cancer

  • You've had chemo or radiation

  • You’ve been taking antibiotics

  • You have an autoimmune disorder or other chronic condition

  • You’re feeling tired, sick or just unwell

  • You want to feel more energy

  • You want to protect yourself from disease


Other health benefits of probiotics include: weight loss, improved digestion, enhanced immune function, better skin...⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ My probiotics routine really helped me get my energy back up after cancer so I bring my secrets to you in this video and article. Obviously, you should always check with your doctor to ensure your diet is tailored to your specific type of cancer or treatment. If you like the video - please like and share. If you want to contact Dr Heather Way's team visit TAGCA. Enjoy. X



What is the role of probiotics in cancer recovery?


In this video, we tell you the truth about probiotics especially if you've been diagnosed with cancer. My name is Melanie Roussin and I'm a cervical cancer survivor. I'm also a lecturer at university in health promotion and the creator of Girls Rocking Cancer.


Today, I'm here with Dr Heather Way who has been amazing in helping me recover from cancer; she is a gut health expert.


If you want to know more about her, check out our video and blog 3 foods to avoid with cancer

Hi Dr Heather, thank you for having me in your kitchen today. I love coming to the kitchen where the magic happens. Today, we're going to talk about probiotics.

I feel there is a bit of a probiotic hype and what I'm wondering is what does that mean for people living with cancer, what's the role of probiotics in cancer recovery?

What are probiotics?


The textbook definition would be "pro life"; probiotics are living organisms that live inside our belly. We've got millions of bacteria in our gut that are digesting our foods and helping us assimilate nutrients, making all sorts of vitamins and minerals. They are busy working for us all the time.


How does chemotherapy or radiotherapy affect good bacteria in our body?


Chemotherapy can really mock it up and actually kill the good bacteria. But also if you've had cancer or have been taking antibiotics, chances are that you need to replenish the good bacteria.

With radiotherapy the gut will be very damaged and we need to rebuild it.


What about probiotics that we buy off the shelf?


They are two problems with the probiotics from your local drug store or pharmacy:

  1. typically, they have only one or two strains of bacteria.

  2. they are often transient, which means they go straight through (expensive urine).


Imagine that in a healthy gut there are thousand strains of bacteria, so one of two is nothing when compared with traditional fermented foods that can have hundreds. 100 years ago, probiotics drinks like kefir and kombucha were passed down through generations. They were revere because of their health properties (people used to give them as wedding present!)

The store-bought probiotics will help stimulate the immune system on the day you take them (that's still a good thing) but will not colonise the gut. We do a lot of gut sequencing so we know.

If you want to take some probiotics, save yourself some money by making your own drink at home. Keep reading or watch the video and we will show you how.



What is in kombucha?


Today, we're going to make kombucha. Kombucha is a delicious probiotics drink so it's a lovely way to replenish your gut flora. Kombucha bottles are popping up all over the place in cafes, shops, service stations. They are a great substitute to soft drinks which are dreadful for our health.

Kombucha is made on SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Combination of Bacteria and Yeast - basically we're talking about a bit blob of bacteria growing together in a giant colony. It's slightly gross but they do a really good job for us!

What ingredients go in a kombuccha?

  1. Organic black tea (we don't want the pesticides - yak!)

  2. Organic sugar (doesn't have to be a "fancy" sugar it's for your bacteria!)

  3. Live culture (your SCOBY!)


Your SCOBY grows on just plain old black tea, so this is as easy as making a cup of tea. Just use organic black tea because we don't want the pesticides. One teabag per cup. As much as we don't like sugar in our everyday diet - bacteria need sugar to grow. If you've been watching our previous video about having no sugar in your diet, this is the exception.


What you need to understand is this sugar is not going to be "in you" as such - the bacteria will eat it up.

It doesn't have to be fancy sugar but I still prefer if you buy organic - pesticides are bad for us and they're bad for the SCOBY. Keep "mummy" (aka your SCOBY) happy! .


Why black tea? Can I experiment with other teas?


Mummy likes black tea. If you want to experiment that's fine but NOT with the mummy.

The mother makes a baby every week that will float at the top.


You can peal off the baby and put it gently into a new bottle with a tea of your choice (green tea, hibiscus tea or whatever strikes your fancy). You can do another ferment with that one to experiment.



How do we make a probiotics drink in 7 easy steps?


Here are 7 easy-steps to make your own kombucha at home for less than 30 cent a bottle:

  1. Make a cup of tea, using filtered water, 1 organic black tea bag per cup, and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

  2. Wait that your cuppa cools down to room temperature (let's not burn the mummy!)

  3. Pour it off into a glass bottle and gently "re-home" mummy (keep some of her old liquid in so she feels at home).

  4. Use a sheet of paper towel and a rubber band to "cap your bottle" rather than using a lid, this will keep the bugs off but still allow the air to flow.

  5. This sits on a bench for about a week, preferably in darkness (mummy likes to be left alone in the dark with her black tea!) This ferment is aerobic (with oxygen).

  6. Then you can pour it off into another sealed glass bottle and flavour it with whatever organic fruits you like (see yummy ideas below).

  7. Once it's capped, it will sit on the bench for at least 24 hours - depending on what your flavour it with (the sweeter the fruit, the quicker it will ferment). Then, keep it in the fridge and enjoy!


As it ferments, the gas will start to build up. The bubbles will form naturally and that's how it turns like a soft drink. Usually I give it 24 hours. The longer you leave it the more fizz you'll get.


What fruits can I use to flavour my kombucha?


Whatever you can get your hands on (preferably organic). Let you imagination run wild!


My youngest son's love strawberry and mint. My oldest son really like blueberries or passionfruit. The kids love to experiment!

Mango is awesome but you don't need to leave it down for too long; it's a sweet fruit so it will ferment quickly. In this video, we use ginger (and turmeric) and it taste like a ginger beer. Apple is yummy too if you feel like a healthy apple cider!

Because we use fruits, the kombuccha will be naturally sweeten: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries are all fantastic combinations. We can get really creative and I'd love to hear some new ideas! Pop them in the comments or tag us in your creations @girlsrockingcancer on Instagram or Facebook.

If I do buy off the shelf, what am I looking for?


If you don't have access to a SCOBY or you want a drink on the go, pay attention to the label. Here's how to tell the difference between a good and a "dodgy" kombucha.

You want to check that the label says "live culture" - it has to be living. That's the whole point.

If it doesn't say "live culture", it may be an "extract of" or it was pasteurised - that's not kombucha! Check the ingredients - all we want is sugar, tea and live culture - that's it! If there is a long list of ingredients, they've added artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners. A big no-no!



How do I know what's in my gut?


We can have a look at what's in your gut by looking at what comes out. It's a poo sample! That's how we find out by sequencing it.


If you want to know the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut, you can look up a clinic that offers "microbiome sequencing" in your local area or contact Dr Heather Way at The Australian Centre for Genomic Analysis. Dr Heather's team is based in Australia but they can mail a home kit to you anywhere in the world and then schedule an appointment via Skype. As long as you have Internet it's all good.

What is sequencing the microbiome? (Said what now?)


Sequencing your gut is a little bit like the police dusting fingerprints these days. So, we're like detectives!

It's a simple process.

  1. You can use a takeaway container to collect your poo sample (or something you can throw away (obviously!).

  2. Then, open your home kit, run the swab along the poo and put the swab into the tube provided (this contains preservative).

  3. Put the lid on and send off to the lab for sequencing.


At the lab, they'll get to see how many dudes are in there whether good or bad.

Quite often what happens with cancer is that there's an imbalance of bacteria: the bad guys take over.

So, we want to reduce the bad guys because they are very inflammatory. That could explain why you're feeling tired, sick or unwell (especially if you had chemotherapy or radiotherapy because it just wipes out the good bacteria). If you do want to know what's happening in your gut, call or email Dr Heather Way's team. Otherwise, enjoy your beautiful kombucha.

We hope you enjoyed this video and we wish you health and happiness.

Bon appétit





#guthealth #foodhacks #probiotics #kombucha #beatingcancer #healing

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