Healthy eating habits for better colon health

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Dr. Janet Seabrook

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. I wanted to draw attention to this subject because we hear and read about other cancers like breast, lung, brain, etc. much more frequently. You might be surprised to know that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to improve colon health therefore reducing cancer risks.

According to the National Cancer Institute, studies have found that there are connections to obesity and colon cancer. Obesity causes an increase in insulin levels in the blood. Increases in insulin and related conditions such as insulin resistance may cause the growth of certain tumors, including those in the colon. Since less than 10% of cases are hereditary, lifestyle plays an important role in whether we develop this cancer.

Here are a few tips on eating for a healthier colon:

  1. Cut back on your consumption of red meat and processed meats.

The American Cancer Society says that your risk of colon cancer increases by up to 20% if you consume 100 grams of red meat (the equivalent of a small hamburger) or 50 grams (equivalent of one hot dog) of processed meats, like sausage, bacon or hotdogs, per day.

  1. Increase your fiber intake.

Beans, whole grains, nuts, berries and brown rice are all great sources of fiber. Fiber also promotes weight loss because it acts like a sponge in your body, which makes you feel full and it digests more slowly.

  1. Cut back on the sugar.

While there has been no study that proves a direct connection between sugar and colorectal cancer, high intakes of sugar can result in obesity. So, dialing back on the sweets couldn’t hurt.

  1. Add grains to your diet.

The Dietary Guidelines suggest that we eat 3 – 5 servings of whole grains daily. Some examples include quinoa, oatmeal, wild and brown rice or whole wheat flour.

  1. Schedule a regular screening.

Once you’ve made the dietary adjustments, it is always a great idea to follow up with your physician to schedule a colonoscopy. This test is helpful in that it not only screens for colon cancer but also identifies precancerous polyps, which can be removed before they develop into cancer.

The best news is, if detected early, up to 95 percent of colorectal cancers are curable, according to the Colon Cancer Foundation. So let’s get started today taking care of our colons!

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