5 Tips For a Healthy Colon
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
I think I speak for many people when I say that I am still devastated by the death of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer almost one year ago at the age of 43. His death was a shock, because he was young, appeared to be in good physical shape and even played a superhero when he starred in the film Black Panther.
Colon cancer (also sometimes called colorectal cancer), however, is being found in younger people (under the age of 50).
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer rates from 2020 will show that 12 percent of colorectal cancer cases will have been diagnosed in people under the age of 50 (this is about 18,000 cases).
In addition to this, colon cancer is more common in African Americans and people who have a family history of this type of cancer. We can not definitively say why Boseman (or anyone for that matter) developed colon cancer, but generally speaking lifestyle choices appear to play a major role.
Smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and heavy alcohol consumption have all been linked to an increase in the risk of developing colon cancer. But perhaps the biggest risk factor of all is a poor quality diet and obesity.
“According to the National Cancer Institute, the association between obesity and increased colon cancer risk may be due to multiple factors, including increased levels of insulin in the blood, a condition that may occur more often in obese individuals,” according to this recent Medical Xpress report.
“Increases in insulin and associated conditions such as insulin resistance may promote the development of certain tumors, including those in the colon.”
In all fairness and to be clear, the report does say that the American Cancer Society states that diet, weight and exercise are the three factors most strongly linked to colorectal cancer.
“In fact, an estimated 50% to 75% of colorectal cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes like healthy eating, according to the Colon Cancer Foundation. Therefore, good nutrition is an important aspect of good colon health,” according to the Medical Xpress report mentioned earlier.
Exercise is important, but I always say that we cannot ‘out-exercise’ a bad diet. What I’m about to share with you is probably not news to you if you are a regular reader of pH Labs blogs, but I think it is worth mentioning again (especially as we are about to enter the summer season of barbeques and parties). Many of us have also gained a few extra pounds in 2020 due to the quarantine and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it’s time to be proactive.
Here are five eating tips for a healthy colon (according to the Medical Xpress report):
- Include plenty of plant-based foods into your daily diet.
Whole, nutrient-dense plant foods such as fruits and vegetables not only help control weight but also help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation appears to be a root cause of early-onset colorectal cancer.
- Limit your consumption of red meat.
“According to the ACS [American Cancer Society], the risk of colon cancer increases by 15% 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 hot dogs, per day,” according to the report.
(Check out this pH Labs blog on red meat consumption and colorectal cancer).
If you must eat red meat, a registered dietician referenced in the report says to eat no more than 18 ounces per week (which is about three small servings each the size of a deck of cards. To keep my meat consumption low, I make vegetables the main star of the plate. We are so conditioned to think that meat should be the main dish when in reality it is most healthy if the veggies take up the most space on our plate.
- Watch your sugar.
I know. This is the one no one wants to hear, but it’s true. Sugar promotes inflammation, and a diet high in sugar may cause ulcerative colitis (also sometimes called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)) and Crohn's disease.
- Fiber. Fiber. Fiber!
You can read here all about fiber and how it may help prevent colorectal cancer. If you are eating an unprocessed diet (versus processed) with plenty of veggies and fruits, you are most likely getting plenty of fiber.
- Know how to pick the right grains.
“Whole grains are grain products that have not been stripped of their nutrient and fiber-packed exterior. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all adults eat at least half of their daily grains as whole grains, about three to five servings,” according to the report.
Some delicious whole grains include barley, quinoa, brown rice and oatmeal.If it says 'enriched,' it's not a whole grain.
“These foods contain more colon-friendly vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, antioxidants and phytochemicals (natural compounds in plants that have a beneficial effect on the body) than their refined grain counterparts, such as white flour and white rice.”
One really good tip is that packaging at the grocery store which says ‘enriched’ is not a "whole grain." Whole grains do not need to be enriched, because they were never depleted of their nutrients to begin with.
Finally, early detection is key. Even if you are under 50-years-old, it may be a good idea to start screening for colon cancer (especially if you are overweight or obese, African American, have a family history or other contributing factors). We may not be able to control our ethnic background or family history, but we can certainly control daily lifestyle habits. And good habits consistently prove that we can overcome disadvantages that are not within our control.
Finally, maintaining nutritional balance in your body, as in not having too much or too little of any essential vitamin or mineral, is key in preventing inflammation and disease and maintaining your overall health and wellness. Getting routine nutrient tests, will determine if you have any nutrient imbalances. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on possibly making adjustments to your diet and/or recommend quality supplements.
Enjoy your healthy life!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.