I had my first colonoscopy earlier this year and the thought was terrifying. They want to do what with my what!? To be honest, I had nothing to worry about. The process didn’t end up being anywhere near as bad as I anticipated and it was a relief to get the “all clear” from the doc.
Despite my colonoscopy ease, I’m not under any illusions that cancer or colons are much fun to talk about. I’m sure you don’t typically sit around with your girlfriends and discuss bowel movements or the latest cancer trends, but I can’t help to think that if colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, and the third leading cause of cancer death, then it’s something we need to talk about!
We all know that our diet plays a significant role in our health, but to what extent does it prevent colon cancer? What if you could reduce your risk of colon cancer by swapping your diet for two weeks?
That is exactly what a group of researchers studied, revealing shocking, yet very exciting results.
While spending time in rural South Africa, Dr. Stephen O’Keefe noticed that patients from this area rarely had colon cancer or any precursors to the disease. He compared their diet choices to those with Western eating habits. Based on his observations, he created an international team of researchers, recruited twenty volunteers from rural South Africa, as well as twenty volunteers from within the United States between the ages of 50 and 65.
Instead of studying their regular diets, he had each group of participants swap their regularly consumed foods. The African volunteers ate a meat-heavy diet, while the American volunteers ate a high-fiber diet, mainly consisting of beans and legumes. At the end of two weeks, the volunteers’ colon content and fecal matter were studied.
What they found was shocking! Two weeks was enough to completely change microorganisms within the intestine. The reversed eating habits had improved cellular turnover within the intestinal lining, fiber fermentation, inflammation, and bacterial metabolic rates. On the flip side, the American diet was shown to increase well-known indicators associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.
The results of this study reflect that it is never too late to reduce your risk of colon cancer. The foods you consume can make all the difference, whether your 55 or 15, at the end of the day, your body is designed to maintain a healthy colon! When you work as a team, your body will protect you and here is how you can get started:
Support Colon Health Through a Healthy Diet
To benefit your personal colon health, focus on the following simple tips.
Limit your consumption of meat
Within our Western diet, we consume far too much red and processed meats. There have been multiple studies which reflect an increased risk of colon cancer based on a diet high in red meat. You can still consume around 4-5 ounces of organic lean meats 3-4 times per week, however, avoid all processed meats entirely, that means no lunch meats, no hot dogs, no frozen meat foods!
Increase your fiber intake
When your colon is healthy, you’re able to extract wastes efficiency. This reduces your risk of build-up. Since built-up waste can overload your body with toxins, fiber is essential. It helps eliminate these toxins, decreasing one’s risk of cancer.
The longer toxins are in contact with your colon, the greater the health risks become. Think of fiber as a broom, sweeping waste from your body. You should be consuming anywhere from 25 to 35 grams daily. Incorporate more whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits (raspberries, pears, blackberries, avocado) and vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach, artichoke) into your diet and supplement with chia or flax seeds.
Drink More Water
Water is essential when removing waste, aiding in overall colon function. Not only does water promote hydration, but it helps soluble fiber do its job. If you are constipated, you may simply be dehydrated. Although we are very fortunate to have access to drinking water, pure water is the most beneficial. Explore water filtration options to obtain the cleanest, purest drinking water and drink half of your body weight, in ounces, of water per day! (a new study recently came out saying that women need a minimum of 95 ounces and men need 125 ounces per day…yikes!)
Take a Probiotic
Probiotics support large populations of friendly bacteria, keeping your colon clean and healthy. Colon and rectal cancer are both linked to microbial issues within the gut. By introducing more good bacteria, you stop bad bacteria from thriving. Take a high-quality probiotic with a minimum of 50 billion bacteria strands daily (I recommend the Renew Life brand and I take the 100 – 150 billion ones) and consume more fermented foods like tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, kefir, and kombucha.
Now you have a conversation starter for this week’s girls night out. A little colon-talk never hurt anyone. They’ll most certainly appreciate your new knowledge. However, wait until everyone has finished eating first, they’ll appreciate that even more.