March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month
Or as I like to call it – Colon Consciousness Month! Colon cancer prevention has come a long way in the last few decades with the help of notable celebrities and physicians such as Katie Couric and Dr. Oz. Thankfully, regular screenings have saved over 1 million lives in the United States alone!
Should you be getting screened?
Both men and women over the age of 50 with average risk should be screened at least every 10 years. If you or anyone in your family has had color cancer or polyps, you are at a higher risk and should speak to your doctor about getting screened earlier and more often.
Prevention – Diet really does matter!
We often think that we are stuck with our family gene pool. If our parents or grandparents suffered, we will too so why bother. Not true. While there are genetic factors involved, how we treat our bodies each day matters more. Prevention really does begin with what we put into our bodies. Being mindful of the types of food, how much we eat and how we eat can make a significant impact on our colon health.
A diet high in fiber not only lowers your risk, it also improves your overall gastrointestinal health. Fiber discourages growth of harmful bacteria and encourages growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Easily incorporate more fiber into your diet by eating whole grains, legumes and fresh, vine ripened fruits and vegetables.
Still struggling to add enough fiber to your diet? Try taking a fiber supplement that doesn’t include soy, sugar, corn, or yeast. Another helpful supplement is a probiotic which populates the gut with beneficial bacteria to keep harmful bacteria in balance. New studies also show that folic acid, calcium and vitamin D all play a role in prevention. You can find folic acid in citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
How much to eat:
A great friend once gave us a book by Dr. Barry Sears that changed the way I looked at food. The book is called The Zone and it outlines his protocol to reduce cellular inflammation, one of the leading causes of cancer. It’s a great book and it helps you look at the science of food as fuel. Basically, he suggests that the body needs the right amount or “blocks” of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. To simplify, he suggests using the width and thickness of your palm (without your fingers) to measure the amount of each at every meal.
He suggests that most people need 2 palms carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains), 1 palm protein (3 ounces for women and 4 ounces for men of lean meat, fish, beans) and a half a palm or dash of healthy fats (nuts, nut oils, avocado, etc.) Since we all have a built in measuring cup in our palm, it makes it super easy to remember how much to eat. Overeating causes stress on the digestive process and causes gastrointestinal distress and discomfort, which can eventually lead to issues in the colon.
How to eat – Don’t forget to chew!
When we were young, our parents reminded us to “chew our food”…probably so we wouldn’t choke! However, there is even more wisdom behind that saying. Most of us are rushing through our meals and swallowing large pieces of food. This puts an unnecessary strain on our entire digestive system, and can cause food sensitivities as well.
To get into the habit of chewing correctly, try not to eat while watching TV, reading or working on the computer. Instead, focus on what you are eating and how quickly you are eating:
- Take a deep breath before you start.
- Chew every mouthful of food at least 30 times each, until the food becomes liquid. This makes it easier on the stomach and small intestines to digest.
- While you are chewing, the body is deciphering which enzymes to produce to help break down the food. If you don’t give it time, it won’t produce the right kind of amount.
- Saliva assists in the digestion of carbohydrates.
- Saliva also makes the food more alkaline, which creates less gas (Gas is experienced in the stomach and intestine, but it is caused by spleen imbalances).
Good bowel habits ! yup, it’s all about the poop
While it’s not a major topic of conversation, many people suffer from constipation from dehydration and the binding effects of the all-American diet, which is low in fiber. In order to rid the body of the toxins we consume, and maintain a healthy environment in the colon, it’s important to have at least one bowel movement per day. Conversely, many suffer with loose stools and symptoms of an irritable bowel. Either way, the quality of fecal elimination can tell you a lot about what is going on in your body and is a factor in the health of your colon. To help you determine if you are on the right track, I’ve included a great link here which provides additional information about what to consider.
Prevention – you hold the keys!
Hopefully knowing that you can make a difference in your health is exciting news. You don’t have to be a victim of your gene pool. You can make some simple changes by eating more fiber, eating the appropriate amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and chewing your food effectively. You can also get screened at the appropriate age to make sure you have a healthy colon. We are lucky to live in a country with a high and growing survivor rate due to early detection!
Image courtesy of -Marcus- at FreeDigitalPhotos.net