It's easy to adopt a colon-friendly lifestyle

adopt a colon-friendly lifestyle with help from HonorHealth

Did you know that your lifestyle and the foods you eat and drink can help keep your colon happy and healthy?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, almost half of colorectal cancers can be prevented by following these simple nutrition and lifestyle guidelines:

  • Watch your weight, especially around the middle.
  • Get up and move — walk, run, lift weights, swim, go to the gym.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods and whole grains.
  • Limit red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Cut down on alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Control your diabetes.

Obesity boosts your risk for colorectal cancer

If you're obese, you have a higher risk for colon cancer. That's because your body triggers insulin resistance and produces hormones that promote inflammation. Inflammation is one of the factors that enable cancer cells to grow.

Research indicates that colorectal cancer risk is highest for men with a waist measurement of greater than 37 inches and for women with a waist measurement of greater than 31.5 inches.

"Your colorectal cancer risk increases 5% with every inch you add to your waist," says Terri Taylor, registered dietitian with HonorHealth Cancer Care. 

Foods that can cause inflammation include red meat (beef, lamb and pork), processed meat (preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives), processed (trans) fats and processed sugars (high-fructose corn syrup).

Red and processed meats are real culprits because of their significant link to colorectal cancer. They not only cause inflammation but also damage your gut. Limiting your intake to 18 ounces of red meat a week and avoiding processed meats go a long way in keeping your colon healthy.

What foods should you eat?

Focus on foods that are anti-inflammatory such as plant foods, fatty fish, olive and avocado oils, and herbs and seasonings.

Other foods to enjoy are those with phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, spices and herbs. The phytochemicals that help prevent colon cancer are polyphenols and isothiocyanates. Polyphenols are found in apples, berries, celery, curcumin, dark cocoa powder, green tea, legumes, peppers, onions, garlic and red grapes. Isothiocyanates are found in arugula, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, chard and other greens.

The fiber in plant foods is the indigestible part, but it's the part that has the best effect on your colon. It not only binds toxins and hormones, but it also speeds food through your bowel, which promotes bowel regularity. Plant fiber also helps control weight and blood sugar. Perhaps its most important role is its ability to enable your gut bacteria to convert it to butyrate, a fatty acid that can stop colon cancer cell growth.

It makes sense that what you eat affects the bacteria in your gut, in good ways and in bad. Gut-friendly bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains, are colon friendly. You can find these good bacteria, or probiotics, in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha.

Terri suggests that you plan your new healthy-colon plate so that half is filled with fruits and vegetables, one-quarter with protein-rich foods, and one-quarter with whole grains and fiber-rich carbohydrates.

Keep your changes simple:

  • Eat one or two meatless meals a week.
  • Replace ground beef with ground white turkey, salmon, quinoa or beans in meatballs, tacos and burgers.
  • Try cauliflower rice, broccoli rice, zucchini and butternut squash noodles.
  • Shop at farmers' markets.
  • Add exercise to your daily routine.

"Think about one area you can make a difference," Terri advises. "The way to make it last is to make it livable."

Not sure where to start? Here's a colon-friendly black bean taco recipe to try.

Care that's made for you

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, meet with an HonorHealth provider – within 48 hours if you’d like – by calling 855-485-4673. Please note that you’ll need a referral from your primary care physician, specialist or diagnostic imaging center. 

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