Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women. In recognition of National Colorectal Awareness Month, we’ve compiled some suggestions of things you can do to maintain a healthy colon and lower your risk of potentially preventable illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis and colon cancer.
Eating a diet rich in fiber, about 25-35 grams daily, is necessary for a healthy colon. High fiber foods include whole grain breads and breakfast cereals, fruits like raspberries, bananas and prunes and vegetables such as peas, broccoli, beans and celery. Other fiber-rich whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa are also good choices.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vitamin D plays an important role in colon health. Good sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish, milk, cereal and bread. Daily supplements also provide the proper amounts needed – 2,000 I.U. is recommended. And get outside! Fifteen to
20 minutes of sun exposure can give you a daily dose of Vitamin D.
Drinking lots of water – at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day – cleanses your system so that toxins don’t build up in the body. Toxin build-up increases the risk for constipation, bloating, gas and IBS and fatigue increases.
Exercise increases blood flow and circulation, bringing life-giving oxygen to every part of your body including the entire gastrointestinal system – which may help in warding off colon cancer and other diseases. Even if you’re not a gym rat, low impact exercise like walking or yoga for 30 minutes at least five times a week, will do the trick for a healthier colon.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In a healthy gut the “friendly” bacteria keep the bad ones in check. Eat yogurt that contains live cultures of L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, or bifidobacteria, and/or take a daily probiotic supplement with at least 3 billion cultures.
A colon cleanse program, under the supervision of a physician, can be used to kick start your gut system. It can provide temporary relief of mild to moderate constipation and more long-term improvement in digestion and colon health.
If you’re over 50, get a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine to help find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding.