A healthy colon begins with a healthy diet. One of the risk factors for colorectal cancer is a high-fat, low-fiber diet. Conversely, a low-fat, high-fiber diet will help prevent digestive disease. We all know how tempting it is to indulge in unhealthy foods like pizza, chips, ice cream and fried foods, but we also know the familiar regret when our body rejects that food. We feel tired, sluggish, moody and unsatisfied. Feeding our body with nutrient-rich food is like filling your car with the highest quality fuel. You can guarantee better performance.
A healthy colon is a key to good health, but an unhealthy colon can cause problems such as bloating, gas, cramping, and abdominal pain on the flip side. If not treated on time, colon issues can lead to severe health concerns such as colon cancer.
Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables can improve your digestive health. Diversifying the color of your diet will not only improve your colon function, but it can also reduce your risk of colon cancer. One study found that participants who ate a wide variety of vegetables had a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
The colon is an organ that is part of the digestive tract in the body. It’s often called the large intestine or the large bowel. When food enters the body, it’s digested mostly in the small intestine, where vitamins and minerals are taken out. After that, the food moves into the colon. The colon takes out water, and bacteria in the colon help break down the food to prepare it to leave the body. A healthy colon basically functions as the “cleanup” crew of the body.
Foods To Eat For A Healthy Colon
Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
Few of us are opposed to fruits and vegetables, but we all have our favorites. Carrots, corn, green beans, apples, bananas and grapes are like old, familiar friends, so we tend to gravitate toward the same section of the produce section. Studies on colon health have found that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is best because each fruit and vegetable offers specific nutrients and antioxidants that the body needs.
When you are selecting fruits and vegetables, choose fruits and vegetables in a wide array of colors so you are “Eating a Rainbow.” Having each color represented in your diet will ensure that you are getting all your vitamins and minerals for colon health. Here are some suggestions for some new, colorful fruits and vegetables that can implement in your diet:
Orange and Yellow
The main benefit of orange and yellow fruits and vegetables is digestive health. They are rich in alpha-carotene, which benefits digestive health and improves the skin, immune system, and eyes. Research from the American Institute on Cancer Research found that those with increased alpha-carotene in their blood had lower chances of developing colorectal, stomach, and pancreatic cancer.
Examples of orange and yellow fruits and vegetables: Cantaloupe, carrots, mangoes, squash
Red fruits and vegetables promote a healthy colon. They are full of Vitamin C and Vitamin B9 (folate). These foods contain flavonoids and lycopene, which are both antioxidants that help memory, heart health, and reduce inflammation. Lycopene gives red fruits and vegetables their red color. These foods are effective in reducing the risk of several types of cancer, including lung, prostate, breast, and colorectal.
Examples of red fruits and vegetables: cranberries, tomatoes, beets
Blue and Purple
Blue and purple fruits encourage gastroenterological health. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Anthocyanins reduce macular degeneration, colorectal cancer, and esophageal cancer. Anthocyanins also give blue and purple foods their color.
Examples of blue and purple fruits and vegetables: Eggplant, blueberries, grapes
Eating green fruits and vegetables provide digestive tract benefits. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables isn’t complete without green foods. Green leafy vegetables have calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin K, while green vegetables reduce blood clotting and improve bone health. Green fruits and vegetables have beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Beta-carotene boosts the immune system and reduces the risk of cancer. An easy way to evaluate the amount of beta-carotene in a green fruit or vegetable is the darker green it is, the more beta-carotene it contains.
Examples of green fruits and vegetables: lettuce, kale, spinach, broccoli
Fiber plays an important role in a healthy colon, and many fruits are rich in fiber. While you can get your fill with apples, blueberries, or oranges, raspberries are an especially great source of fiber, offering 8 grams per cup. You can enjoy them as a raw snack, or spread some raspberry jam on toast for a sweet breakfast treat.
Whole grains are an essential part of colon health. Along with carbohydrates, whole grains contribute protein and fiber to the diet. You probably eat more whole grains than you realize. A bowl of morning oatmeal, a sandwich made on whole wheat bread, or some popcorn are all good sources of whole grains. Most of us are also eating foods made with refined grains and bleached flour which are nutrient-poor, so the challenge is to replace refined grains with whole grains.
Many foods claim to be made with whole grains but the grains have been refined which strips the grain of its nutrients. There are three parts of a grain kernel: bran, endosperm and germ. Refining removes the bran and germ, along with 17 other nutrients, and reduces the amount of protein by 25 percent. The key to eating whole grains is reading food labels, so take a moment to look at the type of flour, the amount of whole grain or the grams of fiber in each food that you purchase.
When you eat whole grains, you are getting valuable antioxidants which are not found in fruits and vegetables. You are also getting B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber. There is medical evidence that whole grains reduces your risk for cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. For maximum nutrition, choose whole grains that are unrefined and vary your selections so your body can receive maximum benefit. Try adding some of these whole grains in your diet:
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole grain bread (unrefined)
- Whole oats (oatmeal)
- Brown rice
- Corn meal
- Wild rice
- Whole-grain barley
Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that is known to be a natural disease fighter. It contains probiotics and vitamin D, and calcium – two important nutrients that are proven to lower colon cancer risk.
In fact, research published online in the journal Gut suggests that few weekly servings of yogurt can avoid abnormal growth like polyps and tumors in the colon. These growths are the symptoms that precede the more significant issue of colon cancer. So make it a habit to add yogurt to your dietary chart and enjoy all the associated health benefits.
You may have heard how brown rice is a more nutritious option than white rice, but did you know that it can also help protect your healthy colon? Brown rice and other whole grains have been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer. It’s a good source of fiber too, so boil some brown basmati rice for a delicious side dish as part of a healthy dinner.
Like several fruits, many dark colored vegetables are rich in fiber content. Artichokes, in particular, offer 10 grams each. But if you’re looking for more variety in your vegetables, broccoli and carrots also feature plenty of dietary fiber. Pack some freeze-dried carrots for a simple healthy snack, or get creative in the kitchen and toss together this broccoli quinoa salad—an especially nutritious option that features pumpkin seeds, which also help reduce stress.
A fan of seafood? Then you might have another reason to enjoy your favorite fish recipe. Some research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish can reduce inflammation and improve the function of colon cells.
Eating a varied diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish can go a long way in maintaining colon health. Additionally, you may want to avoid consuming too much red and processed meat, which studies have found can negatively impact the colon. Introduce regular exercise to your daily routine, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining a healthy colon along with a fit body and sound mind.
Oatmeal contains a high amount of fiber, calcium, and vitamin D content, which are excellent in keeping the digestive system on track. Adding oatmeal in diet can help you in increasing nutrient absorption and improving bowel health.
However, do note that if your body is not used to the intake of such a high-fiber diet, introducing them at once may lead to gastrointestinal distress in the form of diarrhea or constipation. You need to start with a lower portion and gradually increase the quantity; this will give your body enough time to accept the diet and revel in its health benefits.
As per The American Cancer Society, four percent of all cancers in men and 7 percent of all cancers in women can be directly related to obesity. The link is even higher for colon cancer.
High red meat content in your diet can add up to your body weight and boost colon cancer chances. This may also lead to an increase in cholesterol levels and cause heart problems.
Replacing red meat with leaner animal proteins and plant-based proteins like seeds, nuts, beans, etc. will help you shed some weight and reduce the risk of colon cancer significantly. You can consult with gastroenterology specialists to further understand the link between obesity and colon cancer.
Limit Red Meat Consumption
According to the ACS, 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.
“We recommend prioritizing chicken, turkey and fish over beef, pork and lamb,” says Manella. “However, if you choose to eat red meant, we recommend no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week (about three small servings the size of a deck of cards).”
The way you cook your red meat can also add to your risk. “We recommend limiting cooking red meats at very high temperatures that cause charring,” she says. “This causes the meat to form chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are linked to increased cancer risk.”
Fiber acts as a cleaning agent for your colon and removes waste, debris and toxins left behind in the digestive process. The best kind of fiber to ingest is foods that are rich in fiber so look for breads and cereals that are made from whole grains and are also rich in fiber. Nuts and seeds also provide fiber and are a delicious way to add texture to foods like salads, soups and even desserts.
Women should ingest at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should have 30-35 grams of fiber per day. Most of us are deficient in fiber, so we should be actively looking for ways to increase our daily intake of fiber. There are many fiber supplements available at grocery and health food stores that could help boost daily fiber, but the best source of fiber is from food. When you derive your daily fiber from your diet, you will be forced to make more healthy choices when you shop!
There are two types of fiber, and a healthy colon requires both:
- Soluble fiber- This fiber attracts water and creates a gel-like substance which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber makes you feel full and can help regulate blood sugar. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat bran, apples, oranges, beans, dried peas, nuts, strawberries, blueberries, celery and carrots.
- Insoluble fiber- This fiber does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system relatively intact. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the intestines and helps prevent constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, barley, couscous, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, dark leafy greens, grapes, root vegetable skins, brown rice, tomatoes and green beans.
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice that has the ability to reduce blood sugar and inflammation in your healthy colon. It can even block the spread of cancer cells in the body. Some test-tube studies have also shown that cinnamon essential oil suppressed head and neck cancer cells’ growth and significantly reduced the tumor size.
Including 2–4 grams of cinnamon in your diet, every day is a great preventive measure to ward off cancer risks and stay healthy.
This staple food in the Mediterranean diet is loaded with tremendous health benefits and is a proven remedy for protection against malignant cancerous cells. Studies have shown that people who consumed olive oil in their diet had a lower risk of breast cancer and colon cancer than others.
Another study conducted to review the rate of cancer in 28 countries found out that in regions where the intake of olive oil was high, the price of colorectal cancer had decreased.
These findings are enough to establish that regular consumption of olive oil can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer and other life-threatening ailments. Besides, a few drizzles of olive oil can also spike up the flavors of your dish – so choose olive oil and ensure living a long and healthy life.
At Colon Surgeons of Charleston, we are a group of gastrointestinal surgical specialists dedicated to providing colon and rectal surgical care to patients. We are known for our innovative treatment options and personalized care that helps people experience a speedy recovery.
Our colonoscopy and colorectal surgery experts understand our field’s sensitive nature and make the best efforts to educate our patients. We ensure they are informed about the whole process and comfortable with their treatment options.
How You Can Have A Healthy Colon
Healthy colon tips:
- Eat a high-fiber diet with lots of raw vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Avoid eating too much red meat and processed meats, as these are linked to colon cancer.
- Consider taking daily probiotics to create a more diverse bacterial environment in your colon.
- Include plenty of variety in your diet. Eating a variety of foods makes a difference in colon health.
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