The 10 things you can do to prevent colon cancer: Your life depends on it

March is Colorectal Cancer Month. It’s a month that few people knew about until the last few years when a major cam­paign began with the colorectal soci­ety show­ing the der­rière on tele­vi­sion. Boy did it work. People are finally start­ing to talk about the digest­ive tract and the intest­ines as a vital part of health.

My pas­sion for the digest­ive tract did not only stem from my own health, but my mother­’s digest­ive tract. We have a his­tory of bowel dis­ease on my mother­’s side of the fam­ily. My grand­moth­er has had colon can­cer and sur­vived, and my moth­er did have a sis­ter who passed away shortly after birth due to bowel obstruc­tion com­plic­a­tions, some­thing that today would not have happened due to mod­ern medi­cine and sur­gic­al advances.

My mother­’s digest­ive tract was a colon can­cer risk from the begin­ning, look­ing at it as a doc­tor now and not as a child. She had IBS and diver­tic­ulum that fre­quently caused dis­com­fort and bouts of diarrhea, cramp­ing and gas. There were many foods she could not eat, but being a little stub­born she chose not to always avoid them and did go through pain with eat­ing. Chronic inflam­ma­tion begin­ning in her early 20’s, my mother­’s digest­ive tract was some­thing our whole fam­ily was aware of and impacted all of us.

Screening for colon can­cer through colono­scopy how­ever is some­thing my moth­er avoided. The risks of screen­ing and colon per­for­a­tion were scary for her. Unfortunately, by the time she did get a screen­ing, it was too late. Her can­cer was at stage 4 and keep­ing the can­cer at bay became the focus of the next 5 years. She fought hard.

Why share this story? I’m not try­ing to garner sym­pathy or make you depressed. The truth is often hard to hear. However, you should know that colon can­cer can often be pre­ven­ted. Conventional medi­cine and altern­at­ive medi­cine fully agree on this point. I am mer­ging both con­ven­tion­al and altern­at­ive thoughts on this top­ic, for a quick guideline for you to keep in mind in pre­ven­tion. Don’t be scared, be informed and take care of your health.

10 things you can do to prevent colon cancer

  1. Start pay­ing atten­tion to your bowel habits
  2. I know, it’s a little gross. How often do you go to the wash­room? The norm is every day, a formed bowel move­ment not in pel­lets and not loose. If it’s less than once a day, that’s not nor­mal. If it is more than 3 times daily, that isn’t either. Do you ever seen undi­ges­ted food (aside from corn), blood or mucous?

  3. Start pay­ing atten­tion to oth­er symp­toms of digestion
  4. Daily heart­burn is not nor­mal. Neither is gas that lit­er­ally has every­one clear­ing the room around you – while we release at least 2 litres of gas daily, it should not be incred­ibly offens­ive or pain­ful to release. What is your bowel like? Everyone’s has its own “beha­viour”.

  5. Stop smoking
  6. What about smoking is good for you? Additionally, there is a high­er cor­rel­a­tion (asso­ci­ation) of devel­op­ing colon can­cer with smokers com­pared with non-smokers.

  7. Cut out the diet­ary aggrav­at­ing factors
  8. If you’re lactose intol­er­ant, don’t eat dairy products. If spicy foods give you heart­burn, don’t eat them. Don’t eat what makes you feel sick. To the digest­ive tract, that ongo­ing agit­a­tion with foods that are not right for the body cre­ate inflam­ma­tion. Chronic inflam­ma­tion alters cell struc­ture and can con­trib­ute to the pro­cesses that set up can­cer. It is not a dir­ect cor­rel­a­tion, but it is present regardless.

  9. Eat a healthy diet
  10. Fibrous foods con­sist of oats, psyl­li­um, bran, flax… basic­ally insol­uble fibres that the body needs to keep the digest­ive tract elim­in­at­ing and pulling feces out of the body. If you are con­stip­ated, the bowel isn’t going to be very happy, is it? Plus, insol­uble fibres reduce cho­les­ter­ol and are good for hor­mon­al bal­ance. A win-win. Vegetables and fruits con­tain these fibres, and also have anti­ox­id­ants and can­cer-fight­ing agents con­tain­ing in them (quer­cet­in, indole-3-carbin­ol) to name a few. Cut down on the con­sump­tion of red meat, which is pro-inflam­ma­tion and is harder to digest and have the colon pass.

  11. Take some vit­am­in D3
  12. Vitamin D3 is colon-can­cer pre­vent­ing, espe­cially in those that are genet­ic­ally sus­cept­ible. It’s com­plic­ated, but it essen­tial speaks to reg­u­la­tion of the immune sys­tem and of inflam­ma­tion. Best to com­bine your vit­am­in D3 with vit­am­in K2 so you can help your bones and colon at the same time.

  13. Get off the couch, and get moving
  14. Physically inact­ive indi­vidu­als are sus­cept­ible to colon can­cer. Is this because the body retains more tox­icity due to feces stay­ing in the body longer? Is it because those who exer­cise have bet­ter health in gen­er­al? It’s both. We do know that you need to move, as it is colon can­cer pre­ven­tion at its best.

  15. Cut down on your alco­hol consumption
  16. High alco­hol con­sump­tion (above 2 drinks/​day for men, 1/​day for women) has been linked with colorectal can­cer due to a deple­tion of basic nutri­ents (B‑vitamins and folic acid) as well as sup­press­ing immunity (can­cer is the “nor­mal” response gone awry in healthy cells)

  17. Get a fecal occult blood test
  18. This is a sample of feces (poo) that checks for micro­scop­ic traces of blood in your stool. If it is present, it can speak to colon can­cer that is present or oth­er digest­ive dis­orders such as Crohn’s disease.

  19. Get a colono­scopy or genet­ic screen­ing for risk factors
  20. Often when your fam­ily his­tory of polyps (benign growths in the colon) or colon can­cer is high, you will need to get a colono­scopy to rule out the pos­sib­il­ity, and/​or screen for genet­ic mark­ers that may be present in your fam­ily his­tory. As with all pro­ced­ures, there are small risks to a colono­scopy how­ever not doing one may be more det­ri­ment­al than doing the test. 

What else can you do?

Should you feel so inclined, the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada is rais­ing funds for research this month. Please go to the web­site and donate if you are not already sup­port­ing anoth­er asso­ci­ation — the more we know, the bet­ter we can prevent.

Resources you should read on colon cancer:

Colorectal Association of Canada

Canadian Cancer Society — Colon Cancer

Health Canada Colon Cancer pages

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