Improve colon health & protect against digestive disorders with a healthy diet
March 22, 2023
You probably already know that a healthy diet can have a positive impact on heart, brain, and bone health. But did you also know that your colon's overall health can be affected by what you eat?
Simply put, a healthy colon starts with a healthy diet. One of the risk factors for colorectal cancer is a high-fat, low-fiber diet. The most important elements of a colon-healthy diet include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that are rich in fiber, along with proper hydration.
More about colon health
The colon is a crucial part of your digestive system. Many conditions can cause it to work improperly, such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the third deadliest cancer in the U.S. Risk factors for colon cancer include:
- Being over the age of 50
- Race (Black people have the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S.)
- Family history
- Previous polyps
- Having inflammatory bowel disease
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- High-fat, low-fiber diet
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are strong links between diet, weight, exercise, and colorectal cancer risk. However, it’s estimated that 50 to 75 percent of colorectal cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes like healthy eating.
How to eat healthy for your colon
Diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and low in red and processed meats have been associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer, according to the ACS. To help promote good colon health, follow this advice:
Limit red meat and avoid processed meats
The ACS says that your risk of colon cancer increases by 15 to 20 percent 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 hotdogs, per day.
Don’t go crazy with sweets
Studies have found that people with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease often have diets high in sugar and low in fiber. Even though sugar has not been directly associated with the progression of colon cancer, foods high in sugar are often high in calories and can lead to weight gain and obesity.
Increase your fiber intake
Eating a high-fiber diet is good for intestinal and colon health. The best way to add fiber into your diet is through fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, pears, apples, bananas, oranges, peas, and broccoli. Whole grains and legumes are also good sources of fiber.
Fiber is good for colon health because it helps keep you regular and prevents constipation. This may then lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon that can lead to diverticular disease. Fiber also acts as a cleaning agent for your colon and removes waste, debris, and toxins left over after the digestive process.
Increase how much water you drink
Always aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, but you may want to drink even more to make sure stools stay soft, especially if you are introducing more fiber into your diet.
Limit alcohol and don't smoke
If you choose to drink alcohol, do so moderately. This means no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. If you smoke, quit. Following both of these recommendations will be good for colon health and your overall well-being.
Focus more on Vitamin D
New studies show that vitamin D is an important component in colon health. Having an appropriate amount of vitamin D in your diet can reduce the risk of colon cancer by as much as 33%. Very few foods are rich in vitamin D, so focus on fortified milk, cereals, and juices. Eggs, liver, liver oil, salmon, herring, catfish, and trout are good sources of vitamin D as well. Also, don’t forget that our bodies can convert sunlight to vitamin D. Aim for at least 10 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun each day.
Make screening a priority
While eating right will help keep your colon healthy, it’s also very important to have regular colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer. A colonoscopy is a powerful tool that involves your doctor doing an examination of the colon to screen for and prevent colorectal cancer.
If you need to schedule a colonoscopy, contact Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute today
Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute specializes in treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. We are the experts in performing colonoscopies, transrectal ultrasounds, and stapled hemorrhoidectomies. Our three doctors are known regionally for their expertise in these areas. Visit our website for more information, give us a call to make an appointment at (205) 458-5000, or email us at [email protected].