Eating to prevent colon cancer (2)

Eating to prevent colon cancer (2)

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To prevent colon cancer, we need to increase our fibre intake, eat a variety of fresh vegetables, avoid processed foods, drink plenty of good water and get some exercise.

All of these factors have shown up consistently as preventive measures in the study of colon cancer. Exercise has been shown to prevent colon cancer more than any other cancer.

The colon is also known as the large intestine and it is the last area of the digestive tract that waste matter passes through before elimination. It is where your body re-absorbs water and minerals for recycling and where it absorbs vitamin B12, as well as fat-soluble vitamins A and E.

The bacteria in the colon manufacture vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting. Fibre is what keeps these processes going in the bowel.

Fibre refers to the indigestible residue of plants. It consists of complex carbohydrates that we are unable to digest. They encompass a wide variety of molecular structures that differ in their degree of solubility in water.

They add to the bulk of bowel contents and stimulate the passage of waste matter through the colon. Shorter transit times (time of ingestion of food until its elimination via defecation) are related to decreased incidence of colon cancer. In other words, constipation increases your risk of colon cancer and fibre prevents constipation. Drinking plenty of water also helps to prevent constipation.

Until the last six or seven generations, humans ate a diet filled with vegetable and grain fibre. With industrialisation, our diets changed radically: the processing of foods for commercial sale resulted in the loss of much of the fibre, especially of grain foods.

Comparing the illnesses occurring in industrialised and non-industrialised populations, it is apparent that many common illnesses rarely occur in less industrialised areas that eat high fibre diets.

Illnesses include diabetes, constipation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, heart disease, obesity, gall bladder disease and gallstones, pancreatitis, hiatus hernia, appendicitis, haemorrhoids, varicose veins and even breast cancer. There is an unmistakable epidemiologic relationship between these diseases and low dietary fibre.

Fibre reduces the conversion of primary bile acids into secondary bile acids, which are potential cancer promoters. It absorbs more bile acids and dilutes them within a larger stool mass, thus protecting against colon cancer.

With fibre, the bile itself is more soluble and less likely to form gall stones. Similarly, fibre protects against pancreatitis by preventing billiard sludge.

Fibre reduces fat absorption and lowers cholesterol levels. It even helps lower excess oestrogen by speeding up transit time, thus reducing the likelihood that oestrogen will be re-circulated back into the body.

What is your transit time?

A good way to test your need for more fibre is the bowel transit time test. Bowel transit time is the time it takes for food to travel through your system, from the period you eat it to when it exits your body. All you need to do is eat some food that can serve as a marker when it appears in the stool.

Fresh corn on the cob is one such food. We digest the starch within the kernels, not the kernels themselves, which will be visible in the bowel movement when they are passed.

Simply eat some corn and watch your bowel movements until you see the kernels. That is your bowel transit time. A healthy transit time is 18 to 24 hours. In the U.S., common bowel transit times are found to be two to three days, a good indicator of the need for more fibre and water in the diet.

Nutrients and colon cancer

Fibre is not the only thing you eat that affects your risk of colon cancer. A deficiency of some nutrients can also predispose one to colon cancer.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants protects against all types of cancer and all of the chronic degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. Your first source of antioxidants should be fresh fruits and vegetables.

A good multivitamin can give you added protection. The most important antioxidants are vitamin C (take 1,000mg daily), vitamin E (400 IU daily), and vitamin A (take 5,000 to 10,000 IU daily).

Other types of antioxidants can be found in the bio-flavonoids found in fruits, especially berries and supplements made from grape seed extract, quercetin and green tea extracts. Again, these types of supplements, as powerful as they can be, are no substitute for eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Trace minerals

Zinc (10 to 15mg daily) and selenium (200 microgrammes daily) are also powerful antioxidants and are essential to the health of the colon. Studies have repeatedly linked selenium deficiencies to colon cancer. One study showed a 40 per cent reduction in new colon cancer cases in populations that took selenium supplements. Onions and garlic are great sources of selenium.

Calcium

Another mineral that has been repeatedly shown to have a beneficial effect on the colon is calcium. It is thought to help prevent colon cancer by binding with bile salts and fatty acids that can damage the colonic epithelium and enhance cell proliferation. More than 300mg of calcium daily combined with at least 150mg of magnesium should confer protection against colon cancer.

Milk, while it’s a good source of calcium, should be avoided by adults since it often causes a chronic inflammation of the gut that potentially increases the risk of cancer.

Vitamin D

It is essential to good colon health and sunshine is the best place to get your daily dose. Vitamin D is so essential to preventing the risk of getting colon cancer that the risk of getting it is doubled in those who have the lowest levels. People who can’t get outside much or live in northern latitudes can take up to 2,000mg daily, although if you take that much, get a Vitamin D test after a few months.

Folate

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is well known for preventing birth defects and I recommend it for preventing and treating cervical dysplasia. The Harvard Nurses’ Study showed that women who supplemented with folate for a long-term have a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer. A good multivitamin will contain 400mcg (microgrammes) of folic acid.

PUNCH.

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