5 natural ways to help prevent bowel cancer
Did you know that April is bowel cancer awareness month? Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, yet highly treatable and curable if caught early.
So, what is Bowel Cancer?
Your colon and rectum makes up your large bowel. It is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract and absorbs water from waste as it moves towards your rectum. Most bowel cancer starts as polyps, which are benign growths on the wall of the bowel. Some, however, can grow into cancerous tumours, which can then grow deeper into the bowel and can eventually spread to the lymph nodes, lungs and liver.
The good news? There are several ways to help to prevent your chances of developing it- and they’re all natural! Plus, every single one of them will have a positive impact on your general health as well as preventing bowel cancer.
In 2016, 3400 cases of bowel cancer were linked to the patient being a smoker. Smoking for two or more decades will increase your risk of developing bowel cancer, as cigarette smoke contains many cancer causing agents that, over time, damage your DNA and your body’s ability to repair that damage.
Cut down on alcohol
Our bodies process alcohol by converting it into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which causes cancer by damaging our DNA and the body’s ability to repair the damage. While the liver does the majority of the processing of alcohol, some of the cells in the lining of the gut does this as well which can lead to bowel cancer.
The best way to cut down your alcohol intake is to familiarise yourself with what a unit of alcohol actually looks like. For example, a large glass of wine has three units and just half a pint of lager has one- more than most people think! Drink aware advises to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
However, while you’re reducing your alcohol intake make sure to up your water intake! Fibre attracts water; the two help waste to move through your bowel quickly and easily.
Change up your diet
There are many changes you can make to your diet to reduce your chances of developing bowel cancer. All of them have other health benefits as well- win win!
Watch what meat you eat
You should eat no more than 500 grams of cooked red meat a week- note that red meat includes beef and lamb. You’ll also want to watch your processed meat intake. Sausages and salami should be eaten as a treat, rather than as a regular part of your diet!
Eat thirty grams of fibre a day
Fruit, vegetables and grains contain fibre, which helps waste to travel through your gut quickly and easily. You’ll want to target sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Make sure to eat oats, pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils) and apples for the former, and brown rice, pasta, nuts and seeds, and potato skins for the latter. Aiming to eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a great way to up your fibre intake, as well as having innumerable other health benefits!
Be aware of your portion sizes
One of the ways to prevent bowel cancer is to make sure you’re a healthy weight. Making sure that you’re not eating more than you need is a great way to do this. Also watch out for excess sugar, fat and salt, all of which contribute to being overweight.
Exercising regularly is one of the best things that you can do for your health. With regards to bowel cancer, it helps food to move through your bowels easily. This reduces the amount of contact the lining of your bowels has with any nasties (think the chemicals in the processed meat you had as a treat). It also reduces the chances of inflammation of the bowel. If inflammation occurs regularly it can increase your risk of bowel cancer.
Getting the recommended two and a half hours of moderate (think flushed face, raised heart rate, a bit of difficulty speaking) exercise a week may seem difficult. However, this translates into 30 minutes exercise five days a week. Also, making sure to do something you enjoy will make the world of difference!
Bowel cancer is more common in older people, so getting screened is especially important if you are over 50. It is also more important if you have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer- for example, if bowel cancer runs in the family or if you have an illness such as Crohn’s.
There are two types of bowel screening available in the UK. You can take the first, a FOB test, at home. It involves taking a small sample of your stool and sending it to be checked for tiny amounts of blood. Polyps or cancer may produce these tiny amounts of blood. You can also have a scope test done at a hospital. A specialist will look inside your bowel to check for polyps and any abnormalities. These can then be removed which will decrease your chances of developing bowel cancer.
You can book a consultation with one of our practitioners, who have expertise in screening for and treating bowel cancer, below.