Cheers to Your Colon Health

In a double whammy, March plays host to National Nutrition Month as well as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. (Although what month doesn't have several health celebrations attached to it!)

There are a variety of health conditions that affect the digestive system, including the lower intestines, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, diverticulitis, cancer, etc. Food choices can provide benefit in prevention and treatment of these conditions. Keep reading for ideas on keeping your colon healthy.

5 Tips for Lifestyle

  • Get to a healthy weight. Individuals who are at healthy weights for them have lower risk of cancer, including colon cancer.

  • Chew well. Swallowing foods without much chewing leaves your digestive track to do a lot of the work. This can leave you feeling bloated, gassy, and otherwise uncomfortable.
  • Be active. Take a walk with the dog. Jog. Take a fitness class. Movement of the body also helps keep your insides moving.
  • Eat regularly. Eating similar amounts of foods at similar times each day helps establish a routine with your bowels.
  • Eat small, more frequent meals. If meals leave you overstuff and uncomfortably full, look at eating smaller amounts of each, but more often. Try smaller breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals with snacks in between. This can help your digestive track have less moving through it at one time.

5 Tips for Eating

  • Choice fiber-rich foods. Fiber is found in plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds), and can be added to some animal foods, like yogurt. Fiber helps bulk up the waste in your colon and make bowel movements easier.

Some fiber-rich foods, such as wheat or bananas can also provide fuel (prebiotics) for healthy bacteria to grow in our guts. These bacteria can help crowd out harmful bacteria and keep our colons in healthy shape.

  • Eat fruits and vegetables. Certainly fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which benefits colon health. These foods also contain phytonutrients and antioxidants, which provide protective benefit beyond basic nutrition.

  • Drink water. Other calorie-free fluids, like unsweetened coffee or tea, do the job too. Your body will draw fluid into the intestines to help move waste along. You need enough to do this smoothly, and without enough water, you may feel constipated.

  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of cancers, including colon. If you drink, go for no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Choice lower-sodium/salt foods. Salt-preserved, cured, or pickled foods have been associated with higher risk of some digestive cancer, including stomach.

Resources

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.