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Colon Cancer Month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older.The good news? If everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented. Communities, health professionals, and families can work together to encourage people to get screened.
Colorectal cancer (also known as colon cancer, rectal cancer or bowel cancer) is the development of cancer in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, weight loss, and feeling tired all the time. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include lifestyle, older age, and inherited genetic disorders that only occur in a small fraction of the population. Other risk factors include diet, smoking, alcohol, lack of physical activity, family history of colon cancer and colon polyps, presence of colon polyps, race, exposure to radiation, and even other diseases such as diabetes, obesity. A diet high in red, processed meat, while low in fiber increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Other diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Nutrition plays a key role in the prevention and during treatment of colon cancer. Like most diseases and conditions, prevention starts with a healthy diet rich in healthy protein, fruits and vegetables, and limited alcohol consumption. Protein sources can be from meat or vegetarian sources. In fact, a recent study found those who consume a vegetarian diet, especially one that is pescetarian (consumes fish), have a lower incidence of colorectal cancer when compared to their meat-eating counterparts. Limiting red meat may also be beneficial in reducing colon cancer risk. Healthy protein sources include any and all of the following: chicken, tofu, pork, fish eaten at least 1-3x weekly (especially fatty fish such as salmon), seitan, turkey, beans/legumes, and tempeh. In addition to this, consume a variety of at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily, as detailed in The Slice Plan. This, in addition to whole grains/wheat products, provides a healthy dose of both types of fiber to promote a healthy colon.
Now, when it comes to treatment, nutrition is focused on preventing damage to the colon while optimizing overall health. This includes limiting insoluble fiber, found in the skins of fruits and vegetables, popcorn, seeds/nuts, and whole grains/wheat products. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish also are beneficial in reducing the inflammation associated with many disease and conditions, including colon cancer. Different side effects require different dietary strategies to manage. The strategies found herein are generalized. Some may work for some patients, others may not. It is important to speak with your dietitian to determine what nutrition interventions will work best for you and your colonic health.