One of the cancers that may be most easily prevented with diet and lifestyle changes is colorectal cancer—cancer of the large intestine and rectum.
This is the fifth most common type of cancer and the third leading cause of death in the United States.
When you consider the number of people who are constipated, and the Frankenstein foods that people eat, this may not be so surprising.
Cancer is a systemic disease, which means that the whole system is over-burdened and toxic to the point that rogue cells take hold and develop their own “entity” within the body. Your food and your blood are hijacked to feed the new entity or tumor. Of course, the host eventually dies, and so does the new colony. It is one of the oddities of nature, considering that survival is the usual operating modality.
Unburdening your toxic load is one of your best defenses against this, and any other type of cancer. Studies indicate that eliminating highly processed meats, refined sugars and refined (white) grains such as wheat, white rice, and soy may lower risk. Maintaining a healthy weight is a factor, and eliminating refined starches and sugars would help with weight control.
In recent years red meat has been considered a risk factor, but a review of the history of human health and nutrition did not correlate, since humans have eaten higher meat diets in the past, with little historical evidence of cancer. Studies show that it is the preparation of meat that is a factor. Meat that is heavily browned on the surface and over-cooked increases risk. When meat is over-cooked the proteins and amino acids are broken down and can no longer be utilized in the body for repair and nutrition.
High protein intake overall was not associated with risk, but even seemed protective in some studies. Consumption of fish and poultry as alternatives to red meat showed some protection. Fish Oil supplementation seemed to decrease risk in women, but also decreased inflammation in both sexes, and therefore may be generally helpful.
Intake of fiber from fresh vegetables and whole fruits appear to be protective of other gastrointestinal issues such as constipation and diverticulitis. However, the high fiber supplementation theory for cancer protection has not borne out. Diets high in fruits and vegetables were associated with slightly lowered risk of colorectal cancer. Since certain vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts have sulfur compounds, which are necessary for PhaseII liver detoxification, these vegetables may have potential in cancer prevention for all types of cancer.
Inflammation appears to be an issue and intake of B vitamins that decrease inflammation, such as folate, are associated with lower risk. Naturally occurring folate is not the same as synthetic folic acid, and folate is what was found to lower cancer risk. Eggs are a good source, as well as dark green veggies such as kale, spinach and broccoli. Look for unfortified Brewer’s Yeast too. Brewers Yeast is also a good source of selenium, which was associated with a 50% reduction in colon cancer in one study.
Note that red meat contains B vitamins, and particularly the organ meat of the animal. The fact that we no longer consume the most nutritious parts of the animal may be one reason we see more colon cancer now than we did in past times when people did not waste any part of the animal. Organ meat was even considered a delicacy!
Alcohol is a risk, but the amount is not determined. High consumption definitely raises one’s risk, and alcohol metabolism will burn folate and other B vitamins. Whether two or less drinks per day are a risk is undetermined.
Evidence suggests that a high level of physical activity lowers risk, even when weight is not managed in normal ranges.
So, we can conclude that lifestyle and dietary changes can lower the risk of developing colon and rectal cancer, and may lower it significantly. Basic and common sense changes towards organic whole foods bring about generally improved health and vitality. The same smart choices are the key to colon health.
If your colon is not functioning well, see your health practitioner. A colonoscopy may check for risks, but it is not enough to prevent problems that could develop into cancer.
Dr. Anne Dunev, PhD
Naturopath (Practitioner of Natural Medicine),
Certified Nutritionist, and Certified Health Educator