A healthy colon is essential for overall wellness, and you can nurture your gut by making a few nutritional changes.
The large intestine, or colon, is responsible for digesting food, processing waste and supporting immunity. A well-balanced diet and proper hydration will help maintain colon function and prevent digestive disease. Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but most cases of colon cancer are preventable through positive lifestyle changes and routine colonoscopies.
You can be an advocate for your own colon health by consuming more fiber, probiotics and water.
Benefits of a High-Fiber Include Colon Cancer Prevention
Fiber is non-digestible plant material found in skins and peels of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Eating five to nine servings of fresh fruits and vegetables and three to four servings of whole grains provides adequate fiber to meet the daily recommended allowance. Men should consume at least 38 grams of fiber per day and women should consume 25 grams per day.
Good sources of fiber include black beans, split peas, brown rice, oatmeal, wheat germ, oat bran, baked potato, flaxseed meal, chia seeds, avocados, pears and apples.
Probiotics are living strains of bacteria and yeast that regulate digestion, immune function and hormone production. A healthy colon contains 100 billion to 100 trillion beneficial bacteria per milliliter, but advanced age, illness, poor diet and antibiotic use can destroy healthy gut flora.
Eating foods that contain probiotics can fortify the gut microbiome with new colonies of beneficial bacteria. Good sources of probiotics include kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh, pickles, and some yogurts. Many yogurts sold at commercial grocery stores have been pasteurized, which kills the probiotic cultures. When evaluating food labels, look for yogurts and fermented products that contain L. acidophilus and Bifidobacteria.
Proper hydration is essential for colon health. Water is necessary for absorbing vitamins and minerals and removing toxins from the liver and kidneys. Water also binds with fiber to create bulk in the stool and helps move solid waste through the digestive tract.
A good general rule is to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces. Stay away from caffeinated beverages like soda, coffee and black tea that are diuretics and cause dehydration and constipation.
Schedule a Colonoscopy
Finally, colon-healthy living includes routine colonoscopies at regular intervals, as recommended by your gastroenterologist. The American Cancer Society recommends that people who are at average risk for colon cancer begin screenings at age 45. Although there are other methods of colon cancer screening, a colonoscopy is the gold standard because it allows a gastroenterologist to examine the entire colon for precancerous polyps. Any suspicious polyps that are found during the procedure can be removed, so they do not develop into colon cancer.
Call your gastroenterologist to discuss your digestive health and schedule a colonoscopy. A healthy colon makes a healthier YOU.