A diagnosis of cancer is never the news a patient wants to hear. Colon or colorectal cancer, in particular, is considered the third most common cancer in America. This type of cancer occurs in the large intestine and rectum, and also leads to the third most deaths as a result of cancer in the U.S.
National Colorectal Awareness Month is March. According to the American Cancer Society, one in 20 people will develop colorectal at some point during their lifetime. In 2015, there will be an estimated 142,700 new colorectal cases, including 93,090 of the colon and 39,610 rectum cancer cases.
Luckily, colorectal cancer cases have been on the decline since the mid-1980s. What is the main reason for the colorectal cancer decrease? Greater awareness and understanding, and developments in screening methods may be some key reasons, but it all comes down to prevention.
Diet and Colon Cancer
Colon cancer prevention is key. Screening and testing for colorectal cancer includes a colonoscopy, a fecal occult blood test (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy, a stool DNA test, CT solonography, and a dual-contrast barium exam. Colon cancer screening leads to early detection, and precancerous polyps can be removed.
However, colorectal cancer also has a direct relationship with food consumption. Dietary factors are considered the underlying cause of colorectal cancer in about 90% of all cases. A specific diet designed to fight colon cancer can greatly improve your chances of survival, especially after surgery or chemotherapy treatment.
In fact, a prospective 5.3-year study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 found a Western diet, or standard American diet, would triple the risk of colorectal cancer in 1,009 stage-III colon cancer patients.
The study also found that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, and whole grains would not lead to colorectal cancer, or death from cancer. In other words, there are effective natural ways to cure colon cancer, especially with dietary shifts.
8 Steps to Fighting Colon Cancer Naturally Through Diet
Those looking to prevent cancer or supplement their current colon cancer treatment with natural cancer-fighting methods may consider the following eight steps to improve their diet and fight colon cancer naturally.
1. Eat Less Red Meat
Foods to eat: Fish, Chicken, Beans and Other lean protein sources
Red meat is known to directly increase your colorectal cancer risk. Why should it be removed from your colon cancer prevention diet? A recent 11-study case-control analysis published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention found that red meat intake increased colorectal cancer risk. The study analyzed 8,290 colorectal cancer cases and 9,115 controls.
In another study published in 2004, processed meats and red meats were also linked with an increase in colorectal cancer risk. Fish or chicken, however, were not found to elevate cancer risk. Certain components of red meat can damage colon cells, and may include saturated fat and heterocyclic amines.
To improve your diet and help fight colon cancer, substitute red meat options for lean protein sources like fish, chicken, or beans.
2. Consume More Plant-Based Antioxidants
Foods to eat: Red or green apples, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, Avocado, Blueberry, Carrots, Tomatoes, Raspberries, Strawberries
Plant-based antioxidants should also be included in your dietary colon cancer treatment. Your diet should resemble the colors of a rainbow, including red or green apples, yellow or orange bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green leafy vegetables, avocados, blueberries, carrots, tomatoes, raspberries, and strawberries. The total antioxidant intake has a greater association with rectal cancer than cancer of the colon, according to a 2010 study published in Cancer Causes & Control. But, other studies show that greater levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the colon result from a diet low in antioxidants. Therefore, in order to prevent or fight colon cancer, consuming more plant-based antioxidants is key.
3. Include Selenium-Rich Foods
Foods to eat: Brown rice, Oats, Brazil nuts, Sunflower seeds, Onions, Salmon, Halibut, Tuna
The mineral selenium is a particular antioxidant with anticarcinogenic properties. In a 2009 study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, people with high selenium levels in the blood had a lower colon cancer risk.
What selenium-rich foods are great for colon cancer prevention? Good selenium-rich choices include whole grains like brown rice and oats, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, onions, and fatty fish, such as salmon, halibut, or tuna. Selenium supplements may also reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
4. Use Plenty of Olive Oil and Healthy Fats
Foods to eat: Extra-virgin olive oil, Coconut oil
Extra-virgin olive oil should also be considered essential to your new colon cancer-prevention diet. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidant phenolic compounds. The phenolic compounds, in particular, demonstrate antitumor effects on colon cancer cells, according to recent research published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. Some studies also link extra-virgin olive oil with the suppression of colon cancer cells.
Coconut oil is also a healthy oil that should be considered within a colon cancer-fighting diet.
5. Eat Many Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods
Foods to eat: Flaxseed oil, Avocado oil
In general, omega-3–heavy oils and foods can also be included in an anti-colon cancer diet for the prevention and treatment of the disease. Increasing your intake of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is also considered a safe treatment for advanced colorectal cancer patients who have undergone liver surgery, according to a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal Gut.
Walnuts and flaxseeds are considered the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil and avocado oil are other good sources of omega-3s. Fish oil supplementation is also a high source of omega-3 fatty acids.
By increasing your omega-3 intake, you can help to reduce your omega-6 consumption, thereby discouraging inflammation and lowering your cancer risk.
6. Eat More Garlic
Other foods to eat: Leeks, Onions, Chives, Scallions
Garlic can also be used as part of a natural dietary treatment for colon cancer. Research suggests that garlic consumption may reduce your risk of developing many cancers, especially gastrointestinal tract cancers, such as colorectal cancer.
What gives garlic its colon cancer-fighting abilities? In a study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences in 2007, the sulfur compound thiacremonone reduced colon cancer cell growth from induced apoptotic cell death. The other anti-cancer, protective components within garlic include selenium, flavonoids, and allicilin. Other similar foods include leeks, onions, chives, and scallions.
7. Consume a Diet Rich in Fiber
Other foods to eat: Dark green, Leafy vegetables, Cauliflower, Raspberries
Certain fibers may help increase short chain fatty acid (SCFA) levels in the colon. Vegetables and fruits contain soluble fiber, including plant gum and pectin from citrus, apples, guar gum, and some legumes.
In a Japanese collaborative cohort study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention in 2007, researchers found that dietary fiber could potentially protect against colorectal or colon cancer. The collaborative cohort study included 43,115 people between the ages of 40 and 79; 443 cases of colorectal cancer were reported. In another study published in the journal Lancet, dietary fiber was found to reduce colorectal cancer risk by 40% in populations with a previously low dietary fiber intake.
Other good sources of fiber include dark green, leafy vegetables, raspberries, cauliflower, and broccoli.
8. Choose Lower-Glycemic-Index/Glycemic-Load Foods
Foods to eat: Green peas, Navy beans, Cherries, Plums, Barley, Carrots, Celery, Asparagus, Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and Bell peppers
Recent research also suggests that high-glycemic-index and high-glycemic-load foods increase blood sugar levels and can spike your risk of colorectal cancer. In a Harvard Medical School cohort study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2014, researchers indicated that a high dietary glycemic load could potentially increase colorectal cancer risk in women.
A glycemic load of 10 or less is considered low, and may include green peas, navy beans, cherries, plums, barley, carrots, celery, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bell peppers.
Overall, a high-sugar diet should be avoided for colon cancer treatment.
Common Supplements, Herbs, and Vitamins for Colon Cancer
Supplementation and herbal remedies are also helpful for the prevention and treatment of colon cancer. Vitamin D, folate, calcium, magnesium, probiotic supplementation, and antioxidants like zinc and vitamins A, C, and E can add to your colon cancer prevention supplementation program. Natural treatments for colon cancer may also include lycopene, grape seed extract, resveratrol, and coenzyme Q10.
Several herbs are also known to inhibit colon cancer cell growth, including ginger, ginseng, thyme, rosemary, sage, spearmint, peppermint, green tea, reishi mushroom, maitake mushroom, and turmeric.
Turmeric, in particular, also has anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects due to its curcumin content. A study published in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology in 2014 found that curcumin demonstrates chemopreventative effects against colorectal cancer. Curcumin contains anticarcinogenic properties, such as activator protein 1 (AP-1) and nuclear factor k-light-chain-enhancers of activated B cells (NF-kB). They help regulate inflammation caused by colon cancer cells.
Other Tips to Naturally Reduce Your Colorectal Cancer Risk
The following are some other ways to naturally prevent and treat colon cancer:
- Increase your physical activity to 30 minutes a day, five days a week; regular light exercise, like walking or housecleaning, can also lower your colorectal cancer risk.
- Avoid stimulants such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
- Increase your filtered water consumption to six to eight glasses per day.
- Mind-body therapies can also help you reduce your colorectal risk, including yoga, meditation, and qigong.
- Studies also support acupuncture and acupressure to help reduce colon cancer related symptoms like vomiting and nausea.
- Overall, dietary factors and natural supplements can help prevent and treat colorectal cancer occurrences.
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