Colorectal cancer is the growth of a malignant tumour in the large bowel or rectum. It is the third most common type of cancer in America, with over 93,000 new cases reported in 2015. In 2010, there were also more than 40,000 new cases of colorectal cancer reported in Britain, making it the fourth most common type of cancer in the UK.
However, what many people don’t realise is that bowel cancers are largely preventable through dietary and lifestyle choices. One should stop smoking and minimise alcohol. In addition one needs to prevent obesity and there is evidence for minimising red meat and processed meat intake.
Although there is no way of completely eliminating the risk of developing colorectal cancer, there are certain botanical compounds and nutrients that can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer when eaten as part of a healthy diet. If these dietary compounds are consumed in sufficient quantities, they have the potential to promote bowel health and interrupt the processes that can lead to carcinogenesis.
While the term ‘super-food‘ is used widely in relation to overall health and well-being, a ‘super-diet’ is required for bowel health and the delivery of key cancer prevention benefits.
Your diet is one of the contributory factors related to your chances of developing cancer. By planning your meals in advance, and ensuring that they contain some specific nutrients and botanical compounds in sufficient quantities, you may be able to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
Curcumin (a.k.a. Turmeric)
A number of studies have concluded that curcumin can minimise the risk of getting bowel cancer and promote general intestinal health. Rich in antioxidants, curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that can limit inflammation of the bowel, which is sometimes a precursor to bowel cancer.
Studies have also concluded that people with a family history of polyposis can benefit from the regular consumption of curcumin, as the substance has been found to reduce pre-cancerous tumors in the bowel.
Curcumin is the extract that gives the Asian spice turmeric its bright yellow color. As turmeric is used widely in Indian cuisine, low fat foods rich in curcumin (including some curries) could be included in a diet plan geared towards bowel well-being.
Turmeric is an acquired taste, so any shortfall in curcumin intake can be accounted for with a course of evidence based dietary supplements.
Various forms and flavors of green tea are now being sold in supermarkets and health stores, and if consumed in sufficient quantities, they can provide some significant benefits where bowel well-being is concerned.
The active ingredients in green tea are known as polyphenols, the most prevalent of which is a substance called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Several studies have identified a link between polyphenols and the reduced risk of colorectal cancer, so drinking green tea on a regular basis should be part of your general dietary lifestyle.
Of course, green tea is not to everyone’s taste, in which case health supplements can be taken instead.
Ensuring high levels of vitamin D in the blood has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and promote bowel health. People who live at relatively high altitudes are more susceptible to bowel cancer, as are those who live in the sun-deprived areas of the northern hemisphere.
A sample meal plan
In order to consume the nutrients that can support bowel well-being, devising a series of meal plans in advance might be necessary. This sample meal plan will give you an idea of the type of foods you should be consuming on a daily basis.
- A bowl of low-sugar, wholegrain cereal with semi-skimmed milk, topped with fruit
- A cup of green tea
- A baked potato with turmeric-marinated chicken breast, served with mixed salad and lemon juice
- A cup of green tea
- Green Tea cream cheese on multigrain crackers
- Tuna and mushroom pasta bake with mixed salad
- Fresh fruit salad
- A cup of green tea
Evidence based nutrition can promote bowel health and support the prevention of colorectal cancer if the right foods are eaten regularly and in the right amounts. If this isn’t possible, supplements are available to boost consumption.