Healthy Foods for a Healthy Colon

Exclud­ing skin can­cer, colon can­cer is the third most com­mon­ly diag­nosed can­cer in both men and women in the Unit­ed States, accord­ing to the Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety. As a result, it’s impor­tant to take pre­ven­tive mea­sures to keep your colon as healthy as pos­si­ble. Not only does it reduce the risk of colon can­cer and oth­er colon dis­or­ders, it can lead to improved diges­tion, increased ener­gy, bet­ter absorp­tion of nutri­ents in your body and healthy body weight. 

Here are few tips on what to eat to sup­port a healthy colon:

Increase your over­all fiber consumption

Fiber helps move food through your diges­tive tract, keep­ing you reg­u­lar and pre­vent­ing con­sti­pa­tion. The Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans rec­om­mends adults get between 25 and 30 grams of fiber per day. High fiber diets help low­er your risk of colon can­cer and help pre­vent hem­or­rhoids that can lead to diver­tic­u­lar dis­ease. The best way to add fiber to your diet is by eat­ing fiber-rich fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains and legumes. Fol­low­ing are some of the best fiber-rich food choices:

  • Apples
  • Arti­chokes
  • Bananas
  • Black beans
  • Broc­coli
  • Brown rice
  • Brus­sels sprouts
  • Car­rots
  • Chick­peas
  • Lentils
  • Oranges
  • Peas
  • Rasp­ber­ries
  • Spinach
  • Sweet pota­toes
  • White beans

Con­sume plen­ty of Omega-3s

Omega‑3 fat­ty acids can reduce inflam­ma­tion and improve the func­tion of colon cells. The best way to add omega-3s into your diet is through fish, nuts and oils, and some of the best sources include:

  • Anchovies
  • Ground flaxseed
  • Her­ring
  • Mack­er­el
  • Olive oil
  • Salmon
  • Sar­dines
  • Sun­flower oil
  • Wal­nuts

Choose whole grains

The Dietary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans rec­om­mends adults eat 3 – 5 serv­ings of whole grains per day. Whole grains con­tain more colon-friend­ly vit­a­mins, min­er­als and fiber than refined grain foods such as white flour and white rice. When select­ing grains for your diet, choose from these options:

  • Bar­ley
  • Brown rice
  • Cous­cous
  • Mil­let
  • Quinoa
  • Steel cut oats
  • Whole wheat
  • Wild rice

Add in fer­ment­ed foods 

Fer­ment­ed foods con­tain live micro-organ­isms called pro­bi­otics, which help replen­ish the good bac­te­ria in your gut to sup­port opti­mal health. These foods add a new lev­el of fla­vor to your dish­es while pro­mot­ing colon health:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kefir
  • Kim­chi
  • Kom­bucha
  • Sauer­kraut
  • Yogurt

Increase your water intake

Your colon is respon­si­ble for absorb­ing water into the body, so ensur­ing you have enough water through­out the day will help keep your colon and body in shape. Water also aids in keep­ing your diges­tive track mov­ing and flush­ing out all the fiber you have con­sumed. The amount of water you should con­sume in a day varies from per­son to per­son, depend­ing on fac­tors such as your weight and over­all dai­ly activ­i­ty lev­els. The aver­age rec­om­mend­ed amount for women is 11.5 cups per day and 15.5 cups per day for men.

While eat­ing the right foods can keep your colon healthy, it’s just as impor­tant to keep in mind the foods that you should lim­it or avoid.

Lim­it red meat and processed meat

The Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety has report­ed that per day con­sump­tion of 100 grams or more of red meat (the equiv­a­lent of a small ham­burg­er) or 50 grams of processed meat (like hot dogs and sausage) can increase chances of colon can­cer by 15 – 20 per­cent due to the high­er sat­u­rat­ed fat and preser­v­a­tive content. 

Lim­it heav­i­ly processed foods 

Processed foods usu­al­ly have high­er sodi­um, sug­ar and sat­u­rat­ed fat lev­els. Eat­ing these foods can lead to increased inflam­ma­tion in your body and can raise your risk of colon can­cer and colon dis­or­ders. To lim­it your intake of heav­i­ly processed foods, cut back on items such as:

  • Bak­ery products
  • Chips and crackers
  • Condi­ments — ketchup, may­on­naise, jel­lies, dress­ings, etc.
  • Fast food meals
  • Frozen meals and snacks
  • Mar­garine
  • Microwave pop­corn
  • Refined veg­etable oils — canola, corn, soybean

Lim­it refined sugars

Stud­ies have found that diets high in sug­ar and low in fiber are linked to peo­ple with ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis, Crohn’s dis­ease and oth­er con­di­tions relat­ed to the colon. To lim­it your refined sug­ar intake, cut back on food and drinks such as:

  • Brown­ies
  • Cakes
  • Can­dy
  • Cook­ies
  • Fruit juices
  • Ice Cream
  • Pies
  • Sodas

By fol­low­ing a healthy diet, you can boost your immune sys­tem while low­er­ing your risk for var­i­ous dis­eases with­in your colon. It’s also impor­tant to stay up-to-date on pre­ven­tive screen­ings, like a colonoscopy, to help detect and remove any pre­can­cer­ous or can­cer­ous growths that may have devel­oped with­in your colon as ear­ly as pos­si­ble. You can sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our gas­troen­terol­o­gists online or by call­ing 630−717−2600.

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  • My goal is to provide excellent care to all of my patients. I do this by combining the science of medicine and the most up-to-date, evidence-based practices with active listening, empathy and compassion.