March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and with it comes bad news and good news. The bad news is that colorectal cancer is now the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths for Americans (3rd if you consider men and women individually). About 1 in 20 will be diagnosed during the course of their lives, with men being slightly more at risk than women.
But the good news is that even though it is climbing in rank, the numbers of colorectal-cancer-related deaths have been dropping over the last 20 years, thanks to increased awareness and early detection.2
This is a highly preventable disease. Know the facts and take action to dramatically lower your risk.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
Talk to your general practitioner promptly if you experience any of the following:1
Important note: some experience no symptoms before they are diagnosed.
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
- Rectal bleeding, dark stools, or blood in the stool (often, though, the stool will look normal)
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
Those at normal risk should start screening at age 50. If there is a family history, it is recommended that you begin screening ten years younger than the age at which your family member was diagnosed.
Take a minute to review this recommended list of tests and screening schedule set forth by The American Cancer Association. Talk to your doctor and get a plan in place.
Prevention is Key
Here are some tips for maintaining gut health and reducing your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly apples, carrots and dark green leafy vegetables. They are full of healthy plant fiber as well as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
- Moderate your gluten intake. Gluten can wreak havoc on the digestive system, especially in those with compromised gut health.
- Take probiotic supplements and eat probiotic-rich foods, which improve the balance of your gut bacteria.
- To aid digestion, take digestive enzymes, such as bromelain (from pineapple) and papain (from papaya).
- Supplement with glutamine, an amino acid that is essential for proper gut function. Cabbage juice is a rich food source of glutamine. For a healthy dose, try this delicious Cabbage-Apple-Greens Juice!
1. American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Early Detection. 01/31/2014.
2. American Cancer Society. What are the Key Statistics About Colorectal Cancer? 1/31/14.