While most people don’t like to talk about their bowels, as a student naturopath, it’s one of my favourite topics!
Did you know that the incidence of bowel cancer in NZ is high, with over 1200 people dying each year from something that is preventable. Bowel cancer is only 2nd to lung cancer in terms of cancer-related deaths, with the incidence in NZ being among the highest in the world. Estimates suggest that 1 in 18 people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime! That’s not cool!
While yes, bowel cancer is more common over 50, (but then is that because the screening for under 50s is inadequate?/ the signs and symptoms are not widely known?) As over 300 people under 50 will be diagnosed with bowel cancer each year!
So take your health into your own hands, listen to your body and always remember that you can get a 2nd opinion from another practitioner.
So what can you do?
Step 1 – make yourself aware of the symptoms and see your GP if you are concerned
Bowel Cancer NZ uses the following 5 symptoms; they are not normal and need to be checked out by your doctor!
- Bleeding from the bottom (rectal bleeding) without any obvious reason. Or if you have other symptoms such as straining, soreness, lumps, and achiness
- A persistent change in bowel habit going to the toilet more often or experiencing looser stools for several weeks
- Abdominal pain especially if severe
- Any lumps or mass in your tummy
- Weight loss and tiredness (a symptom of anaemia)
Step 2 – Prevention!
So now that we’ve talked about why bowel cancer needs its own awareness month (it’s killing a lot of people), let’s talk prevention! As prevention is a lot easier than cure! There are so many ways you can help lower the risk, it can get overwhelming, but just focus on one or two aspects at a time 😊 And as always, reach out to a naturopath if you want help knowing where to start!
Eating a wide variety of vegetables not only lowers your risk of bowel cancer but it also:
– Helps healthy stool formation
– Provides your body with essential vitamins and minerals
– Provides nutrients for energy production
– Supports blood production to carry oxygen around your body
– Supports hair, skin and nail growth
– Supports healthy gut bacteria
Limiting fast food, fried food and use of vegetable oils like canola and soybean;
– Increases intake of other nutritious food
– Reduces inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract
– Reduces the load on your liver
Limiting sugar intake;
– Changes your diet to wholefoods, which is going to be beneficial for your whole body!
– Stabilises blood sugar and supports a healthy mood
Include high-fat foods
– Now I’m not talking fast food, I’m talking about full-fat milk, full-fat cream, almonds, cheese, avocado
– discarding everything with “low fat” or “lite” in its name. Your body needs fat to absorb vitamins (ADEK), think skin health, cell health, and the immune system – over winter you need to be absorbing all the vitamins you can get to support your immune system and help it fight off any bacteria or virus’ going around!
Exercising for 30+ minutes each day is the government recommendations; but start where you are at, set yourself goals to do what you can 3 times each week;
– Take the stairs not the elevator
– Walk to work if possible
– Go for a morning walk with the sun rising, or an afternoon walk when the sun goes down – this will also help regulate your circadian rhythms, but that’s a whole other blog on its own!
– Do what you love!
– Are you a gardener? Get out in the garden for 30 minutes;
– Go for a bush walk;
– Go for a bike ride;
– Like swimming? Join the local pool memberships;
– Prefer the gym?
– Wash your car;
– clean the house;
– take the kids for an adventure either walking or on the push bikes;
Limit chemical exposure
– eat organic food – pesticide use loads the body with more toxins that may damage the intestinal cells
– Filter your tap water
– Use non-chemical cleaning materials
– Use chemical free cosmetics and creams
– Investigate and learn how to minimise occupational and environmental hazards
– Small doses of sunlight without creams/sunglasses
The things we put in our body may damage our cells, and their cell cycle, leading to changes in tissue growth and mutation of the genes (the little spiral inside each cell that has the blueprint of your body in it). This is true in every cell in our body, including the bowel!
And lastly but not least; Reach out to your local naturopath or other trusted practitioner if you want a diet check-up, tips on how to change, or just to see what information is out there!
Medical Disclaimer. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.
References and resources
Bowel Cancer NZ. (2019). Prevention. https://bowelcancernz.org.nz/about-bowel-cancer/prevention/
Bowel Cancer NZ (2019). Move your Butt this Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. https://bowelcancernz.org.nz/…/bowel-cancer-awareness-month/
Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier Australia.