March Is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colorectal Cancer awareness month and our friends at All For Health Community Health Center thought it would be a good idea to dig down deep and talk… poop.

What are the risk factors of Colon Cancer?

Most individuals don’t think about colon cancer being on their radar until they get to the annual recommended screening time for low or no risk patients, which is 50 years old. However, we are seeing a rise in colon cancer in patients under 50. In fact, 10% of all new diagnosed colon cancer cases in the US are under 50. Certain risk factors do increase your chance of developing colon cancer before age 50. Risk factors include family history of colon cancer, genetic alterations, personal history of ulcerative colitis or Chron’s disease, heavy alcohol use, smoking cigarettes, inactivity and obesity and diets high in red meat and processed meats.

What are the warning signs of Colon Cancer?
Most medical providers don’t start discussing screening until patients are 50 so it’s important to know what the warning signs are. Warning signs consist of Rectal bleeding, weight loss for unknown reason, weakness or fatigue, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea/constipation or narrower stool than usual, bowel doesn’t feel empty after bowel movement, blood in your stool, bright red or very dark stools, persistent cramps, gas, pain or feeling full or bloated.

What can you do to decrease your chances of colon cancer?
The most obvious things are don’t smoke or consume large quantities of alcohol and stay active and fit.  

What is a microbiome?
Our gut is home to more than 100 trillion microbes. The human microbiome is composed of bacteria, viruses and eukaryotic microbes that reside in and on our bodies. These microbes impact our physiology, both in health and in disease. They contribute metabolic functions, protect against pathogens, educate the immune system, and, through these basic functions, affect directly or indirectly most of our physiologic functions.

Maintaining the health of our intestinal microbiome is an essential part of our overall health. Individuals can make dietary changes such as eating more fresh fruits, vegetables and grains and avoiding red meat and processed meats like hot dogs and luncheon meats. Eating more prebiotic foods and taking probiotics are two ways to help improve your microbiome. 

What are Prebiotics and how do they help my microbiome?
Prebiotics are un-digestible plant fibers that already live inside the large intestine. The more food, or prebiotics, that probiotics have to eat, the more efficiently these live bacteria work and the healthier your gut will be. Prebiotic foods include Artichokes, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, beets, garlic, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apples, berries, bananas, honey dark chocolate, flax, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds, legumes, quinoa and wild rice. Taking probiotics has been shown to improve the microbiome as well. Probiotics may restore the composition of the gut microbiome and introduce beneficial functions to gut microbial communities, with the prevention of gut inflammation and other intestinal or systemic diseases.

Take this time to evaluate your diet and your gut health. You might be surprised at the effects if has on your overall health, energy and focus by making these changes. If you have any questions or concerns, call the professionals at All For Health Community Health Center (805) 466-5600.

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