That’s one of two main things you can do to combat colorectal cancer: get regular colonoscopy screenings (check!) and adopt and follow healthy lifestyle habits. Even if your screening results were good, you’ll want to do everything you can to decrease your risk of developing cancer. Here are a few habits you can adopt right now to help keep your colon (and the rest of your body) healthy:
- Get moving. Maintaining a healthy weight and moving regularly (both through intentional exercise and regular daily activities) can go a long way in decreasing colorectal cancer risk. How much activity should you aim for? Consider walking 10,000 steps (about 4 to 5 miles) per day or working out for 30 minutes at a moderate pace (break a sweat and get your heart rate up) five days a week to get started. If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Every little bit counts, so just try moving a little more each day.
- Fill up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A diet rich in these foods (especially those that are bright in color) has been linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. The jury is still out on exactly what it is in these foods that helps to lower risk. Some studies suggest that it’s the fiber in these foods that makes them beneficial; however, studies on fiber supplements have not shown the same benefit. So choose whole foods instead of a pill to prevent colon cancer. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water when eating more fiber.
- Eat sources of “good” bacteria. Yogurt and other foods with active cultures improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. Some recent studies have also shown that bacteria may help to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, sour pickles, miso, and kimchi all contain the good bacteria known as probiotics.
- Limit saturated fats and salt. Cut back on red meat and meats that have been fried, smoked, and salt-cured. Other foods high in saturated fats and salt include cheese, pizza, and prepared dishes. Instead, reach for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish.
- Go easy on the alcohol. Research has shown that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol (three drinks or more per day) may negatively affect the metabolism of a number of nutrients that reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Although the jury is still out, there may be an elevated risk associated with drinking any type of alcohol.
- Avoid all forms of tobacco. In addition to increasing overall risk of developing cancer, studies have shown that tobacco significantly increases risk of death in those who develop colorectal cancer. It has been estimated that 12 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer in the United States were the result of tobacco use, according to the National Cancer Institute.