This week, as part of Decembeard, we at LDC have been focusing on bowel cancer.
Did you know that bowel cancer is one of the most preventative types of cancer? Yep – according to the World Cancer Fund, it is estimated that almost half of all cases in the UK could be prevented by making lifestyle changes. Today, we are taking a closer look at simple ways to keep our bowels healthy – to help reduce our risk of developing cancer, as well as reducing the discomforts of gas, bloating, fatigue and irregular bowel movement. What more could you want!
Step 1: Eat Well
Fibre keeps everything (including waste) moving through our digestive systems – which is essential! It can be found in foods like brown bread and pasta, porridge and wholegrain cereals, seeds and (unsalted) nuts. Fruit and veg also contain lots of goodness – more on them below.
Try to cut out red meat, like beef, lamb, goat and pork (sob, we love bacon too!) and processed meat, which includes any meat that is preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. While researches aren’t 100% sure why they link to bowel cancer, it is thought that certain chemicals within the meat itself are the problem.
Fish and poultry are good alternatives (as are soya and quorn). You can also add bulk to your meal by using beans or lentils.
Five a Day
We all know how important (and also how difficult) it is to eat our five a day. So, we thought we’d share some of our fruit and veg tips. Why not kick start the day with a big bowl of porridge topped with chopped fruit and seeds or a smoothie, which is easy to pack full with fruit and veg. At lunchtime, opt for a vegetable soup. For dinner, go for a stir-fry with vegetables, chicken and prawns. And for a snack, carrots are hummus are a must! Not a fan of these ideas? There are loads of “foodspiration” places online to help you out!
Other diet/ eating tips include chewing well and being aware of portion size.
Step 2: Drink More (Water)
Dehydration can lead to the accumulation of toxins in our bodies, increasing our risk of developing cancer. So, it is vital to stay hydrated! While there are many different opinions about how much water we should drink in a day, it is generally agreed that around 2 litres is enough. This can easily be remembered as the 8×8 rule (eight 8-ounce glasses of water).
Top tip: Keep a bottle of water in your bag (and refill it throughout the day!).
Step 3: Get Moving
Exercise and keeping active is a big part of the equation. This is because it increases the blood flow, circulation of oxygen and movement of food through the digestive system.
Evidence also suggests that being overweight increases the risk of many types of cancer. Researchers think this is because the excess fat in our bodies can change our hormone levels and produce chemical messengers. Read more about this on the Cancer Research website!
Getting moving doesn’t mean we all have to sign up for that pricey gym membership and slog it out on the treadmill everyday. It is important to do things that we enjoy! For example, ride a bike in the forest, stretch, practice yoga, go for a swim, or simply walk to the shops instead of taking the car (trust us, it saves heaps of time trying to find a parking space!). While we should try to do this regularly (30 minutes of moderate exercise at least 5 times a week is recommended), there is no need to overdo it. Why not start slowly and steadily and build up.
There is a whole range of other things that can affect our bowel health beyond diet and exercise – these include smoking (try to quit!), alcohol (drink in moderation and stick to the recommended limits set), stress, sleep and even travelling! So, it is important to know that small day-to-day lifestyle changes can make the world of difference. Changes don’t need to be scary, dramatic or difficult!
There are, however, some risk factors that we can’t change (no matter how much we adapt our lifestyles). For example:
- A family history of bowel cancer
- Personal history (if you suffer from a longstanding inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s, have type 2 diabetes, or have a history of non-cancerous growths in your bowel, you might be more at risk).
If you feel as though you might be at a high risk, or if you have experienced any unexpected changes down there that have lasted for longer than 3 weeks, then come and have a chat with your GP. It is importance that we all know the symptoms and what is normal for each and every one of us. As always, LDC are here if you need us! So if you are worried don’t hesitate to book an appointment.