March is colorectal cancer awareness month. It’s a good time for us raise awareness about the third most common cancer in the United States and talk about possible ways to prevent it. Recently, scientists have begun to show that a healthy gut may play an important role in colorectal cancer prevention.
Our digestive tract is home to around 100 trillion microbes from more than 100 species of bacteria. Many of these species are important for healthy human function. It is important to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract for optimal health.
An unhealthy diet and weight gain can create more bad bacteria in your gut, which could potentially lead to health problems. Although, scientists do not completely understand the relationship between gut bacteria and colon cancer, they are finding that certain types of bacteria are more common in the digestive tracts of individuals with colon cancer compared to healthy adults.
One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria is through your diet. Diets high in red meat and fat while low in fiber, can increase your bad bacteria and your risk of colon cancer. Diets that are high in fiber, fruits and vegetables maintain more stable, healthy gut bacteria. These foods are also higher in vitamins and minerals that fight inflammation and help you maintain a healthy weight.
Consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods may also aid in colon cancer prevention. Probiotics provide a natural supply of healthy bacteria when consumed and include foods such as yogurt, aged cheeses, kimchi and sauerkraut. Prebiotics provide nutrients to help healthy gut bacteria thrive, and they include whole grains, bananas, onions and asparagus.
Choosing to eat foods that are good for your gut may have a promising role in colon cancer prevention as well as other health benefits like a stronger immune system.
For more information about healthy eating, contact the Letcher County Cooperative Extension Service at (606) 633-2362.