Bowel Cancer Awareness Month: Top tips for a healthy bowel

Published: 15 Apr 2020

Last year we wrote a facts and figures blog about Bowel Cancer to raise awareness in Bowel Cancer Awareness Month UK.  To have a read please follow this link

This year we thought we’d focus on things you can do to help keep your bowel healthy and reduce the risk of cancer.

Eat a healthy all-round diet

A healthy bowel is reliant on a sensible diet that includes enough of the good stuff and limits the bad stuff to occasional treats only.  It’s a diet most of us know we should follow, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little reminder.  

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Make sure you eat enough fiber

Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and helps reduce your risk of bowel cancer by keeping everything moving through your digestive system. Here are some suggestions:

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Stay hydrated

It’s recommended to need to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid every day to stop getting dehydrated

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Eat the right kind of protein

Protein in our diet helps to repair cells and make new ones and is great muscle food. But it needs to be the right kind of protein, such as:

Please note there is strong evidence that eating a lot of red and processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer –

Get your 5-a-day

As well as containing fiber, vegetables and fruit may also help to protect against bowel cancer because they contain antioxidants, which are substances that help to delay or prevent cell damage as well as much needed vitamins and minerals. Most people that live in the UK will be familiar with the fruit and veg ‘5 A Day’ guideline. In the US, federal guidelines recommend that adults eat at least 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day.  

Here are some examples of a single portion:

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Stop smoking and reduce your alcohol

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you’ll know that smoking and drinking too much are not good for your health.  You may not know that alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including bowel cancer and that smokers are more likely to develop polyps (non-cancerous growths) in the bowel which could turn into cancer if they’re not treated.  

In the UK alcohol recommendation are 14 units per week spread over a week.  The recommended weekly limit in the U.S. is 7 drinks per week for women, and 14 for men. It’s not always clear what constitutes a unit or a drink – so to add some clarity:

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Exercise regularly

If you are physically active, the stats show that generally, you will have a lower risk of bowel cancer.  Aim to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times per week.  It doesn't need to be a structured exercise in a gym or class setting – fit things into your everyday life such as:  

Alternatively, join a club, take up classes or follow a DVD or online class.  

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Watch your weight

Being overweight and carrying a lot of weight around your waist can increase your risk of bowel cancer.  If you want to lose weight the most important thing is to reduce your calorie intake.  This is likely to require you to make significant and ongoing changes to your diet so you may feel you need extra support – ask your medical team or join a local slimming club.  Other tips to keep in mind:

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Probiotics may help to prevent and treat colon cancer

Probiotics are health-promoting bacteria found in supplements and some foods and can help increase the number of beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut.  Although there is no clear evidence to claim that probiotics are effective in people with cancer, recent reviews have found that probiotics can significantly reduce the incidence of diarrhea and the average frequency of daily bowel movements.

There are two ways to get more good bacteria into your gut: fermented foods and dietary supplements. Fermented foods are the best source, as probiotic supplements, which are typically sold over the counter, are reserved to treat specific ailments as suggested by your doctor, and not recommended for everyday use. 

They can be found naturally in foods such as:

As a bonus, there are also studies which suggest having a healthy gut can also result in a healthier brain. Find out more:

This information has been sourced from reputable sites such as Bowel Cancer UK.  

If you have been diagnosed with Bowel Cancer or any other type of cancer, join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group. You'll find a community of over 7000 people all fighting cancer right now - a great place to ask questions as well as offering advice and support to others at a difficult time in their lives.

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