Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
Many individuals fail to give colon health a second thought until problems occurs. You can take steps to maintain or improve colon health before things go awry. For example, you can help prevent colon polyps, which are growths that form inside the lining of the colon. Colon polyps increase your risk for developing colon cancer, so prevention is the key. If you already have colon polyps, it's crucial to have them removed before they become cancerous. Luckily, diet appears critical for preventing colon polyps, according to the CGH Medical Center.
Cause and Risk Factors
The full cause of colon polyp formation remains unknown, but genetics appears to play a role. Some polyps are benign, but certain types can turn into cancer. Anyone can develop colon polyps but certain groups are more likely to develop them than others. Adults 50 years or older and those who've had polyps before are at an increased risk. Your risk also increases if you eat a lot of high-fat foods, smoke, drink alcohol, are overweight or lead a sedentary lifestyle, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants, and although your body doesn't absorb fiber, it does play an important role in digestive wellness and helps maintain bowel health. You get two kinds of fiber from your diet, soluble and insoluble. Most plants contain a mixture of both fibers, with some being higher in one type compared to the other. Soluble Fiber absorbs water from your intestines and forms a gel. It plays a role in promoting healthy cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve it water, it adds bulk to stools and is most commonly linked to bowel health.
It's recommended that you aim to get at least 20 to 30 grams of total fiber daily to help prevent colon polyps. There is no specific recommendation for insoluble fiber since plants contain both types of fiber. Foods particularly high in insoluble fiber include kale, green beans, okra, peas, sweet potato, turnip, carrots, apples, apricots, kiwi, oranges, mango and variety of beans and legumes.
While the myth that meat stays in your colon for seven years may not have a shred of truth to it, when consumed in excess, meat can be harmful. The fat from meat, when broken down by your digestive juices possesses the capacity to turn into carcinogenic, or cancer-causing substances and can cause cancer in some animals, according to the NDDIC. It appears eating less meat plays a role in preventing colon polyps and colon cancer, according to the NDDIC.