Brenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA
Your diet can have a great impact on the health of your colon, as well as the rest of your gastrointestinal tract. Your diet can play a role in your risk for colon cancer and polyps, as well as other colon-related conditions or diseases. Consult your doctor about how your diet can influence your colon health before making any drastic changes to your diet.
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Eating a healthy diet can reduce your risks for developing a wide variety of colon health issues, such as colon polyps, colon cancer and inflammatory disorders like ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, or IBS, and diverticular disease.
Foods to Add
The most important foods to include in a diet that promotes colon health are those containing high amounts of fiber, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. In fact, low-fiber diets have been associated with increased risks of colon cancer, diverticular disease and colon polyps. Consuming a high-fiber diet containing whole grains and lots of fruits and vegetables can decrease your chances for colon cancer and polyps, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A 1999 study in the "American Journal of Medicine" even found that dietary fiber had protective effects against colon cancer. Other foods that may reduce your risk of colon cancer include tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage, and even coffee, states the University of Michigan Health System.
Foods to Avoid
Limiting the amount of meats, especially well-done meats, in your diet may reduce your risks of colon problems, particularly colon cancer, says the University of Michigan Health System. Removing certain other foods and beverages such as beer, salt and sugar could also improve your colon health. You should limit animal fats from meats and fatty dairy products to reduce your risks of colon polyps as well, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In general, you should avoid high-fat and high-calorie foods to promote colon health.
Although these dietary changes can somewhat improve the health of your colon, they don’t guarantee that you won’t develop a colon-related disease or condition. Other factors like your age and family history can play a big role in your chances of developing colon cancer, polyps and other problems, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Exercising regularly, controlling your weight and abstaining from smoking cigarettes can reduce your risks for colon problems, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Additionally, certain supplements may help to improve your colon health or reduce the symptoms of certain colon-related conditions. Supplements like glucomannan, psyllium, glutathione, melatonin or conjugated linoleic acid may help treat symptoms related to colon cancer, diverticular disease and other colon conditions, states the University of Michigan Health System. Taking folic acid, selenium, fish oil, calcium or vitamins C, D or E could also reduce your colon-cancer risk.
Don’t alter your diet for colon health before first consulting with a health-care professional. You should also talk with your doctor before taking any supplements to treat or prevent colon conditions. Based on your age, health, family history and other factors, your physician will recommend colon screenings and tests. Without these screenings, you might not be aware that you have a colon problem. Certain conditions like colon polyps and colon cancer often don’t produce noticeable symptoms, warns the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.