How to Improve Your Colon Health 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

portrait of a lovely smiling European senior couple taking care of green plants in the garden
We lace up our tennis shoes and go for walks because we know that exercise is good for our legs and our heart. We lift weights to keep our arms in shape. But when was the last time you thought about your colon health?
Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S, and the rates of this type of cancer has been increasing among people younger than 55, according to the Mayo Health Clinic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends colorectal cancer screening for adults ages 45 to 75. But this isn’t the only red-flag condition when it comes to colon health. Constipation and diverticulitis – a condition in which a little pouch that forms in the lining of your colon can become inflamed – also cause discomfort for millions of people each year.
A lot of these problems can be prevented by learning what you should do – and what you should avoid – to keep your colon healthy.
30 minutes of exercise each day. We all know that exercise can get you a slimmer waistline, but it also contributes to a healthier colon. To work properly, your digestive system needs you to be active. Aim for a half hour of light to moderate physical activity each day, whether it’s walking in your neighborhood, time logged at the gym or doing yard work.
Get to a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to both a higher risk of colon cancer and other colon and intestinal issues like diverticulitis. Dropping extra pounds will not only make you feel healthier, but can help prevent health issues as you get older.
Make healthy fats and vegetables a priority. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a grocery-store prescription most doctors would love to write for their patients. When it comes to colon health, getting plenty of high-fiber vegetables into your daily diet is important. People who eat a high-fiber diet are less likely to get colon cancer. Tips for bulking up the fiber in your diet:
  • At lunch and dinner, try making half your plate colorful vegetables. Aim for fresh or frozen.
  • Switch to whole-grain breads and cereals, if you are not eating them already.
  • Eat more beans and lentils. Try subbing them in for meat at a meal at least once a week.
  • Remember fruits. One or two cups of mixed fruits each day are a sweet treat.
While you’re adding colorful veggies to your plate, don’t overlook the healthy fats found in walnuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and Omega-3-rich fish like salmon.
If you smoke, stop. According to the National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoking is linked to a higher risk of colon cancer and death from that kind of cancer. But the connection also goes deeper. People who smoke have an increased risk of forming polyps in their colon that can lead to colon cancer. Even if a person has these polyps removed by a doctor, if they smoke they have a higher risk of these polyps forming again.
Eat fewer processed meats. Lots of people love to eat bacon, hot dogs and sandwiches piled high with deli meats, but the World Health Organization has said hundreds of studies have identified eating processed meats as a risk factor for colon cancer. Eating 50 grams of processed meat each day – the equivalent of 4 strips of bacon or a hot dog – increases a person’s risk of colorectal cancer by nearly 20%.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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