by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
Peacefulmind.com

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Throughout the month, I will be sharing tips and preventative methods for keeping your colon happy and healthy!

Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum, is a disease that affects both men and women and is preventable nearly 90 percent of the time. Starting at age 50, men at women at average risk for the disease should get screened. Those with increased risk, like African- Americans who typically develop colorectal cancer at younger ages, should be screened even earlier.

Prevention techniques include:

– regular screenings
– a healthy diet
– regular exercise

Prevention techniques include regular screenings, a healthy diet and regular exercise. If detected, colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure, sometimes in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy. Between 80 and 90 percent of patients are restored to normal health if the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, the cure rate drops to 50 percent or less when diagnosed in the later stages.

Fight Free Radicals

Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms. that have at least one unpaired electron, which makes them highly reactive. Free radicals promote beneficial oxidation that produces energy and kills bacterial invaders. However, in excess, they produce harmful oxidation or oxidative stress that can damage cell membranes and cell contents. These free radicals cause inflammation.

In human beings, free radicals are the natural by-products of many processes within and among cells. Free radicals are created by exposure to various environmental factors, cigarette and tobacco smoke, air pollution, alcohol, drugs, radiation from televisions and computers, chemicals and a busy, stressful life.

Free radicals cause the transcription molecules to migrate to the center of the nucleus. Several transcription factors become pro-inflammatory due to free radicals and therefore accelerate the aging process.  NF-kB transcription factor complex is one of the cellular sensors, which responds to oxidative stress and regulates gene expression. NF-kB can increase the activity of genes responsible for inflammation. DNA binding activities of two other transcription factors, AP-1 and Sp-1 are seen as inflammatory agents when activated by free radicals.

Other inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and fibrinogen show that these blood indicators of inflammation are strong predictive factors for determining who will suffer a heart attack. Seemingly unrelated diseases have a common link. People who have multiple degenerative disorders often exhibit excess levels of inflammatory markers in their blood. A growing consensus among scientists is that common disorders such as atherosclerosis, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease are all caused in part by a chronic inflammatory syndrome.

Antioxidants Are Necessary

More and more evidence is accumulating that indicates antioxidants improve long-term health by deferring or mitigating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Exercise-related research indicates that antioxidants such as vitamin E and selenium limit exercise-induced muscle damage; this, in turn, is believed to improve exercise recovery and possibly improve muscle growth potential. Of course, as vitamins C and E and selenium are among the most effective antioxidants, they and others are part of most multivitamin/mineral packs. However, here are some additional antioxidants you may want to consider taking, with the baseline supplementary daily intake.

Research suggests that combining antioxidants is more effective than consuming high doses of just one or two antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in a wide variety of antioxidants; the essential antioxidants may be better preserved in these foods. Herbal supplements like milk thistle, rosemary, ginkgo biloba, bilberry, butcher’s broom and horse chestnut have high levels of potent antioxidants, although their effects on exercise have not yet been studied in humans.

Black and Green Tea

For years, studies have indicated that the antioxidants in green tea offer protection against diseases, including cancer, and even fight dental cavities. One of the most beneficial of these antioxidants is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). According to the University of California Wellness Letter, Mar 2002, regular black tea is turning out to be just as healthful as green tea. The evidence for tea’s health effects comes mainly from lab studies, though some human studies point to possible benefits in preventing heart disease and cancer. EGCG, inhibited an enzyme that cancer cells need in order to grow. The cancer cells that couldn’t grow big enough to divide self-destructed. It would take about 4-10 cups of green tea a day to get the blood levels of EGCG that inhibited cancer in the study. Black tea also contains EGCG, but at lower concentrations.<

Sugar and Inflammation

One of the reasons inflammation occurs is from a rapid rise in blood sugar, which causes biochemical changes in the cell. Staying away from sugar and high-glycemic (simple) carbohydrates, which the body rapidly converts to sugar, is one of the best ways to decrease inflammation. C-reactive protein (CRP) is a key factor of inflammation. In a major study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, people with elevated CRP levels were four and one-half times more likely to have a heart attack. Not only is elevated CRP more accurate than cholesterol in predicting heart attack risk, but high CRP levels have turned up in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes and in people who are overweight.

The body makes CRP from interleukin-6 (IL-6), a powerful inflammatory chemical. IL-6 is a key cell communication molecule, and it tells the body’s immune system to go into asperity, releasing CRP and many other inflammation-causing substances. Being overwieght increases inflammation because adipose cells, particularly those around the midsection, make large amounts of IL-6 and CRP. As blood sugar levels increase, so do IL-6 and CRP. Both overweight and high blood sugar levels increase the risk of heart disease, very likely because of the undercurrent of inflammation.

The best way to deal with cravings is to very carefully control blood sugar and insulin by staying away from the simple carbohydrates and eating more protein. In a few days, blood sugar will stabilize and cravings will go away. Good (complexed) carbohydrates, which are low on the glycemic index include: apples, asparagus, beans, broccoli, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, green beans, honeydew melon, kiwi, leafy greens, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries, spinach, strawberries.

Bad (simple) carbohydrates, which are high on the glycemic index include: bananas, breads, carrots, cereals processed with added sugar, corn, French fries, French toast, fruit juices, mangos, pancakes, papaya, pasta, peas, popcorn, white potatoes, white rice, sugar, waffles.

Dietary fats also influence inflammation. Most omega-6 fats, found in margarine and corn and safflower oils, are the basic building blocks of arachidonic acid and prostaglandin E2, two of several key inflammation-causing substances in the body. In contrast, omega-3 fats, found in fish, fish oils, and vegetables, have an inflammation-suppressing effect.

Balance the Body’s pH

It is important to keep the body as pH balanced as possible. Most people’s diets tend to be more on the acidic side. Therefore, eating more alkaline forming foods (plant based) helps to maintain proper pH balance. Eat foods such as non citrus fruits and plenty of vegetables, some dairy such as cottage cheese and yogurt, organic skinless chicken, turkey or grass feed, lean beef and fish. Buy dried beans such as garbanzo beans and black beans, consider whole grains such as brown rice and oats, as well as a handful of healthy fats in nuts and seeds.

Add Healthy Seasonings

There are very beneficial herbs containing antioxidant, antimicrobal, and antifungal properties. Consider cinnamon, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, onions, garlic and stevia.

Cancer Detection

If detected, colorectal cancer requires surgery in nearly all cases for complete cure, sometimes in conjunction with radiation and chemotherapy. Between 80 and 90 percent of patients are restored to normal health if the cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, the cure rate drops to 50 percent or less when diagnosed in the later stages.

The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), the leading professional society of colorectal surgeons, provides the following information on colorectal cancer and its screening, prevention and treatment.

-Colorectal cancer can be prevented. 

-Screening for the disease can identify polyps (grape-sized growths in the colon and/or rectum) that can be removed to prevent cancer from developing.

-The magic age for screening is 50, unless you have an increased risk for the disease.

-Colorectal cancer is treatable.

-Regardless of your age, know the risk factors, know the symptoms, and know your family history.

-Talk with your health professional about colorectal cancer and your own risk for the disease.

Signs and Symptoms 

Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of this disease. When symptoms appear, they are often varied, depending on the cancer’s size and location in the large intestine.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

-A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool for more than a couple of weeks.

-Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool.

-Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain.

-Abdominal pain with a bowel movement.

-A feeling that your bowel do not evacuate completely.

-Weakness or fatigue.

-Unexplained weight loss.

-Blood in your stool may be a sign of cancer, but it can also indicate other conditions. Bright red blood you notice on bathroom tissue more commonly comes from hemorrhoids or minor tears (fissures) in the anus.

-Particular foods, such as beets or red licorice, can turn your stools red. Iron supplements and some anti-diarrhea medications may make stools black. Still, it’s best to have any sign of blood or change in your stools checked promptly by your doctor because it can be a sign of something more serious.