June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in Australia.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with bowel cancer, here’s a list of natural foods & supplements that you could find really useful to support your recovery. (Also great for anyone interested in prevention!)
Cover All The Important Bases! Fibre, anti-oxidants, gut barrier support, immune support, blood sugar metabolism support & natural anti-inflammatories.
- Diverse, fermentable fibre rich foods: These are vital to ensure that fermentation & the production of beneficial bowel-healing metabolites is happening all along the bowel (diversity is key, as different fibre types will be fermented in different parts of the colon by different microbes, creating different beneficial metabolites). So there’s really no way round it – you’ve just gotta eat your veggies. And fruit, & nuts & seeds, & legumes & grains…or at least as many of them as you can to get in a diverse array of fibrous plant foods! A high fibre, plant rich diet will (normally) speed up a sluggish transit time, which also means that any dietary carcinogens are spending less time loitering about in the colon. Think of your bowel as a big fermentation chamber that is constantly producing (& pushing through) either poisons or medicines for you, & you’ll be less likely to shove aside that bean salad to save room for the mudcake!
- Antioxidant rich foods – plants again, basically – vibrant colour is your clue here! Go for the brightest, richest, darkest colours. Think bright berries, colourful spices, herbs & herbal teas, plus a variety of coloured fruit & veg (go for organic, locally grown & seasonal if you can, but if not – just ‘eating the rainbow’ each day is gonna be super helpful)! And no, you cannot rely solely upon coffee, red wine & dark chocolate for your antioxidant needs…but you can justify a little of each. A little. Meaning a few squares a day, a cup here & there & 1/2 a glass a few times a week if you must – but really, with bowel cancer (& most other health issues) you’ll be better off with zero booze until you have your health fully sorted. There is some evidence to suggest that a regular intake of green tea can reduce your risk of bowel cancer & also some science saying that coffee is a good preventative, but more research is needed!
- Gut barrier support – a healthy gut lining is protective to cells along the digestive tract (& also to the rest of our body!) Your gut barrier will love all the fibre & polyphenols from your rainbow coloured shopping trolley / farmer’s market basket (because they support the healthy bacteria who look after your gut lining), but there are a few ‘extra’ gut barrier support food superstars you could also include: bone broth or a collagen supplement, okra, slippery elm powder, shellfish (ie oysters & mussels), seaweeds, oats, aloe vera, licorice tea, & marshmallow root tea, powder or caps.
- Immune support – protein rich foods, zinc rich foods, antioxidant rich foods, probiotic rich foods, omega 3 rich foods, no sugary foods, no foods with weird additives, no foods that you don’t tolerate well (often these are food intolerances which will cause inflammation & an extra load on your immune system). And don’t forget the all-important vitamin D – careful, regular exposure to sunshine is best here. Just add sun exposure to your regular ‘to do list’ rather than your shopping list.
- Blood sugar metabolism support – protein rich foods (keep it as plant-based as you can using lots of nuts & seeds, beans & legumes, but definitely include some oily fish – like sardines & salmon), fibre rich foods (plant proteins are also usually packed with fibre so your nuts & seeds, beans & lentils, quinoa etc). Magnesium rich foods (your green leafy veg are great sources), & vitamin D (sunshine again).
- Natural anti-inflammatories – good fats & oils (fish, flax, walnut, avocado, olive, coconut etc), turmeric, ginger, fruit & veg – & stay away from what you know causes you to swell up (the most common culprits are gluten, dairy, refined carbs & sugars, alcohol & poor quality fats & oils). A diet that is full of veggies, fish & plant protein that is gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar & alcohol free should work well for most.
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