The Truth About Colonoscopies, Pt 4
Taking care of your colon
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Here in this final installment of this 4-part series on colonoscopies, we’ll discuss taking care of your colon, and your overall health, suggestions to do your very best to prevent colon cancer.
The risk factors for colon cancer, or any other form of cancer, can be divided into two categories: fixed and variable.
Fixed factors: things you CAN’T change:
Age: The risk of colon cancer is higher in persons over 50 years old.
Race: African-Americans are at higher risk of colon cancer.
Genetic risks: Inherited syndromes are responsible for a small number of colon cancers.
Family history of colon cancer: If you have a first degree family member who has had colon cancer, your risk is increased. First degree family member is a parent or a sibling. About 20% of all colorectal cancers are in persons who have a close relative with colorectal cancer.
Personal history of advanced forms of inflammatory bowel conditions (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc).
Personal history of many benign or cancerous polyps removed. This is evidence of an unhealthy colon so it increases the risk of progressing to full-blown cancer.
Genetic specialists estimate that between 5 and 10 in every 100 cancers (5 to 10%) diagnosed are linked to an inherited faulty or mutated gene. More than 75% of colon and rectal cancers occur in people with no known risk factors, which is why regular non-invasive, simple screening is important, as discussed in Part 3 of this series.
Epigenetics literally means ‘above genetics,’ suggesting there are factors that change the outcomes of our genes. Our DNA is not the sole determination of our health. Environmental pollutants, heavy metals, chronic viral and bacterial infections, hormone imbalances, physical and emotional stress, and most importantly, nutritional imbalances play a key roles in genetic expressions. This is good news; it means that just because you have a genetic mutation or family risk factor, it doesn’t mean that gene will ‘turn on’ and misbehave. Having a genetic marker for cancer is not a death sentence; there are things you can do to to travel a different road for health.
Variable and epigenetic factors you CAN change:
Environmental pollutants. For several years now, we have been a big fan of Zeolite spray from Touchstone essentials to eliminate heavy metals and clear persistent organic pollutants (POPs) out of the body. To learn more about this Zeolite - and get a special discount for a first-time purchase - check out the information at this link.
A sedentary lifestyle adversely affects the human body through various mechanisms. In fact, a study from 2020 is an eye-opener on just how detrimental a lack of physical activity is to overall health.
Sedentary behaviors increase all of the following: All-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, cancer risk, and risks of metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia; musculoskeletal disorders such as arthralgia and osteoporosis; depression and cognitive impairment. Therefore, increasing physical activity is important to promote both personal and public health. Twenty minutes of exercise every day can be life-changing.
Being overweight by more than 20 pounds is an epigenetic risk factors for many adverse health conditions, including cancer.
Dietary factors to embrace to lower the risk of colon cancer:
Avoid high consumption of red and/or processed meat. Cooking meat at high temperatures can lead to the formation of mutagenic and carcinogenic compounds.
Increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Drink at least 50% of your body weight in ounces per day of water. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs (90kg) you should be drinking close to 100oz of water per day.
All of this helps avoid constipation. As stool stagnates, the undigested food literally putrefies and rots. The longer stagnant stool remains in the body, the more acids are released that are toxic to the colon tissues and detrimental overall health.
Having at least one large bowel movement per day is essential for a healthy body. Imagine if you filled your kitchen garbage disposal with left over food - and only flipped the switch once a week. Pew!
Tobacco smoking. Just don’t do it - or stop. It’s a horrible toxin for all cells of your body.
Alcohol consumption. Persons who consume an average of 2-4 alcoholic drinks per day have a 23% higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who consume less than one drink per day.
Keep Your Colon Healthy: Lab tests
One of the most important supplements to prevent cancer over all is Vitamin D. I recommend a level in the blood to be between 80-100 ng/ml.
You can get a full wellness panel PLUS vitamin D level - with over 50 individual laboratory tests screen for cardiovascular risk, major organ function, anemia, diabetes, infection, blood disease and other indications of illness - as part of this wellness panel. You can order also order lab tests from the comfort of your own home, without having to take time off from work to go to the doctor to just get an order to go to the lab. Order your tests here. We’ve been working with Direct Labs since 2004. You can trust them AND get your labs at a deep discount over using your insurance. If you have an HSA plan, perhaps you can turn in the cost of the tests for reimbursement.
Another assessment for the health of your colon is a stool test to assess the balance of biomarkers grouped into key areas relating to GI function:
Maldigestion - do you have adequate digestive enzymes?
Inflammation - do you have inflammatory markers?
Dysbiosis - do you have an imbalance in your microbiome?
Metabolite Imbalance - do you have inflammatory markers, such as calprotectin, EPX and sIgA in your gut?
Infection - do you have an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria generally not tested for in ‘ova and parasite’ routine screening?
There are several labs that do this type of advanced testing but Cyrex, Genova and Doctors Data are the three I am most familiar with. They all have advanced tests you can order and do at home. They also offer phone consultations to help with interpretation and recommendations.
Keep Your Colon Healthy: Food
The best basic foods for a health GI tract are fresh fruits, a healthy portion of raw or lightly steamed vegetables, beans, whole grains (preferably gluten-free options) and healthy fats, such as avocados, olives, and both olive and coconut oil.
You may also be able to prevent polyps by increasing your intake of vitamin D and calcium. Foods that are rich in vitamin D and calcium include:
yogurt, milk, cheese - sources of vitamin D
fish, eggs, poultry: Fish and poultry are alternative sources of protein and have been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer and adenoma. Good fish choices are salmon, swordfish, white fish, and clean tuna.
Most of the time, it’s not possible to get enough vitamin D solely from food. Years ago, vitamin D deficiencies were rare when people rolled up their sleeves and worked outside from sun-up to sun-down. But as work shifted from farms to offices, that changed. Because pigmentation can reduce vitamin D production in the skin by over 90%, black and hispanic populations are at particular risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin K is another fat-soluble vitamin that exists in two forms: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone, mainly found in green leafy vegetables) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone, primarily found in fermented dairy.)
They work together synergistically: Vitamin D3 directs the absorption of calcium from your intestines into the blood. Vitamin K2 takes it from there, directing that calcium into your bones.
I advise that an optimal level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D should be between 80-100 ng/mL. Most people need to take between 2,000-10,000 IU (50 mcg-250 mcg) daily to achieve and sustain this level.
For vitamin K, current research has found high 180 μg/day resulted in improved clinical results compared to lower-dose supplementation. Opti Vitamin D3+K2 provides 180 mcg of MenaQ7® PRO, the most widely studied form of vitamin K2. Some people need more depending on the status of their bone and arterial health. If you’re not sure where you stand, ask your doctor to order a blood test for both 25-OH Vitamin D and Vitamin K or order the tests from home (except if you live in New York) through DirectLabs and this link.
Fermentation is one of the most ancient methods of food preparation in the world. It is defined as a ‘technology in which the growth and metabolic activities of microorganisms are used to preserve foods.’ Fermentation also increases the shelf life of foods, especially highly perishable foods, so it is a preferred way for food storage in developing countries.
Food fermentation can be complicated and can loosely be divided into two categories: aerobic fermentation, and anaerobic fermentation. During fermentation, microorganisms are used to synthesize vitamins and minerals, produce biologically active peptides, and remove some toxins.
Biologically active peptides are also well known for their health benefits. Among these peptides, conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) have a blood pressure lowering effect, bacteriocins show antimicrobial effects, sphingolipids have anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial properties. Bioactive peptides also exhibit antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergenic effects. The most common fermented foods include kefir, sauerkraut, natto, kombucha, kimchi and miso. This paper is a long and detailed explanation of the benefits of fermented foods.
This website provides a good list of foods, in a variety of categories, to help keep your colon healthy.
Keep Your Colon Healthy: Supplements
Digestive probiotics are a form of good bacteria found in the body and are essential to a healthy gut. However, not every meal will contain these probiotic rich foods, so supplementing is an important part of any digestive health strategy.
Entire books are written on options for overall colon health and colon cancer prevention. This article is not meant to be totally inclusive. While a many products could be listed here, I’m only mentioning what I have found to be KEY supplements that should be part of every GI Health program: probiotics and digestive enzymes. I have also mentioned to additional products: one for overall gut inflammation and one for gently correcting constipation.
Probiotics are good bacteria that support digestive health by maintaining and optimal pH in the intestinal tract. This balances out the undesirable bacteria and improves nutrient absorption. You may be incorporating probiotics into your meal and not even know it – yogurt, kefir, pickles, miso and tempeh are all probiotic powerhouses.
Adding good bacteria as a supplement goes beyond what can be obtained from food alone. I advise taking probiotics at bedtime, allowing the bacteria to populate the GI tract over night by peristalsis, without being mixed with food.
My long-time favorite probiotic is Opti-biotic, available in two sizes (60 capsules and 30 capsules) at the DrTenpenny.com supplement store. For a probiotic to be effective, it must be shelf-stable past its expiration date and precisely delivered to the intestinal tract for maximum benefit. Opti-biotic’s BioShield® technology is an innovative manufacturing process developed to ensure these two elements.
The microorganisms in Opti Biotic are protected, sealed and freeze dried away from moisture, heat, light and oxygen. This allows the bacteria to remain dormant until they are exposed to moisture in the intestinal tract. Saccharomyces boulardii is included in this formula. This is an extensively researched ‘good yeast’ that forms a lattice work in the gut for the ‘good bacteria’ to cling to. Each Opti Biotic capsule provides seven proven probiotic strains, chosen for their ability to withstand the harsh gastrointestinal environment and deliver superior results.
Opti GI Balance is another product recommended for intestinal inflammation. If you have irritable bowels symptoms (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), chronic diarrhea or persistent small intestine cramping, adding in this supplement once a day will really help quell those symptoms. Opti GI Balance is a softgel that contains thyme oil, clove oil and oregano oil, all shown to be soothing inflamed tissues and immune-enhancing throughout the intestines. It comes as a 90-day supply and should soothe and heal your entire intestinal tract.
If you have issues with intermittent constipation, in addition to increasing exercise, water intake and eating more raw foods including apples and carrots, keeping Opti GI motility on hand is gentle way to get things moving.
Opti GI Mobility is a patented combination of ginger (Zingiber officinale) and artichoke leaf extract (Cynara cardunculus L.) delivered at a clinically proven dose to restore gastric motility, improve digestion, and relieve temporary gastric discomfort. This distinctive blend of bioactives which help to restore proper motility. In addition, it can provide relief from temporary gas, bloating and associated GI discomfort.
Your body naturally produces digestive enzymes to break down the food you eat. With our fast-paced and hectic schedules, we don’t always eat as cleanly as we should. Nor do we take the time to chew as thoroughly as we should, especially since adequate chewing is the first and most important step in good digestion. Including a digestive enzyme is essential for gut health.
I personally have used our digestive enzymes, Opti Digestive Support, for many years. This comprehensive blend of acid-resistant, plant-based enzymes is designed to maximize the digestion and absorption. Each capsule has enzymes to break down fat, starch, proteins, carbohydrates, fiber and difficult to digest food particles that can be associated with food sensitivities.
Opti Digestive Support includes lipase, amylase, lactase, CereCalase® and protease to aid in the digestion of protein, fat, starches, fiber and other difficult to digest foods known to cause food sensitivities. CereCalase®, a blend specially formulated to digest the cell walls of plants, providing better nutrition from a plant-based diet. Each capsule also contains gentian root, a traditional bitter herb as well as artichoke root, to stimulate production of bile and other natural enzymes.
I take 1-2 capsules after every meal. While the directions with digestive enzymes suggest taking them before eating, I’ve found they work better when taken at the end of the meal.
Throughout this 4-part series, I have shown that routine colonoscopies are not all they’re cracked up to be. There are several other, non-invasive screening options and many foods and supplements that should be your cornerstone to overall colon health.
While a colonoscopy is a good and important procedure for diagnostic purposes, it may be time to remove its standing as the “gold standard” of colon cancer screening.
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