When a well-known celebrity shares what they have been going through, be it depression or an illness of some description, it can often be a good thing for us all to become aware of our own health issues.
This can be a harsh reminder that if you feel something is not right in your body…do something about it. Whether that means cleaning up your diet to help alleviate symptoms, visiting a nutritionist to get professional help, or booking an appointment with your GP to discuss your worries.
Whatever it is, take action. Don’t just sit and do nothing. Dame Julie Walters has just revealed in an interview that she had been diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer 18 months ago, which means the cancer had spread to nearby lymph nodes but not to distant body parts.
She had two primary tumours in her large intestine and was told by her specialist that they had found an abnormality in her intestine, and feared it was cancer.
Turns out that it was, and she has undergone treatment and seems to be out the other side and given the all clear by her team of experts, which is fantastic news.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?
- A persistent change in your bowel habits, including diarrhoea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
- Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
- Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. Numerous studies have indicated that a diet too rich in red meat, especially processed meats, is associated with a heightened risk of colorectal cancer.
Individuals who eat red meat alongside eggs, cheese, and other fatty foods, as well as refined starches, on a frequent basis had an almost twice the risk of developing rectal or colon cancer than those who favoured a plant-based diet. According to research a 50-gram portion of processed meat, such as bacon or salami, eaten every day increases a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.
How can we best prevent bowel cancer?
Eat a healthy high-fibre diet
Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, and reducing saturated fats (in animal products, processed foods and takeaway). There is strong evidence the eating fibre can help prevent bowel cancer by reducing the risk of problems such as constipation and inflammation of the bowel wall.
I would recommend at least four servings of fruits, eight servings of vegetables, and one small portion of wholegrain foods with each meal. Think rainbow colours on your plate with every dish!
Engage in regular physical activity
There is strong evidence that exercise cuts the risk or bowel cancer and polyps, and a sedentary lifestyle increases it. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, five or more days a week.
Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop bowel cancer, and even more likely to die from the disease.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Obesity is linked to bowel cancer, especially in men. And the evidence points to abdominal obesity (or belly fat) as a key factor. Maintaining a healthy body weight, for both men and women, also reduces the risk of a number of other diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Heavy drinking may increase risk of bowel cancer. If you do drink, one standard drink per day for women, two standard drinks per day for men is the government guideline. I think everyone should have Monday to Thursday as a no alcohol zone!
Drinking plenty of fluids
Detox teas are a great addition to anyone’s diet as they help to cleanse the liver and keep the body in a constant state of flow. Good hydration also helps with regular bowel movements, which is essential when it comes to colon health.
Dandelion, nettle, lemon grass, ginger, licorice root are all easy and simple teas that are good for keeping your digestive system happy. Drink at least four cups per day.