Promoting a Healthy Colon

By: Lindsey Josephson, Naturopathic Physician, Tri-Cities Cancer Center

In a culture that has become obsessed with cleanliness and sanitation, it is strange to think that bacteria might actually be beneficial. Though it is certainly counter to popular thinking, bacteria in our intestines are critical for your health.

Having the right bacteria present exerts numerous health advantages such as maintaining gut integrity, regulating bowel movements, improving lactose tolerance, improving immunity, maintaining healthful weight and even preventing overgrowth of harmful bacteria and yeast.

Thus, a healthy colon likes probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are food or supplements that contain beneficial strains of bacteria and yeast. Prebiotics are foods that support the growth or activity of probiotics.

Studies have shown that probiotics possess colon cancer protective effects by altering the growth process of tumor cells. When prebiotics are consumed from carbohydrates, such as bran cereal or oatmeal, they begin to ferment in the colon. This fermentation produces short chain fatty acids which may also have anti-cancer properties.

A healthy colon is important for preventing colon cancer as well as reducing colon cancer recurrence. Here are some strategies to incorporate more probiotics in your diet:
1. Yogurt, the most popular probiotic containing food in the US.
2. Fresh sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso are very rich in probiotics.
3. Kosher or refrigerated pickles or pickled vegetables (not those found on a shelf).
4. Kombucha, a probiotic drink that is growing in popularity and available at the local grocery. Careful! It contains varying
amounts of alcohol and is not appropriate for children.

Prebiotics are much easier to get in the diet as they are found in all plants. The best way to get plenty of these cancer fighting compounds is to eat a diet that consists mostly of a wide variety of whole plant foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, seeds and whole grains.