On May 1, the renowned 46-year-old MasterChef Australia judge, Jock Zonfrillo, was found dead in a hotel in Melbourne. Reports have said the esteemed chef had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and was undergoing private treatment. His passing led not only to the temporary suspension of the show’s latest season but also sparked increased public awareness about colorectal cancer prevention and treatment.
Colorectal cancer is a prevalent malignant digestive system tumor, encompassing both colon and rectal cancers. It ranks as the third most common cancer worldwide. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), it is estimated that in 2023, more than 150,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with over 50,000 patients succumbing to the disease. Additionally, the data revealed that in 2020, over 1.88 million new cases were reported globally.
So what factors contribute to an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer? What symptoms should one be on the lookout for? And are there any effective methods for preventing colorectal cancer?
8 Major Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
While it is commonly known that poor dietary habits can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has highlighted on its website that other factors may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. These include age, personal or family history, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and obesity.
Now, let’s explore some factors we can actively control.
1. Dietary Habits
According to World Cancer Research Fund International research, whole-grain and high-fiber foods, dairy products, and calcium supplements can decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer. On the other hand, consuming red meat and processed meat increases the risk.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2022 found that men who consumed the highest amount of processed foods had a 29 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who consumed fewer processed foods.
Smoking is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and an increased incidence of colorectal adenomas.
3. Excessive Alcohol Consumption
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), consuming more than three alcoholic drinks daily increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
4. Lack of Exercise
The World Cancer Research Fund International pointed out that a lack of physical activity or sedentary behaviors increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Exercise can help reduce body fat and potentially lower insulin resistance and inflammation.
The World Cancer Research Fund International has indicated that individuals who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. This is because excess body fat can elevate insulin levels, which in turn promote the growth of colon and rectal cancer cells. Furthermore, it can trigger inflammatory responses in the body, further contributing to the development of colorectal cancer. However, losing weight can reduce the risk of developing the disease.
There are several other factors associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, including:
- Age: The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, and it is more commonly observed in individuals aged 50 and above.
- Personal or family history: Individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer have a relatively higher risk of developing the disease. Certain inherited genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), also increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Additionally, individuals with a history of colorectal adenomas, ovarian cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) are also at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Race: Compared to other races, black individuals have higher incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer.
8 Warning Signs of Colorectal Cancer
Many individuals may be concerned about the possibility of having colorectal cancer. According to the ASCO website, eight warning signs indicate the possibility of colorectal cancer:
- A change in bowel habits
- Diarrhea, constipation, or a feeling of incomplete bowel movement
- Bright red or dark blood in the stool
- Stools that look thinner than normal
- Abdominal discomfort, such as frequent gas pains, cramps, bloating, etc.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant fatigue
- Unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
If you experience any of the above symptoms that persist for several weeks or worsen, it is recommended to seek medical attention or ask to schedule a colonoscopy promptly.
3 Methods for Cleansing the Colon and Relieving Constipation
Dr. Hu Naiwen, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician at the Shanghai Tong Te Tang in Taipei, Taiwan, shared on a television program three methods for cleansing the colon and relieving constipation, thereby protecting the intestinal mucosa.
1. Consume Si Shen Tang to Aid in Colon Cleansing
Si Shen Tang is a frequently prescribed remedy in TCM. It is prepared by simmering a blend of lotus seeds, Chinese yam, Poria cocos, and fox nut barley. It is a popular therapeutic recipe known for its ability to invigorate the spleen and stimulate the appetite.
People often add other ingredients such as Adlay (Job’s tears), pork intestines, pork stomach, pork ribs, and beans to enhance the flavor.
Hu mentioned that it is common for some people to enjoy a small bowl of Si Shen Tang during afternoon tea. This is a healthy habit that promotes the nourishment of the spleen and stomach.
2. Consume Fermented Foods With Probiotics to Eliminate Intestinal Toxins
Hu explained that certain bacteria in the intestines can produce enzymes and aid in fermentation within the body. Therefore, he recommends incorporating various fermented foods into the diet to introduce different bacteria, promoting the diversity of beneficial gut microbiota.
Many natural fermented foods, such as miso, kimchi, yogurt, cheese, fermented bean curd, vinegar, and sake, all contain a diverse range of beneficial bacteria. These foods can help promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and consuming them in moderation can benefit overall health. However, it is advisable not to consume them in excessive amounts.
3. Chew Food Thoroughly and Eat Slowly to Increase Digestive Enzymes
Hu pointed out that chewing plays a crucial role in digestion as saliva in the mouth contains numerous enzymes that facilitate the digestion of substances like carbohydrates.
Hu also advises individuals with poor digestive health to develop the habit of chewing their food thoroughly and eating slowly. As a result, they will notice a decrease in gastrointestinal discomfort over time.
In addition, Hu recommends consuming fresh food whenever possible and advises against using the refrigerator as a storage space where food is kept until it oxidizes.
3 Tips for Nurturing Digestive Health and Enhancing Physical Well-Being
The key to maintaining a healthy digestive system is how we care for our spleen. In TCM, the term “spleen” is not limited to the physical organ as described in modern medicine but instead emphasizes a functional concept. Apart from its immune function, the spleen plays a vital role in the digestive system by converting food and liquids into essential substances and absorbing and transporting them to various organs in the body.
During the Jin-Yuan period, Li Dong-yuan, a renowned medical expert, proposed in his work “Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach” that “internal injury to the spleen and stomach gives rise to numerous diseases.” This concept suggests that the spleen and stomach are the primary sources of energy in the human body, and if they are compromised, it can lead to various ailments.
Hu offers three essential tips for maintaining a healthy spleen and stomach.
1. Consuming Yellow Foods Can Nourish the Spleen and Stomach
Hu emphasized that the health of the spleen, stomach, and intestines is an important indicator of aging. Yellow-colored foods can nourish these organs, regulate metabolism, and promote optimal digestive health.
An ancient medical system, TCM integrates the theory of the Five Elements, namely Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, into its diagnostic and treatment practices. Through careful observation and understanding of the characteristics of the Five Elements, each organ is attributed to a specific element. For example, the heart corresponds to Fire, the lungs to Metal, the liver to Wood, the spleen to Earth, and the kidneys to Water. Additionally, there is a connection between the Five Elements and different colors, known as the “Five Colors and Five Elements.”
The spleen and stomach belong to the element of Earth, and their corresponding color is yellow. Therefore, Hu recommends incorporating more yellow-colored foods into the diet, such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and bananas.
He stated that pumpkin is rich in pectin, which helps protect the stomach and intestinal lining. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, can nourish the spleen and warm the stomach. Their high fiber content also aids intestinal peristalsis and the elimination of toxins from the body.
2. Anxiety and Stress Can Damage the Spleen and Stomach
In addition to the Five Colors and Five Elements theory, TCM recognizes the close relationship between emotions and organs. Different emotions and emotional states can have an impact on specific organs, and overthinking can be harmful to the spleen. Therefore, Hu advises people to avoid multitasking or deep thinking while eating, as it can negatively affect the spleen and lead to poor digestion.
He also shared his personal experience, recalling his frequent nervousness during his student days due to academic stress. Consequently, his digestive health was adversely affected. He further explained that emotional tension, fear, and anxiety can all affect the digestive function of the spleen and stomach, and prolonged exposure to these states can harm the digestive system.
3. Consuming Sweet-Tasting Grains Can Promote Spleen and Stomach Health
Hu highlighted that the natural sweetness in food positively impacts the spleen and stomach. “Natural sweetness” refers not to sugary flavors but to certain foods’ pleasant and refreshing tastes. For example, a subtle sweetness can be detected when rice is chewed for an extended duration. This is natural sweetness, which does not lead to a rapid spike in blood glucose levels.
Such natural sweetness is present in grains. Therefore, incorporating natural grains into one’s diet can strengthen the spleen and stomach, leading to a slim and healthy physique. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with a weak constitution, as consuming sweet-tasting foods can enhance their constitution and overall physical well-being.
Some herbs mentioned in this article may be unfamiliar, but they are generally available in health food and Asian grocery stores. Please consult with a health care professional for a specific treatment plan.
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