What’s Going on with Our Colons?
The news was big…and somber…and apparently, shocking for many people, including experts.
A new study, published in the Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed an alarming increase in the rate of deaths from colon and rectal cancers beginning at about the age of 50, but also found that these cancers are being found in younger adults more often…and at more advanced stages than ever before. Of course, the study takes into account that younger adults are not often screened for these diseases, but still…these new findings are alarming.
And apparently, confusing for the experts in the field…
I’m not confused or surprised, to be quite honest. Now before you get your knickers in a twist, I confess that I’m not a medical doctor or a colon specialist. But I am an expert on natural health and wellness and Traditional Chinese Medicine, with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and a keen understanding of how the body works and how we digest foods.
CNN states, “According to the previous study, adults born in 1990 could have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer at the same age had they been born in 1950.
The reason for the rise in both incidence and death rates remains unclear.”
Unclear? For real?
I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer and decided to take an alternative approach…a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle to cure my disease. I was successful, obviously, but as I read this new study, a moment comes back to me. I was discussing my healing with a doctor friend, who was not in favor of my choice. In talking, I asked him what happened in the body when we take aspirin for headaches. He rolled his eyes, took a breath and patiently explained (as though I was 5 years old) that a chemical reaction occurred as we digested the aspirin that blocked the production of the enzyme that produces prostaglandin (a hormone that sends pain signals to the brain). How? Through its anti-inflammatory compounds. So, I asked him why the same could not be said of foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds. Why would it be that aspirin could affect disease but not food?
He rolled his eyes again and ended the conversation. In the meantime, I healed and spent the next decade studying and reading and listening to experts to discover why…and to discover the impact of food on health…and disease.
I discovered that it all begins…and ends with digestion.
In macrobiotics and Chinese medicine, we say that all disease has its beginning in poor digestion of poor quality food. Left unchecked, this cycle of poor digestion of poor quality food creates a downward spiral of our collective health and wellness. The result of decades of poor digestion of poor quality foods is what we are seeing revealed in this new…and quite sad study.
And to think we could prevent a lot of this misery if we chose our food more wisely.
"The big question that we're struggling with is, as a society of doctors, should we screen people earlier? Is it worth it? And part of the big issue is, we don't know why there is this increased incidence of colon cancer in young people," said Dr. James Church, a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
"We were taught in medical school that colon cancer is more common as you get older, and we didn't expect the rates going up," he said. "What we can do right now is pay attention to symptoms and pay attention to risk factors like family history, and by we, I mean largely primary health docs and patients."
What no expert has said (at least that I have read and listened to so far...) is that we need to look at the food we consume in our modern world and its impact on colon and rectal cancer, which would make sense since we have to digest the food we eat and pass waste, right?
Is no one paying attention? In a 2009 study published by the NIH (National Institute of Health), it was revealed that “Processed meat intake may be involved in the etiology of colorectal cancer, a major cause of death in affluent countries. The epidemiologic studies published to date conclude that the excess risk in the highest category of processed meat-eaters is comprised between 20 and 50% compared with non-eaters. In addition, the excess risk per gram of intake is clearly higher than that of fresh red meat. Several hypotheses, which are mainly based on studies carried out on red meat, may explain why processed meat intake is linked to cancer risk. Those that have been tested experimentally are (i) that high-fat diets could promote carcinogenesis via insulin resistance or fecal bile acids; (ii) that cooking meat at a high temperature forms carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; (iii) that carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds are formed in meat and endogenously; (iv) that heme iron in red meat can promote carcinogenesis because it increases cell proliferation in the mucosa, through lipoperoxidation and/or cytotoxicity of fecal water. Nitrosation might increase the toxicity of heme in cured products.”
The study goes on to recommend changing the processing of the meat, rather than not eating the meat. Yikes!
The World Cancer Research Fund tells us, “…there was convincing evidence that consuming red meat, processed meat and alcoholic drinks (men); body fatness, abdominal fatness and adult-attained height increase the risk of colorectal cancer. There was also convincing evidence that physical activity and consuming foods high in dietary fiber protect against this cancer. Garlic and calcium probably protect and consuming alcoholic drinks (women) probably increase the risk of this cancer.”
We’re asleep at the wheel on this one, kids…or at least our experts are.
It’s the food.
Statistics tell us that the average American eats outside the home 4-5 times each week. That’s a lot. Whether it’s at a white tablecloth restaurant, a casual dining joint or take-out fare that you bring home, commercially-prepared foods won’t create the wellness you crave…but they will put your colon at a higher risk of cancer.
Fat, sugar and salt used commercially to make food taste yummier is common knowledge. All of us know that food cooked outside the home will always have more of “The Big Three” than we would ever cook with in our own kitchens. We now that these ingredients, along with preservatives, additives, chemicals and artificial ingredients have an impact on our health, especially our digestion. Take a look at the number of digestive aid products we sell, if you have a doubt.
So how is that we haven’t connected it to our digestive tract? Are we…and many of our medical experts and researchers so removed from the reality of the human body and its function as to not connect food to the health of the colon? Food is what the colon does!
And a good, robust economy? More bowel cancers, according to the study; I call it Henry the VIII syndrome. See, when old Henry was king, he suffered from what were considered diseases of royalty: gout, indigestion, heart disease. Now these diseases are the province of all of us…rich and poor.
Because rich or poor, we have access to poor quality food that tastes great and so…
But wait a minute. Does natural food not taste great? Of course it does. Food as Mother Nature intended has intense flavors, causing our knees to get weak and our eyes roll back in our heads from pleasure. Think fresh, local strawberries, freshly picked tomatoes, lettuce sliced fresh from its stem and eaten immediately.
The problem is that many of us must shop in supermarkets where most of the fresh food is anything but fresh. Hauled from faraway locales to our tables results in natural food that tastes “meh.” And so we turn to highly processed foods with intense flavors (Remember, we can make anything taste like chicken…) and eschew natural ingredients because they’re not stimulating to our taste buds like junk food. And we want to feel pleasure when we eat. We work hard; we’ve earned it; even if the “it” is digestive disruption, feeling bloated and…a high risk of colon cancer.
So what do we do? Without experts telling us, we have to hike up our skirts, act like grown-ups, stop eating junk food and begin to eat real food…most of the time anyway…and then, we’d likely see a new study that reveals stymied experts because the rate of colon cancer will be going down.
One last thing. I just read this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/high-fat-diet-linked-to-lung-cancer-risk_us_5988af3be4b0a66b8bad6fed?section=us_healthy-living
It talks about a new study revealing that increased meat eating has caused an increase in lung cancer risk.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the colon and lung are linked, influencing the health and function of each other.
I’m not saying anything…I’m just…well, you know