digestive system cancer

Diet Matters

The human digestive system is a complex and integral part of the body that plays a crucial role in overall health. Unfortunately, certain dietary choices can have a detrimental impact on gut health and potentially increase the risk of digestive system cancers. In this article, we will explore the six worst foods for gut health, the best foods for gut health and discuss what ulcerative colitis (UC) is, what causes it and its signs and symptoms. We will also look at treatment options for UC, including Zeposia which is used to treat moderate to severe ulcerative colitis.

6 Worst Foods for Gut Health

1. Processed Foods

These foods are often high in additives, preservatives and chemical ingredients that can disrupt the delicate balance of the digestive system. Also, processed meats like bacon and sausages are classified as group one carcinogens by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means they are known to cause cancer.

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2. Refined Sugar

Consuming high amounts of refined sugars can lead to obesity, which is a risk factor for several forms of cancer, including esophageal and colorectal cancers. Sugar also feeds harmful bacteria and yeast in the gut, potentially leading to an overgrowth that can damage the intestinal wall.

3. Fried Foods

Fried and charred foods contain high levels of acrylamide and other potentially carcinogenic compounds. These foods can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, which over time could contribute to the development of cancer cells.

4. High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

HFCS, found in many sweetened beverages and snacks, can contribute to obesity and inflammation. It has been linked specifically to an increased risk of colon cancer.

5. Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for several types of digestive system cancers, including liver, esophageal, colorectal and stomach cancers. Alcohol can damage the cells lining the gut and liver, leading to inflammation and scarring that may predispose individuals to cancer.

6. Artificial Sweeteners

While often marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar, some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and increase the permeability of the intestinal wall, which could potentially increase the risk of cancer.

Best Foods for Gut Health

1. Fiber

Foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, help to keep the digestive system running smoothly and may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Fiber helps facilitate healthy bowel movements and remove waste from the body.

2. Fermented Foods

Foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi contain probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria important for gut health. They can help to restore the natural balance of the gut microbiota, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting against cancer.

3. Polyphenols

Found in abundance in foods such as berries, nuts, onions, green tea and dark chocolate, polyphenols have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may protect against cancer.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Foods rich in omega-3s, such as salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts, have been linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer. They can reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to protect the lining of the digestive tract.

5. Water

Adequate hydration is essential for digestive health. Water helps to dissolve fats and soluble fiber, allowing these substances to pass through the intestines more easily.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it’s believed to be the result of an overactive immune system that mistakenly targets the intestinal lining, leading to inflammation and ulcers.

Signs of Ulcerative Colitis

Common signs of UC may include:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Increased bowel movements.
  • Urgent bowel movements.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Tenesmus – the sensation of not being able to empty the colon.
  • Blood in stool.
  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.

Treatment Methods for Ulcerative Colitis

Here are some common therapy options for ulcerative colitis.

  • Aminosalicylates: These medications help to control inflammation and are often used for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.
  • Corticosteroids: For more severe cases, steroids can be prescribed to reduce inflammation quickly, but they are not suitable for long-term use due to side effects.
  • Immunosuppressants: These drugs suppress the immune system's response that causes inflammation.
  • Biologics: A newer class of drugs, biologics work by targeting specific proteins in the immune system to reduce inflammation.
  • Zeposia: Zeposia (ozanimod) is used to treat moderate to severe UC. It functions by hindering the entry of immune cells (lymphocytes) into the intestines. This is achieved by capturing the immune cells in the lymph nodes, halting their ability to induce damaging inflammation in the colon.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, when medication is not sufficient, surgery to remove part of the colon may be necessary.

Food for Thought

Maintaining a healthy digestive system involves a balanced diet rich in beneficial nutrients and avoiding harmful foods that can increase the risk of cancer. If symptoms of a condition like ulcerative colitis arise, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment. By making informed choices about our diets and lifestyles, we can support our gut health and overall well-being.

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