Blog Post: Decreasing your risk of colon cancer

The world health association has classified processed meats as a class one carcinogen. What does that really mean? We are exposed day in and day out to things that damage our DNA and can even start the formation of abnormal cells that can lead to cancer. Sometimes we are aware and sometimes they are hidden deep in the ingredients of foods and products we use. The good news is that our body is on patrol to stamp the fire out in most instances through our immune system and anti-oxidants floating around in our system. However, our bodies are not invincible and when certain factors align or the insults outweighs the anti-oxidant firepower that our body possesses, damage occurs.
I hear all of the time in the office how people only eat a certain “unhealthy” food “occasionally”. Unfortunately, that is the perception but not often the realty. It is more likely a variety of potentially dangerous foods and substances enter their body on a nearly daily basis. What you don’t see can’t hurt you correct? Not so much.
Why do some populations get colon cancer much less? Diet yes but don’t forget the microbes that live in your digestive tract. Not all of the animal protein we ingest from meat, dairy and eggs is completely broken down. Anywhere from 5% to 35% is not absorbed and reaches the colon where it basically rots or scientifically is known as putrefaction. By products of this reaction include hydrogen sulfide and ammonia which are toxic to our DNA leading to the production and growth of cancer cells. These chemical by-products may also increase your risk for viral infections. However, eating a plant based diet can dramatically change the enzyme activity decreasing the production these toxic substances.
Eating cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli can help the liver to detoxify these chemicals. However, people who consume animal protein select for gut microbes capable of reactivating these bad chemicals allowing for reabsorption back into the blood stream where they can cause further DNA damage. By eating a plant based diet the enzyme activity can be reduced by 30% after only weeks and potentially 70% in just months. Higher colorectal cancer risk has been associated with increased intake of animal products and the selection of colonic bacteria capable of producing toxic enzymes.
I associate this with my backyard gardening. Despite planting organic seeds, if the soil contains aphids they will ultimately destroy the plants that I am trying to grow. Eating that steak dinner “once in a while” destroys the pristine environment that we are trying to cultivate with a plant based diet. So eat a colorful plate of vegetables and fruit to grow your gut garden and and stock your arsenal of defensive enzymes that keep you cancer free.

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SJ O’Keefe, et al. Products of the colonic microbiota mediate the effects of diet on colon cancer risk. JNutr. 2009 Nov;139(11):2044-8
WH Ling, O Hanninen. Shifting from a conventional diet to an uncooked vegan diet reversibly alters fecal hydrolytic activities in humans. J Nutritions. 1992 Apr;122(4);924-30.
PE Miller, P Lazarus, SM Lesko, AD Cross, R Sinha, J Laio, J Zhu, G Harper, JE Muscat, TJ Hartman, Meat-related compounds and colorectal cancer risk by anatomical subsite. Nutrition Cancer. 2013; 65(2);202-26.

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