The cancer in your sandwich

Is it just me, or are more people getting colon cancer these days?

A few years ago, my cousin had to have part of his colon removed due to cancer. And, just recently, I heard about a neighbor and one of my husband’s co-workers that were diagnosed.

Thankfully, my cousin is doing well, but he did have to have a colostomy bag. A small price to pay, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

In fact, according to the American Cancer Society there will be 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer this year alone. That’s 371 new cases diagnosed per day in the U.S.

But, what’s behind this huge number of cases? And is there anything you and I can do now to avoid facing such a frightening diagnosis one day?

Two very important things

There certainly are things you can do to decrease your risk of colorectal cancer. And it starts with the food you eat.

Before you roll your eyes about the idea of a special diet or a long list of foods to eat or avoid, I’m just going to mention two things that the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has revealed could have the greatest impact on your cancer risk.

One you need to eat much more of — whole grains… and one you should probably go the rest of your life without ever eating again — processed meat. And here’s why…

Their recent report evaluated 99 studies, including data on 29 million people, on how diet, weight and physical activity affect colorectal cancer risk. Over a quarter of a million people included in the data were diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

And, it found that hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats consumed regularly increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

This only confirms the decision the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made in 2015 when they classified processed meat as a definite carcinogen. To reach this conclusion, they reviewed over 800 scientific studies.

One of the most alarming findings from that review was that eating 50 grams of processed meat daily increases your risk of colon cancer by a whopping 18 percent. If you’re eating a hot dog or BLT (with four strips of bacon) every day, this statistic applies to you.

The problem is that processed meat contains an added chemical nitrate called sodium nitrite. Once you put this chemical nitrate in your body, it turns into N-nitroso compounds, which have been linked to cancer. (This is NOT at all similar to nitric oxide, which does nothing but good things for your health.)

Fortunately, in the same report by AICR, we learned that whole grains — at least 3 servings daily (90 grams) — can lessen your colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent.

So, essentially, if you eat more grains and stop eating processed meat, you can potentially lower your risk by a whopping 35 percent.

But what is it about whole grains that lowers the risk?

Keeping your colon cleaned out

According to the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, “For years studies have pointed to the fact that increased fiber intake decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be due to fiber’s tendency to add bulk to your digestive system, shortening the amount of time that wastes travel through the colon. As this waste often contains carcinogens, it is best if it is removed as quickly as possible; so, increased fiber decreases chances for intestinal cells to be affected.”

Not only do most Americans not get enough fiber (it’s recommended to consume 25 grams or more a day), but an awful lot of us are constipated. One-third of seniors are. That means motility issues… feces sitting in your colon, not moving for long periods of time, while bacteria and toxins — some of them potentially carcinogenic — leach into your body.

Good stuff in — and out fast

Now that you know foods like processed meats put the health of your colon in danger, it’s time to cut them out of your diet.

It’s simpler than you might think. There are store brands available that are free of sodium nitrate and other additives, but you might also consider prepping a baked chicken on the weekend to have chicken sandwiches for lunch throughout the week.

Next, you need to speed up your colon’s transit time with fiber. In addition to whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa and cereal, high-fiber vegetables include navy beans, split peas, lentils, black beans, lima bean and kidney beans. But you might actually find it harder to consume the fiber you need to keep things moving in your colon than to replace the processed meats in your diet.

Try to eat a few servings of these fibrous foods daily, but if they make you gassy, you may have to ease into it by slowly adding more fiber foods over time. You can also help things move along with natural “faster transit” herbs that support regular bowel movements, including senna leaf, slippery elm and cascara sagrada

Now, your work shouldn’t stop here. The more recent review by the AICR concluded that by enforcing additional lifestyle changes, most of us could decrease our risks of colon cancer by as much as 47 percent. Get started by:

  • Maintaining a leaner body weight
  • Exercising regularly
  • Limiting alcohol to 2 drinks or fewer daily
  • Not smoking
  • Eating less red meat


Virginia Tims-Lawson

By Virginia Tims-Lawson

Virginia Tims-Lawson has dedicated her life to researching and studying natural health after her mother had a stroke that left her blind in one eye at the age of 47, and her grandmother and two great uncles died from heart attacks. Spurred by her family history, Virginia’s passion to improve her and her family’s health through alternative practices, nutrients and supplements has become a mission she shares through her writing. She is founder of the nutritional supplement company Peak Pure & Natural®.