Bowel Cancer is one of the three most common cancers in developed countries. Once considered a disease of the elderly, nowadays, men in their mid-40s are being increasingly diagnosed with bowel cancer. This indicates that perhaps there are factors other than genetics at play. It has been long known that smoking, obesity and high alcohol consumption can increase the risk of bowel cancer. But what about our diet?
This is the second of the Bowel Cancer & Diet mini-blog series. This time we are looking at fibre and fibre-rich diets.
Fibre & Plant-Rich Diets Dietary fibre is a natural component of all plant foods. Although we cannot digest fibre fully, our gut bacteria can. In exchange, they turn it into other beneficial components that our bodies can use. In addition, fibre also improves bowel motility by speeding up the transit of undigested matter and bulks up the size of the stool.
In 2021, a large study analysing data from nearly 160 thousand people found that those eating the most fibre-rich food have a nearly 30% reduced risk of bowel cancer compared to those eating the least. This effect has been repeatedly demonstrated since the earliest studies in the 90s.
Because fibre is only found in plants, it would theoretically make sense that people following a 100% plant-based diet have the most benefit. Thankfully we have such data, and not just on a small scale.
In 2022, a large study including over 3 million people found a 24% risk reduction in plant-based eaters compared to their omnivorous counterparts. In addition, plant-based eaters also had a significantly lower incidence of gastric, liver, pancreatic cancer and oesophageal cancers.
Does this mean we need to be eating a strictly plant-based diet to exert maximum benefit? Perhaps not.
These robust findings clearly demonstrate the benefits of high-fibre diets. And while not everyone may enjoy eating large amounts of vegetables, legumes and whole grains, finding easy and effortless ways to incorporate more fibre in your daily meals can go a long way.
Did you know?
"A proportion of the fibre we eat gets converted by our gut bacteria into molecular components called Short-Chain Fatty Acids. These act as natural medicines, positively affecting our gut, heart, brain and metabolism.
Easy ways to eat more fibre
A soup is a great way to "hide" lot of veggies in. A simple Vegetable or Leek & Potato soup can be pleasing for the whole body.
Adding 150 grams of frozen mixed veggies in your cooking is an easy way to instantly boost your fibre intake
Snacking on fruits like berries, bananas or dried apples rather than crackers and biscuits is another way to go
Swapping white toast for its higher-fibre whole-wheat alternative or trying some brown whole-wheat fusilli instead of white spaghetti can also help especially for people who have an ongoing blood sugar management problems
With time, you may notice that simple modifications such as these not only improve your bowel regularity but also lift your energy and induce less brain fog and sleepiness after meals. This will be an indication that you are heading the right way.
Let’s stay in touch If you found the information in this mini-blog useful, consider sharing it with someone who might benefit from it. You may also consider following me on social media for more future, similar content.
And if you are struggling with health problems or are keen to take active measure to reduce the odds of future health issues, you might benefit from my nutritional therapy programme. See the first link below.
Nucci D, Fatigoni C, Salvatori T, et al. Association between Dietary Fibre Intake and Colorectal Adenoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 15;18(8):4168.
Zhao Y, Zhan J, Wang Y, et al. The Relationship Between Plant-Based Diet and Risk of Digestive System Cancers: A Meta-Analysis Based on 3,059,009 Subjects. Front Public Health. 2022 Jun 3;10:892153.
Zhong Y, Zhu Y, Li Q, et al. Association between Mediterranean diet adherence and colorectal cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Jun 1;111(6):1214-1225.
NIH, Why Is Colorectal Cancer Rising Rapidly among Young Adults? (2020) Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2020/colorectal-cancer-rising-younger-adults