Science Says a Healthy Diet Can Heal Colon Cancer
Science says you can heal colon cancer with diet and a healthy lifestyle. The average person today has a 1 in 20 chance of developing colorectal cancer. The good news is that this cancer is among the most treatable of cancers and science shows it can be prevented and healed by eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol, and being physically active.
Big Poops Protect Against Colon Cancer
What does poop size have to do with colon cancer and diet? Well, according to science, the bigger the poop the healthier you may be and the lower your risk for colon cancer is. A study of 23 populations across a dozen countries found that colon cancer risk skyrockets when your daily stool weight drops below a half a pound. People who drop quarter-pounder daily poops have triple the rate of colon cancer. The link between colon cancer and poop weight may have to do with transit time, the number of hours your food spends traveling from “mouth to toilet,” according to Dr. Michael Greger, MD. Dr. Greger writes in his book How Not to Die,
“Food goes through men eating plant-based diets in just a day or two, but this transit time takes as long as five or more days among those eating more conventional diets. Women eating plant-based diets also average a day or two, but the average intestinal transit time in most women eating conventional diets may be four days.”
Which Foods Increase Your Risk of Colon Cancer?
Diets high in meat and low in plants put you at the greatest risk for developing colon cancer. On the flip side, diets containing the greatest amounts of whole plants appear to protect you from today’s fourth leading cancer diagnosis. The four studies below include more than 236,000 participants combined and all point to a strong link between diets high in meat and developing colon cancer.
- A six-year study examined the diets and colon cancer rates of 32,051 Californians who had no previous cancer diagnosis found that those who ate more meat were at greater risk of developing colon cancer.
- A 2018 study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Oncology evaluated dietary habits and cancer rates for 121,050 participants over 26 years and rated their diets for inflammatory potential. Foods linked to greater inflammatory potential included processed meats, red meat, organ meats, and sodas. Men who consumed more of these inflammation-inducing foods had a 44% higher risk of developing colon cancer and women who consumed more of these foods had a 22% greater risk of colon cancer compared to those who consumed the least amounts of these foods.
- Another study that looked at the effects of a pro-inflammatory diet on colon cancer risk found the same link between a diet rich in meat and developing colorectal cancer. The 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients administered food frequency questionnaires to 1,852 patients with colorectal cancer and 3,447 population controls. Their analysis revealed a strong link between a pro-inflammatory diet, including red and processed meat, with risk of developing colon cancer.
- A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a vegetarian diet reduces your risk of developing colorectal cancer. The study followed 77,659 Seventh-Day Adventist men and women, between 2002 and 2007, and analyzed their diets using a validated quantitative food frequency questionnaire. During the 7-year follow up 380 colon cancer cases were documented. The researchers data revealed that a vegetarian diet was associated with 22% reduced risk for developing colon cancer.
The science linking meat consumption to colon cancer risk is well established. Besides the above mentioned studies, a 2015 meta-analysis published in the journal Oncology Review included 10 additional studies that all linked red meat consumption to a greater risk for colon cancer.
A Healthy Diet Can Help Colon Cancer Patients Survive
Increasing fiber consumption is one of the best ways to heal colon cancer with diet. A study published in JAMA Oncology (2017) analyzed the diets and risk of death for 1,575 patients with colon cancer and found that for every 5 grams of fiber added to their daily diet, these patients reduced their risk of death by 25%. Grain consumption appeared to have the greatest benefit.
Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology analyzed dietary quality and cancer survival rates for 2,801 patients before and after colon cancer diagnosis. Those who ate more plant foods, and less animal foods had a higher survival rate. The researchers suggest that switching to a more healthy diet can improve survival rate even among patients with a not-so healthy diet before cancer diagnosis.
In How Not to Die, nutrition expert Dr. Michale Greger, MD, stresses the importance of not only reducing meat and inflammation-inducting foods, but also of increasing the quantity and variety of whole plant foods to beat colon cancer. He writes,
“There may be as much as an eightfold difference in colorectal cancer risk between the two extremes—high-vegetable , low-meat diets and low-vegetable, high-meat diets. So it may not be enough to just cut down on how much meat is in your diet; you also need to eat more plants. The National Cancer Institute’s Polyp Prevention Trial found that those who increased their bean consumption by even less than one-quarter cup a day appeared to cut their odds of precancerous colorectal polyp recurrence by up to 65 percent.”
The amazing ability of beans to prevent and reverse cancer progression has been attributed to their high phytate content. Petri-dish studies have shown that phytates inhibit the growth of almost all types of human cancer—including cancers of the colon, liver, breast, cervic, prostate, skin, and pancreas—all while leaving healthy cells alone. Beans aren’t the only source of cancer-fighting phytates—whole grains, nuts and seeds are also great sources of this natural cancer medicine. As Dr. Greger describes,
“Phytates target cancer cells through a combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-enhancing activities. Besides affecting the cancer cells directly, phytates have been found to boost the activity of natural killer cells, which are white blood cells that form your first line of defense by hunting down and disposing of cancer cells.”
Other Strategies for Beating Colon Cancer
Eating a healthy diet is an important strategy for preventing and healing colon cancer, but other health factors are also important. In an article, “6 Steps to Fight Colorectal Cancer” for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Angie Sadeghi, MD writes that maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding alcohol, and getting proper exercise also will help you fight this deadly disease. Dr. Sadeghi writes,
“One study observed more than 500,000 people and found that the more excess weight people had, the higher their risk for colorectal cancer. Those with a BMI above 40 had a roughly 45 percent greater risk, compared with those with BMIs in the healthy range. Individuals who were mildly or moderately obese appeared to have a 10 percent and 35 percent greater risk, respectively.”
Another study found drinking one or more alcoholic beverages a day increases your risk of colon cancer. Moving your body is also a way to improve your survival odds according to a study of 120,000 women. This study found that those who exercised four or more hours a week were at half the risk of those who were working out for 30 minutes or less per week.
Resources to Help You Heal Colon Cancer With Diet
Dig deeper into the connection between diet and colon cancer on YouTube with this video playlist courtesy of Healing With Plants (watch right here below). And, to help you on your journey to heal colon cancer naturally, check out these 100% whole plants recipes that are fiber-rich, antioxidant rich, nutrient-dense, easy-to-make, and delicious. While a cancer diagnosis is always bad news, the good news is that healing is possible and the extra health benefits that come from adopting a whole-food plant-based diet will help you thrive while you stay on Earth with your loved ones a little while longer. <3
This article was written as a resource for a family friend who is currently battling colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 104,610 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 53,200 Americans will die of colon cancer this year in the United States. Many people have regained their health and healed from colon cancer simply by eating more plants and at Healing With Plants we are spreading the good news! Follow Healing With Plants on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more healing whole foods plant-based recipes and inspiring stories that testify for the amazing healing power of plants.
References: 1. Aykan, Nuri Faruk. Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer. Oncology reviews vol. 9,1 288. 28 Dec. 2015, doi:10.4081/oncol.2015.288 2. Cambell, T. Colin, The China Study. Benbella Books, 2004. 3. Cummings JH, Bingham SA, Heaton KW, Eastwood MA. Fecal weight, colon cancer risk and dietary intake of non starch polysaccharides (dietary fiber). Gastroenterology. 1992; 103(6):1783-9. 4. Greger, Michael, MD, How Not to Die. Flatiron Books, NY, 2015. 5. Guinter MA, McCullough ML, Gapstur SM, Campbell PT. Associations of pre- and postdiagnosis diet quality with risk of mortality among men and women with colorectal cancer. J Clin Oncol. Published online October 19, 2018. 6. Obón-Santacana M, Romaguera D, Gracia-Lavedan E, et al. Dietary inflammatory index, dietary non-enzymatic antioxidant capacity, and colorectal and breast cancer risk (MCC-Spain Study). Nutrients. 2019;11:1406-1426. 7. Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabate J, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers. JAMA Intern Med. Published online on March 9, 2015. 8. Sadeghi, Angie, MD,"6 Steps to Fight Colorectal Cancer." Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. 9. Singh PN, Fraser GE. Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in a low-risk population. Am J Epidemiology. 1998; 148(8):761-74. 10. Song M, Wu K, Meyerhardt JA. Fiber intake and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis. JAMA Oncol. Published online November 2, 2017. 11. Tabung FK, Liu L, Wang W, et al. Association of dietary inflammatory potential with colorectal cancer risk in men and women. JAMA Oncol. Published online January 18, 2018.