Experts have gone back and forth on whether a high fiber diet plan will actually reduce the risk of colon cancer. More recent studies have shown that fiber can help prevent colon cancer as part of a healthy diet. There is more to it than just increasing your fiber intake, though. Here's what you should know.
Types of Fiber
In earlier studies, widely publicized in 1999, fiber supplements available over the counter didn't appear to have an affect either way on colon cancer prevention. This went against what the medical community had previously believed. One study actually showed an increase in polyps when bran fiber was consumed as a supplement. However, more recent studies have shown that increasing your intake of natural fibers (those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) can reduce your chances of colon health concerns, including cancer.
Why It Works
While the more recent studies do point to a link between more fiber and decreased odds of colon cancer, the reason isn't completely clear. Researchers theorize that those who consume at least 35 grams of natural fiber a day will produce more stool. As the byproducts move through the intestinal tract, through the colon and out of the body, it's believed this also flushes toxins that would ordinarily sit in the tract for a longer period of time. Another belief is that the stool is allowed to absorb cancer-causing materials and push it through the body faster than those who don't consume enough fiber. Yet another theory suggests that as the fiber breaks down in the intestinal tract, it ferments. This fermentation process may offer protection to the colon. Regardless of the reason, most people will benefit from a high fiber diet plan.
How Much Fiber Do You Get?
The average person who doesn't keep track of their natural fiber consumption only gets around 10 grams a day. The American Gastroenterological Association suggests eating between 30 and 35 grams each day. Most people are getting less than 1/3 of what is suggested. There are plenty of ways to increase your fiber intake without increasing the amount of food you eat. For instance, 1/2 cup of high fiber breakfast cereal made with whole grains can give you as much as 15 grams of fiber. A single apple with the skin can give you 4 grams of fiber. Broccoli, carrots, brown rice, oranges and baked potatoes are healthy ways to increase the amount of fiber you take in.
Preventing Colon Cancer
Increasing your daily fiber isn't the only step you can take to prevent colon cancer or polyps from forming. Eating a balanced diet that is low in fat, especially animal fats, can reduce your risk. Keeping your weight at a healthy level will also go a long way in preventing colon cancers. If you are over 50, be sure you schedule regular colon cancer screenings. Even though the average age to be diagnosed for colon cancer is in the mid-60s, most people will show precursors for cancer, in the form of polyps, by the time they are 50. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk for colon cancer as well.
If you are concerned about the possibility of colon cancer, you should speak with your physician and create a healthy diet and lifestyle to follow to decrease the risks.