The Kitchen Agent

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018


I can’t complete this article without doing a very important plug for preventative screening. I know it can be a little uncomfortable, but a regular colon cancer screening like a colonoscopy can quite literally save your life. Contact the Boyle County Extension Office at (859) 236-4484, or the Boyle County Health Department at 236-2053 for information on screenings and healthy lifestyle choices.

Good bacteria

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How having a healthy gut plays a part in cancer prevention 

March is colorectal cancer awareness month. It’s a good time for us raise awareness about the third-most common cancer in the United States and talk about possible ways to prevent it. Recently, scientists have begun to show that a healthy gut may play an important role in colorectal cancer prevention.

Our digestive tract is home to around 100 trillion microbes from more than 100 species of bacteria. Many of these species are important for healthy human function. It is important to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract for optimal health.

An unhealthy diet and weight gain can create more bad bacteria in your gut, which could potentially lead to health problems. Although, scientists do not completely understand the relationship between gut bacteria and colon cancer, they are finding that certain types of bacteria are more common in the digestive tracts of individuals with colon cancer compared to healthy adults.

It’s also important for you to know if colon cancer runs in your family, as that increases your risk for getting the disease. While you can’t control your genetics, you can control several behaviors that may increase your risk for colorectal cancer. These include: physical inactivity; overweight and obesity; diet low in fruits and vegetables; a low-fiber, high fat diet; heavy alcohol consumption (three or more drinks per day); and tobacco use

Research has shown obesity is a serious risk factor for colorectal cancer. It has also shown that physical activity can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Strive to increase your physical activity if you are sedentary. 

Some recent studies also suggest that diets rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables may also help prevent the disease. Both diet and physical activity can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. 

Probiotics and prebotics

Now, back to bacteria.

One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria is through your diet. Diets high in red meat and fat, while low in fiber, can increase your bad bacteria and your risk of colon cancer. Diets that are high in fiber, fruits and vegetables maintain more stable, healthy gut bacteria. These foods are also higher in vitamins and minerals that fight inflammation and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Consuming prebiotic and probiotic foods may also aid in colon cancer prevention. Probiotics provide a natural supply of healthy bacteria when consumed and include foods such as yogurt, aged cheeses, kimchi and sauerkraut.

Yogurt is one of my personal favorites when it comes to making a healthier food choice. Eating yogurt regularly helps me feel better overall because it makes my gut very happy. Prebiotics provide nutrients to help healthy gut bacteria thrive, and they include whole grains, bananas, onions and asparagus. 

Can’t get enough of those whole grains. Brown rice, whole grain bread, and whole wheat pasta are just a few examples of simple swaps you can make to increase your fiber and prebiotic intake.

Choosing to eat foods that are good for your gut may have a promising role in colon cancer prevention as well as other health benefits like a stronger immune system. Also, drink plenty of water. Fiber isn’t the only thing your body needs to keep things movin’.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at