Beginning at the age of 50, men and women should begin regular screenings to detect any health concerns in the colon such as polyps or cancer. If symptoms are present at an earlier age or there is a specific concern related to personal or family history, your physician may recommend screening before you reach the age of 50. Generally speaking, here is the American Cancer Society’s recommended testing schedule for good colon health:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
- Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years, or
- CT colography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
These screenings are designed to detect early cancer, polyps, and other conditions of the colon. If abnormal results are found further screening may be administered.
Regular bowel movements are one of the most important steps in keeping a clean and healthy bowel. When you do not experience regular bowel movements, fecal matter is allowed to build up in the colon releasing toxins into your body. As these toxins accumulate, the risk for constipation, bloating, gas, IBS and fatigue increases. So don’t wait to go – if you feel a bowel movement coming on head to the restroom.
While exercise is a great way to stimulate the digestive process by increasing circulation, there are also a number of nutrients that can aid in colon health. Work to incorporate these vital nutrients into your diet to maintain a healthy and clean colon:
- Aim to consume 23 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Foods high in fiber content include raspberries, bananas, prunes, peas, broccoli, beans, celery brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Fiber aids the movement of food through the digestive track.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as bread, fish, milk, and cereal. In addition, 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure a day can also help boost your supply of Vitamin D but be sure to apply sunscreen before heading outdoors. Many people choose to take a Vitamin D supplement as it can also help boost energy and prevent osteoporosis.
- Getting your daily allotment of water in can help flush out toxins and keep the digestive process in motion. Aim to drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water each day to cleanse your body. There are a number of apps that can help keep track of your water intake and send you gentle reminders to stay on track throughout the day including Waterlogged and WaterMinder.
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 100,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. While there are unavoidable risk factors, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer and other diseases of the colon, most importantly, screening and early detection.
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