Bowel cancer affects one in three Australians each year, and this dietitian says preventing it largely comes down to what you put into your body.
Bowel cancer or colorectal cancer has the second highest mortality rate of any cancer in Australia, with one in three Australians affected each and every year. If caught early, close to 90 per cent of people diagnosed will be alive five years later. Unfortunately though, this is a cancer not often caught until its later, more serious stages.
Overall, close to 60 per cent of people diagnosed with bowel cancer will not survive – which makes preventative measures, such as a healthy diet, all the more important.
Julie Meek, a Perth dietitian, has been a Bowel Cancer Australia ambassador since her father was diagnosed eight years ago. Meek champions the importance of diet in minimising the risk of developing bowel cancer.
“Eating particular foods can be protective and others can actually increase our risk of bowel cancer. A healthy digestive system is vital to good bowel health,” she tells myBody+Soul.
“Foods that are high in fibre such as fruit and vegetables, as well as high fibre cereals, porridge, natural muesli, brown and wild rice, and fibre enriched pasta are all going to limit your risk”.
Meek also recommends a solid weekly intake of legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and nuts, as well as reduced fat milk, yoghurt and garlic.
Meek promotes the importance of diet because it is the one thing we can control. In adjusting our diet we are able to reduce our abdominal and overall body fat which has a direct correlation to bowel and colon cancers. Smoking and low levels of physical activity also increase a person’s chance of being diagnosed.
While there are a number of ways to boost your fibre intake, Meek suggests that there are also foods that should be avoided where possible.
“An excess intake of alcohol, red meat and processed meat such as ham, salami and bacon, are going to contribute your colon cancer risk,” Meek says.
Here are four bowel-friendly recipes from Julie Meek that can be easily incorporated into your current diet.
- 2/3 cup rolled or quick oats
- ½ cup natural yoghurt
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 small apple, grated
- 1 tbs natural yoghurt to serve
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
- To serve, spoon into bowl and top with a dollop of natural yoghurt and fresh fruit of choice, you may like to choose: ½ cup berries (fresh or frozen) or 1 small sliced banana or 1 passionfruit. These are all equivalent to one serving of fruit but there’s no reason you can’t combine different fruits to make up one serving and add variety to your breakfast each day.
Chocolate Bliss Balls
- 9 Medjool dates
- 2 tbs cacao powder
- 2 tbs desiccated coconut
- 160g raw hazelnuts
- 2 tbs chia seeds
- Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blitz for a few minutes until nicely combined.
- Make tablespoons of the mixture into balls, refrigerate and enjoy!
Four Bean Salad
- 400g can Four beans
- ½ bunch coriander, chopped
- 40g roasted almonds, chopped
- ½ red onion, chopped
- 1 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs honey
- 1 tbs olive oil
- Drain and rinse the four beans. Add beans, coriander and chopped almonds and red onion to a bowl and combine.
- Emulsify the lemon juice, honey and olive oil and drizzle over salad.
Easy Peasey Green Soup
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 onion
- 1 litre vegetable stock – buy salt reduced
- 500g frozen green peas, defrosted
- 2 tbs chopped mint
- 2 tbs chopped parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add garlic and chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is soft. Take care not to brown the onion.
- Add stock, peas, mint and parsley. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer for 8 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little before pureeing in a food processor or blender.
- Season with pepper.
- Ladle the soup into four warmed bowls and garnish with mint.
Knowing the key symptoms of bowel cancer can help find it early and mean treatment is more likely to be successful. These symptoms can be caused by something much less serious than cancer. You should see your GP if you have any of them. Know what is normal for you so you can notice any changes.