Colorectal issues like cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and hemorrhoids affect millions of Americans, causing symptoms that can be serious and life-threatening. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to improve your digestive health and, ideally, decrease your risk of developing these and other problems involving your bowels.
A top-rated colorectal specialist in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Michael H. Tarlowe, MD, helps patients minimize their risks of inflammatory bowel disease, hemorrhoids, and other colorectal problems. In this post, learn why optimizing your digestive health is important and what steps you can take to reduce your risk of colorectal issues, too.
Colorectal issues and your digestive health
The term colorectal refers primarily to your large intestine (colon) and your rectum, the part of your colon near your anus. When most people think of colorectal health issues, they think of colorectal cancer, and for good reason: Colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, and it’s also one of the top causes of cancer-related deaths.
Although colorectal cancer is certainly a serious problem affecting the lower part of your digestive system, it’s not the only problem you can encounter. Other colorectal health problems include hemorrhoids, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), diverticulitis, anal fissures, and hemorrhoids.
Each of these issues has its own set of symptoms and complications, especially if not diagnosed and managed early. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate your risk of having one of these conditions, you can help reduce that risk by paying attention to your digestive health — particularly what you eat and drink.
Simple ways to improve your digestive health
Maintaining a healthy digestive system relies a lot on making sure you support your gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that lives in your large intestine and aids in breaking down fiber. Some of these organisms produce short-chain fatty acids which help keep your digestive system healthy and free from disease.
Pay attention to fiber
One way to keep those organisms happy is to fill up on fiber-rich foods. Fiber keeps your bowels moving and active, so bowel movements are regular and constipation doesn’t become a problem. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts are all great sources of fiber.
Add fermented foods
Fermented foods contain “good bacteria” called probiotics, so adding these to your diet can improve the balance of gut bacteria. Yogurt with active cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are all good sources of probiotics that can benefit your gut microbiome.
Avoid these foods
While some foods promote digestion, others hamper it. Try to limit deep-fried foods, sugary foods, processed foods, fast food, and products with trans fats, nitrates, artificial sweeteners, or preservatives in them. Not only are these foods unhealthy, but they may increase your risk of many colorectal health problems, including cancer.
Stay hydrated — with the right fluids
Digestion requires lots of fluids to aid in nutrient absorption and prevent constipation. Water is the best beverage to promote digestive health, while alcohol and caffeine should be avoided or at least limited.
Be more active
Daily activity promotes normal bowel health and regular bowel movements, plus it helps keep your weight under control. Try to incorporate 30 minutes of exercise (like brisk walking) into your routine every day to maximize these benefits.
Chill out more
When we’re stressed, our bodies release hormones that are part of the fight-or-flight response. These hormones have a direct impact on gut activity and gut health, increasing inflammation and interfering with healthy digestion. To keep stress under control, try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or other activities that help you relax.
Make digestive health a priority
These tips are simple things you can do to support a healthy digestive system, but it’s also important to have regular checkups and colorectal screenings, including colonoscopy. Screenings are important even if you aren’t having symptoms and even if you don’t have a family history of colorectal cancer or other digestive health issues.
Through regular checkups and screenings, we can spot problems early. To schedule your screening or if you’re having any symptoms, like a change in bowel habits or rectal bleeding, call 954-210-7127 or book an appointment online with Dr. Tarlowe today.