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Colon Health - Healthy Diet Means Healthy Colon

You can help keep your colon healthy, which will keep you healthy, by eating the right diet.

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Your colon does much more than just expel digested food. In fact, it is a major contributor to your overall health. By adopting the proper diet and providing your colon the support it needs, you can help keep it healthy and ready to perform its tasks efficiently.

You've probably heard that eating fiber helps, and there's a lot of evidence for that. Like any topic in nutrition and health, there are always ongoing studies and they don't always agree. But some things are known with high confidence.

Among them is that indigestible fiber provides the material to help keep that waste material (called chyme) moving well through the colon. It also provides bulk that is not too moist and not too dry, to create feces that are easy to eliminate. That helps prevent constipation or diarrhea.

Fiber's role in reducing colorectal cancers, one of the top two or three most common types in the U.S. and Canada according to the CDC, is less clearcut. There are many studies that suggest, however, that waste that remains in the large intestine too long increases the odds of such cancers. Fiber helps keep things moving and helps regulate the moisture content of stools. The whole process normally takes 10-12 hours, producing two to three bowel movements per day. Infrequent bowel movements are associated with several health problems.

How do you get that fiber? The American Cancer Society recommends five servings per day of fruits and vegetables, like bananas and green beans, and many types of nuts and whole grains, like oats or flax seed. The total should be between 20-35 grams per day. You can also take a fiber supplement.

Folic acid or folates, part of the B-vitamin complex, are another helpful component of a diet that helps keep your colon functioning well. Studies have linked inadequate amounts to colon cancer. For those individuals who don't get enough in fortified foods, supplements are a good source of additional folic acid. About 400 micrograms (0.4mg) is right for most individuals.

Milk, along with other foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D, are still another helpful component of a colon-healthy diet. Sources of those also include fortified cereals and orange juice, as well as dark green vegetables, almonds, or yogurt. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium. Among other useful roles, calcium lowers the chance of creating colon polyps, common precursors to colorectal cancers.

Many studies suggest that reducing the percentage of fat in the diet can help reduce your chance of colon cancer and contribute to overall colon health. Fat is more 'calorie dense' and obesity has been linked with many types of cancer. But, there is fat and then there is fat and some fat, both the right amount and type, is vital for proper nerve function and other biological processes. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are a big boon to a proper diet. Saturated fats, on the other hand, increase your odds of a variety of health problems, such as diabetes.

Last, but far from least, don't forget that water! The colon (along with other organs) will extract the amount you should retain, but it uses some. Optimal amounts range from 6-10 8oz glasses per day (or the equivalent), depending on your body weight. Remember, caffeinated beverages don't count toward the total because they act as a diuretic.

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Page Updated 1:52 PM Monday 9/22/2014