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Functional Foods and Colorectal Cancer

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Nutrition can be extremely beneficial in treating disease. Over recent years, researchers have been realizing that the risk of Colorectal Cancer(CRC) has a direct link to the health of the microbiota in your gut. Since microbiota health is directly linked with your nutrient intake, CRC is the carcinoma that is influenced by diet the greatest. Most colon cancers begin with polyps, which are growths on the inner lining of the colon. In some cases, overtime, these polyps can become cancerous. One important food item that is great for digestion is yogurt. The probiotics in yogurt help in digestion due to they are considered a “good” form of bacteria that replaces some of the good bacteria that you lose when taking antibiotics.

Fruits and vegetables that are high in calcium and vitamin D can be beneficial by lowering the chances of cell increase or encourage cell differentiation. Fish is another excellent source in treatment of colon cancer. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in vitamin D, which are good for inflammation. There has been evidence that supports that the omega-3s have antineoplastic properties as well as anti-inflammatory- which means they play a role in preventing tumor formation regardless of location. A recent study performed by BMJ journals wanted to analyze the relationship between increased omega-3 intake and mortality conducted among those who were already diagnosed with CRC. They found that a higher intake of omega-3s was directly associated with a lower mortality rate from CRC among the study’s population, and it may confer additional benefits as well. The fatty acids have already been seen to work against CRC in animals and cultures, but this is the first study performed with humans. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in almost all marine life, with mackerel and salmon containing the highest amounts. Other sources include Flax and Chia seeds, as well as walnuts and soybeans. Two other important nutrients to note include antioxidants and fiber.

Antioxidants are well known to slow the accumulation of free-radicals via preventing oxidation; however, recent studies have shown the over-intake of antioxidants (mostly through supplements) may have a reverse effect by protecting cancer cells from the free radicals themselves. You can find antioxidants in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, and pinto beans. As stated earlier, CRC is greatly influenced by the microbiome in the gut. The largest food source to keep these beneficial bacteria at healthy numbers is dietary fiber. Although there is a multitude of factors that contribute to the gut microbiome, fiber intake is one of the biggest factors that shapes a person’s gut health. According to a joint-study done in Plos One, a greater amount of dietary fiber intake leads to the growth and enhancement of gram-positive bacteria including the Clostridia class. Clostridia are an extremely important class of fiber fermenters whereas the major products are potentially anti-carcinogenic fatty acids. This article found significantly lower abundances of Clostridia in CRC patients compared to those in this study.

Some of the best sources of fiber include beans, whole grains, brown rice, popcorn, nuts, berries, and vegetables. Unfortunately, however, since many of those diagnosed with CRC have compromised immune systems, increasing fiber intake would most likely only worsen the condition. Feeding the bacteria in the patient’s gut may lead to the immune system being overwhelmed in that area, causing infections or inflammation which may increase the proliferation of the CRC cells. It is important to consult with your primary health care provider or medical professional before taking action upon any of the information listed above.

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