By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
This month is both Nutrition Month and Colorectal Cancer Month, which made us think that now would be a good time to check in with our digestive health.
The Bermuda National Tumour Registry reported that colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in Bermuda. It typically affects those over the age of 50 years old and lifestyle factors that may increase your risk of getting it include obesity, inactivity, smoking, heavy drinking and certain diets. While studies are still being done to ascertain what specifically are the dietary factors that increase the risk of colorectal cancer, the consensus seems to be that diets that are high in red and processed meats are particularly dangerous.
So, what makes a healthy diet for your digestive system? As we’ve discussed before, a well-balanced diet is the best diet. There are certain things, though, that are particularly valuable for your digestion. The king of these is fibre.
Fibre provides bulk, reducing the risk of constipation and helping to keep you regular. In addition to keeping things moving, fibre can also help lower cholesterol levels and keep blood sugar in check. It is also sometimes credited with keeping you fuller for longer, so you’re less inclined to snack.
You can get more fibre into your diet by eating foods rich in it, such as chickpeas, artichokes, bananas, oats and nuts and seeds, such as almonds and pumpkin seeds. If you are struggling to get all of the fibre you need, though, there are a number of excellent fibre supplements, including Metamucil and Benefiber. These can be dissolved into water and drunk or taken in pill form. You can also find Psyllium husk which can be incorporated into smoothies etc. to increase the fibre content.
Fibre is also important as a vital food source for the friendly bacteria in our guts. These good bacteria help us to combat bad microorganisms in digestive, supporting our immune systems and keeping the intestines healthy.
Foods rich in probiotics, including yoghurts and fermented foods are widely believed to be beneficial to our gut flora by supplementing and enriching them. Examples of healthful foods that you can stock up on in Lindo’s include sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and, of course, live yoghurts.
If you are struggling to balance your diet, then it might be worth considering taking some supplements. In addition to the aforementioned fibre supplements, there are multivitamins such as Phillips’ Colon Health Probiotic Capsules and Culturelle, which can ensure that you’re getting all of the nutrients your gut needs.
A healthy digestive system won’t just reduce your chance of colorectal cancer, it can offer a huge range of benefits from helping to maintain a healthy weight to improving your skin. Ensuring that everything is working properly will also give you peace of mind and a sense of wellness. If you have any questions or concerns about your digestive health, or want to find out more about dietary supplements, reach out to your pharmacist who will be happy to help.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.