Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms
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Do you know what foods to avoid to slash your risk of bowel cancer? Most commonly affecting Brits over the age of 50, almost 50,000 Brits are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. Here are the foods to remove from your diet now to slash your risk of bowel cancer – as well as the warning signs to look out for.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 42,000 Brits being diagnosed with the condition every year.
Slightly more common in men than in women, Bowel Cancer UK estimates one in 15 men, and one in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime.
Bowel cancer is most common in people aged over 50, so age can be considered a risk factor for the disease.
However, your lifestyle, and particularly diet, can increase your risk of developing bowel cancer.
So, what foods should you cut down on to slash your risk of bowel cancer?
Bowel Cancer UK say there is “strong evidence” red meat and processed meat increase your risk of bowel cancer.
Red meat is the name given to these meats:
- Lamb and mutton
Processed meat refers to meat that’s been preserved, for example by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This list includes:
- Deli meats like salami
- Canned meat such as corned beef
- Sliced luncheon meats, including those made from chicken and turkey
Bowel Cancer UK recommends eating no more than 500 grams of cooked red meat per week.
For context, spaghetti bolognese contains roughly 140 grams of cooked minced beef.
A medium pork chop would be around 90 grams, and a medium steak around 145 grams.
Red meat is high in protein, as well as other nutrients, so it can be part of a balanced diet but should definitely be enjoyed in moderation.
You can get protein from other sources such as beans, tofu and eggs.
Processed meat tends to be high in sodium (salt) as well as fat. It’s a good idea to eat less processed meat to cut your risk of other health conditions as well as bowel cancer.
Enjoy processed meats as a treat every now and then, but you shouldn’t be eating them every day.
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How to make bowel-healthy food swaps
When it comes to eating foods that are good for your bowel, fibre is the key ingredient.
Fibre helps keep everything moving through your digestive system, making your bowel movements more regular and keeping your poo healthy.
Eating foods high in fibre can also help you stay fuller for longer, so can help you to maintain a healthy weight.
You can even swap red meat in some of your favourite recipes for high-protein beans and legumes.
Try using chick peas or kidney beans instead of minced beef in chilli, or use green lentils as a delicious, and cheap, alternative to beef in a spaghetti bolognese.
Make sure you get your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day too, and drink around two litres of water every day.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
According to the NHS there are three main symptoms of bowel cancer, these are:
- Often seeing blood in your poo
- Changes to your poo such as needing to go more often, and the consistency of your poo being unusually runny.
- Constant tummy pain, bloating and discomfort – most often after eating, and often associated with unexplained weight loss.
These symptoms don’t always mean bowel cancer, but if you notice any of them you must speak to your GP.
An early diagnosis could save your life, so don’t be embarrassed to speak to your doctor about any concerns you have.
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