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Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Bowel Cancer?

ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES

can exercise reduce your risk of bowel cancer
Bowel Cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects over 40,000 people in the UK each year, with one person diagnosed every fifteen minutes. There are many reasons why cancer develops, but scientists believe being physically active could prevent as many as 15% of all cases of bowel cancer. Bowel Cancer UK’s fundraising campaign Step up for 30 encourages everyone to engage in at least thirty minutes of physical activity every day for a month, to highlight the health benefits of moving. It’s sometimes hard to motivate yourself to exercise, but for a little inspiration read on to discover why physical activity is so important for a healthy bowel.

Bowel Cancer Explained

Bowel cancer develops in the lining of your colon or rectum, the final parts of your digestive system. Your colon is where water and salts are absorbed from your food.

The lining of your digestive system has the job of preventing dangerous and toxic substances from entering your body while allowing through what your body needs, for example vitamins and minerals. This means your digestive lining comes into direct contact with all sorts of substances. If the cells of the lining become damaged and inflamed, rogue cells have an opportunity to form and cancer can develop.

Often the first warning signs of bowel cancer are polyps, growths forming on the lining of the colon. You might also notice blood in your stool or a persistent change in your bowel habits, along with weight loss, fatigue or a painful tummy.

Exercise and Bowel Cancer

Exercise benefits your health in so many ways. As well as reducing the risk of bowel cancer, regular physical activity can improve your prognosis if you’ve already been diagnosed. People who exercised for as little as one hour per week were 50% less likely to develop polyps in their colon.

Scientists are still discovering exactly why exercise has such a protective effect against bowel cancer. However, a number of findings can shed light on its benefits.

  • Studies have shown exercise helps your immune system function better, supporting recovery from chronic diseases and preventing them from recurring.
  • Exercise is known to reduce the amount of time it takes for food to pass through your colon. If food travels slowly through your digestive system, any toxic chemicals present will come into contact with the gut lining for longer, potentially causing damage. Toxins can be eaten alongside food or they can be formed from food. For example, consumption of processed and chargrilled meat has been linked with an increased risk of colon cancer. This is because when charred or burnt meat is eaten, damaging substances are formed from the meat protein.
  • Exercise can improve the sensitivity of your body’s cells to insulin. If your cells don’t respond to insulin, its levels in your blood will rise. Insulin resistance is linked with an increased risk of bowel cancer.
  • Physical activity is known to decrease inflammation. Uncontrolled inflammation is a risk factor for all chronic diseases including cancer.
  • When scientists examined the gut bacteria of people with colon cancer, they discovered the species of bacteria were different to those in healthy people. The types of bacteria flourishing there tended to produce inflammation, damaging the cells lining the bowel. Exercise can help by increasing the number of beneficial species of bacteria and improving microbial diversity.
  • Certain proteins released from muscle cells following exercise help to regulate the process of cell division and ensure cells die when they should. If cells start to divide uncontrollably and don’t die in an orderly fashion, tumours can develop.

 

Exercise can also provide routine and structure to your day. Even when you’re tired, exercise can lessen fatigue.

If you’re suffering, the last thing you might feel like is exercising, but remember all types of activity count, from walking the dog, to swimming, gardening, running or dancing. Find an exercise you enjoy, start slowly and build up gradually.

Although many lifestyle habits contribute to increased risk of colon cancer, such as too little fibre in the diet, eating processed food, smoking, obesity and alcohol, physical activity provides one piece of the healing jigsaw. Another sensible lifestyle habit includes eating plenty of colourful plant-based foods containing DNA-protective antioxidants to nurture the cells of your colon. Plant foods also provide fibre to feed your microbiome and reduce bowel transit time. Managing stress and limiting alcohol will benefit colon health, too.

Functional Medicine to Protect Your Colon

bowel-cancer-and-exercise

Cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors. Your therapist will take a detailed health and symptom history to establish the root causes of your ill health. A simple stool test can discover what’s happening in the community of microbes living in your bowel. Following this assessment, you’ll be provided with practical, personalised dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations to maximise the health of your colon. Contact us today to start your journey to better bowel health.

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Are you concerned about the health of your bowel? Why not book a free 15 minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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