Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers have affected many lives, whether it’s through a friend, a family member, or our own fears about our genetic predisposition. These cancers, including esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers, stand as some of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. While genetics can play a role in cancer development, the choices we make and early intervention can significantly reduce the risk of these potentially deadly diseases. In this blog, we’ll delve into strategies for limiting GI cancers, focusing on esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancer, offering actionable recommendations that hit close to home. By taking a personal and proactive approach to our GI health, we can decrease our risk of these life-altering conditions.
Esophageal cancer has a familiar ring for many of us, as it often develops due to long-term exposure to stomach acid, particularly in cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). For those of us who are worried about our own susceptibility, here are some recommendations to help limit the risk of esophageal cancer:
● Limit GERD Triggers: It’s personal – avoid alcohol, spicy or minty foods, chocolate, coffee, and fatty/fried foods, as they can exacerbate GERD symptoms.
● Avoid Overeating: We know the feeling – overfilling your stomach can cause stomach contents to back up into the esophagus, increasing acid exposure.
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● Consider Digestive Enzymes: If you’ve ever questioned your digestive system, this one hits close to home. If you suspect underproduction of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, consult with a healthcare professional to see if digestive enzymes could be beneficial.
● Manage Stress: High-stress levels can lead to excess stomach acid production, which can irritate the stomach lining and promote abnormal cell growth in the esophagus.
We’ve all worried about heartburn from time to time, and if you’re concerned, know that proactive management of GERD and stress, as well as dietary adjustments, can reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. If you experience symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn, seek medical advice and consider endoscopy to evaluate your esophageal health.
Stomach cancer hits close to home as well, as it’s influenced by various factors, including infections, dietary choices, and lifestyle habits. To limit the development of gastric cancer, consider these recommendations:
● Eliminate Tobacco Use: For those of us who’ve seen the effects of smoking, we know it’s personal – smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of various cancers, including stomach cancer.
● Screen for H. Pylori and Pernicious Anemia: It’s a test that could save lives. Consult with your healthcare provider for tests to detect H. Pylori infections and screen for pernicious anemia, which can hit close to home by increasing gastric cancer risk.
● Dietary Adjustments: Avoid charred meat, as it contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and is a known carcinogen. Reduce the consumption of smoked, pickled, and salted foods while increasing your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate antioxidants in your diet.
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● Maintain a Healthy Weight: Our own health journeys are personal. Obesity is associated with an elevated risk of gastric cancer. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight can help mitigate this risk.
By making lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking, modifying your diet, and addressing H. Pylori infections, you can lower your risk of developing gastric cancer. Additionally, screening for pernicious anemia and maintaining a healthy weight can further reduce your risk.
Colorectal cancer has likely crossed your mind, whether you’re concerned about family history or your own health. Here are my top recommendations to help limit colorectal cancer risk:
● Screen for Lynch Syndrome: It’s personal if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Consider genetic testing for Lynch Syndrome, which can guide early and more frequent screenings for those at risk.
● Promote Regular Bowel Movements: We’ve all experienced it – proper bowel movements are crucial for detoxification. If constipation is a personal struggle, consider fiber supplementation to facilitate regular and healthy bowel movements.
● Manage Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: For those with IBD, it’s a personal battle. Adhere to prescribed medications to prevent flare-ups and reduce inflammation in the colon and rectum.
Colorectal cancer risk is on the rise and a concern for many, whether due to family history or inflammatory bowel diseases. By taking steps like genetic screening, promoting regular bowel movements, and managing IBD, you can proactively reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
We all know someone affected by GI cancers or worry about our own susceptibility. By adopting a proactive approach to our GI health and making these recommendations part of our personal health journey, we can take control and work toward a cancer-free future. Lifestyle adjustments, screenings, and early interventions are not just statistics – they are our best defense against malignancy.