March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women in the U.S., excluding skin cancers. The following evidence-based strategies are supported by strong scientific research and will help reduce risk of all types of cancer or a cancer recurrence.
1. Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. Specific to cancer, these foods contain powerful compounds that have been shown to enhance immunity, reduce inflammation, and directly kill cancer cells.
2. Eat organic whenever possible. Research demonstrates that organic foods contain fewer harmful pesticides and have more antioxidant activity. When it comes to meat and dairy, also choose organic to avoid harmful antibiotics, hormones, and other toxic chemicals.
3. Replace processed foods with whole foods. Highly processed foods often have fewer nutrients, added fat and/or sugar, and can contain harmful ingredients. Most fast foods are also highly processed, so it's best to avoid fast foods as well.
4. Focus on "good" fats. Increase your consumption of healthy fats such as olive and coconut oil, wild-caught fish, nuts, and avocados, while reducing your consumption of trans fat, which is often listed on food labels as "partially hydrogenated oil."
5. Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The research is very clear that even just one night of 6 hours sleep or less will put the body into an insulin resistance state, which is a cancer risk factor. Lack of sleep is also associated with reduced immunity and obesity, both of which increase cancer risk. In addition, during sleep, your liver is most active, which is critical for effective detoxification.
6. Get moving. Exercise intensity is important, but exercise frequency is even more important. Being sedentary increases cancer risk as much as smoking. The good news is that we can reduce cancer risk by moving just a few minutes every two to three hours throughout the day.
7. Manage stress. It can be extremely challenging to reduce the amount of stress in your life, but you can control how you respond to stress and how you support your body during stressful times. Try to include some type of stress-reduction activity-exercise, reading, journaling, meditation-into your daily routine. Choose what helps you unwind and actually schedule it into your day.
8. Vitamin D. Be sure to get your vitamin D levels checked, because D deficiency is very common. Research continues to demonstrate that vitamin D deficiency not only directly increases risk of some cancers, it can also lead to other risk factors such as chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and reduced immunity.
9. Omega-3s. These essential fatty acids have been shown to help reduce cancer risk and improve recovery from cancer treatment. This is a foundational supplement that nearly everyone should be taking.
10. Synbiotic. This may seem like an odd choice, but research continues to demonstrate the broad range of health benefits that come from taking a combination of probiotics and prebiotics, which is known as a synbiotic.