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Gut-friendly Nutrition: Eating Right for GI Health

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: More and more studies show good nutrition may help reduce the risk of developing many forms of cancer.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: It was never originally thought that diet had such a significant part of cancer, but it actually has a huge role in all cancers and dramatically in gastrointestinal cancers.

ANNOUNCER: So what is the appropriate nutrition to make your diet a gut-friendly one? Step one. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: They strengthen our immune system and they keep our body going. They also have fiber and fiber's a great way to keep our gut healthy and moving properly, and acting properly. They also have antioxidants. Certain vitamins and minerals are strong antioxidants. When you hear people say, you know, eat all the bright colors or eat a rainbow, it means all the bright colors in fruits and vegetables: the greens, the oranges, the purples, the reds. All these colors are created by chemicals and these chemicals are antioxidants and the antioxidants help fight off disease and strengthen our immune system.

ANNOUNCER: It's also necessary to increase your intake of whole grains and fiber.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: Fiber's been a little controversial as of late with all the studies, "Yes, it's good for colon cancer," "No, it's not." But, in general, fiber has so many good factors to it, as far as regulating our bowel function, preventing constipation, keeping us fuller longer, which helps fight obesity.

There are two kinds of fiber, insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is soluble in water and that's what it means. So it actually collects water as it's moving through the GI tract or through the gastrointestinal tract. And what that does is help bulk up the stool, so it gives form to your stool.

Insoluble fiber is not soluble in water, so it helps speeds up transit time in the gut to make things move faster. And, in doing that, it cleans out our system and takes any carcinogens that might be in our system and gets rid of them more quickly, so they don't sit in our gut and in our colon for long periods of time.

Fiber also helps bulk up your diet, so it keeps you fuller longer, so it helps fight obesity. Obesity is another significant risk factor for colon cancer as well, so fiber is beneficial in doing that.

ANNOUNCER: Low-fat dairy products like skim or low-fat milk, non-fat yogurt and cheeses are also important.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: Dairy products have certain items in them like calcium, which has been shown to help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Also has vitamin D, same thing, also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer as well. Also has probiotics and probiotics are healthy gut bacteria that help regulate the gut.

ANNOUNCER: And water is the one thing no healthy body can do without.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: Water is really important throughout every system, every process in our body. When I say "water," I typically mean any non-caffeinated fluid source and also a non-sugar fluid source. At least eight glasses of water a day and that would be a minimum.

ANNOUNCER: There are also some things to limit. First: red meat.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: It's high in saturated fat, and there have been numerous studies that have shown that high intakes of red meat are directly related to colon cancer risk.

There are many other really good protein sources other than red meat. Any poultry source is fine, so chicken and turkey, eggs, fish and also non-meat sources such as tofu, tempeh, miso, any soy-based products. There's also grains, like quinoa and buckwheat that are very high in protein as well.

ANNOUNCER: And finding the right balance of fats.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: The fats that are harmful to us are saturated fat and trans fatty acids. Saturated fat is found in animal products: butter, lard, and, basically, anything that's solid at room temperature is a saturated fat; it's a good rule of thumb.

Trans fatty acids are the fatty acids found in margarine, in vegetable shortening and most of our processed products like cookies, cakes, crackers. Most of the processed foods tends to have trans fatty acids in them and they act like saturated fats in the system as well and are both promoters, both for obesity, which is a cancer risk, and for cancer itself.

Unsaturated fatty acids, the monounsaturated fatty acids and the polyunsaturated fatty acids are the healthy ones. Those are the ones that our body really needs to function naturally.

Unsaturated fat is anything typically liquid at room temperature, so your oils. Olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil. The only exceptions to this rule would be palm and coconut oil and those two are saturated fats.

The other ones are essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acid is found mostly in fatty fish like salmon or mackerel. It's also found in certain plant sources like flaxseed and walnuts. It's a natural anti-inflammatory in our system. And, most recently, it's been studied for its effect on colon cancer.

ANNOUNCER: It's best to get nutrients from food, but certain gut-friendly vitamins and minerals can be found in multivitamins.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: Especially women don't take in enough calcium from food. So I usually recommend a supplement. For women, for ages 19 to 50, the amount is 500 milligrams twice a day and, over 50, 600 milligrams twice a day, for supplementing with calcium.

Most calcium supplements also have vitamin D, because vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, which is why we think it helps. But you'll find most calcium supplements have at least 200 IUs of vitamin D within them.

ANNOUNCER: Eating a balanced diet is hard work. You have to be mindful of what you put on our plates at all times.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: The biggest mistake people make about their diet when considering colon cancer health or GI health is that they don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. We eat a lot of meat, we eat a lot of processed food, we eat a lot of fast food, but we really limit our intake of fruits and vegetables.

ANNOUNCER: But turning your diet into a gut-healthy one is possible. Small steps can go a long way.

LYNN GOLDSTEIN, MS, RD: Everybody should be on a gut-friendly diet. I usually tell people get a fruit or a vegetable with every meal and snack. Changing overall your bread products and your pasta products to whole grain versions of those products. Starting your day with a fiber-rich cereal is an easy way to start getting fiber into your diet. Making sure that you're getting enough water, so carrying a water bottle with you or some kind of fluid with you throughout the day. And starting to get some exercise, some movement, just any kind of movement or physical activity, just starting to get yourself more active.

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