What is Colon Cancer?
Colon cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy tissue within the large intestine which is a long tube-like organ at the end of the digestive tract. After food passes through the stomach and small intestine, the colon (approximately five feet long in an average adult) is responsible for absorbing water and mineral nutrients from food matter. It then pushes the remaining solid waste into the rectum (about six inches long in an average adult) so that it can be excreted from the body. Colon cancer may be referred to as colorectal cancer, but this term refers to cancer of both the colon and rectum.
Colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Anyone can develop it, but conventional medicine doesn’t begin screening for it until the age of 50 unless there is a family history of the cancer. Colon cancer affects both men and women equally. In 2018, nearly 100,000 individuals were newly diagnosed with colon cancer and about 51,000 died from the disease.
In recent years, studies reveal that gut microbiota plays a role in the development of colon cancer. In fact, the composition of a person’s gut microbiome can determine the emergence of colon cancer. Plus, newer studies are showing that exercise promotes a healthier gut composition in individuals who live an active lifestyle compared to those who live a sedentary lifestyle.
What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?
In the beginning stages, there are usually no symptoms of colon cancer. As a tumor grows, it may bleed or cause intestinal obstruction. Anemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells, may occur in some people which may cause enormous fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. Other warning signs may include the following.
- Dark or black stools
- Bloody stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Change in bowel habits (i.e., severe constipation or diarrhea)
- Bowel movement urge when the bowel is empty
- Lower abdominal cramps
- Decreased appetite
- Unintentional weight loss
What are the Risk Factors for Colon Cancer?
Research has shown a variety of risk factors for colon cancer. This may include the following:
- Genetic markers of colorectal cancer
- Chronic inflammatory bowel disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Cigarette smoking
- Physical inactivity
- Compromised gut microbiome composition
How is Exercise Linked to the Gut Microbiome?
Recent studies show that individuals who exercise have better gut compositions. In fact, people who exercise produce more short-chain fatty acids called butyrate which is linked with lower colon cancer rates. Butyrate is important for several physiological processes and homeostasis, including gut microbiota health. Research also shows that sedentary people who begin exercising three days per week, for at least 30 minutes each day, can improve their butyrate levels and gut microbiome. To learn more about butyric acid, check out Butyric Acid Foods for Gut Microbiota Health.
Exercise has always been touted as being beneficial for the body. Not only does it benefit the heart, muscles, and bones. It is especially important to boost the gut microbiome to ward off one of the deadliest diseases known as colon cancer. For a healthy gut microbiota, be sure to include regular exercise in your daily regimen along with a wholesome, low-carb/sugar diet for optimal health.