Diane May Nutrition Blog

How To Take Care Of Your Colorectal Health

April 15th, 2018

April is colorectal health month.  Most people do not like to think about colorectal health, but it is important to pay attention to both preventative and active measures we can take to keep our colons healthy.  Colon cancer is one of the most curable cancers if caught early, but the third deadliest and most aggressive if not caught in time. 50-75% of colorectal cancer can be prevented through lifestyle and behavior modification. So below are things you can do to reduce your risks of cancer and have a healthy colon:

  • Get a regular Colonoscopy- It is recommended that people get screened starting at age 50.  African Americans have the highest incidence of colon cancer. If you have a family history, you should talk to your physician about screening at an earlier age and consider genetic testing as well. The worst part about a colonoscopy is the prep, but regular screening can save your life.
  • Maintain a healthy weight-There has been a direct correlation between colorectal cancer and weight.  Waist circumference is important here, as weight around the mid section puts you at greater risk.  Men should not have a waist circumference above 40 inches and women should not be above 35 inches.
  • Make sure you make time for exercise-Daily moderate exercise can reduce your risk but some newer studies have shown that a few days a week of vigorous exercise can significantly reduce your risk. Find the time and make exercise a priority in your life.
  • Increase fiber-Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Most Americans consume only 15 grams a day. Increase both soluble-berries, apples, oats, and citrus and insoluble fiber-cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and cauliflower, beans and grains.
  • Reduce red meat and processed meat consumption-I recommend red meat no more than 1 times per week. There has also been a correlation between nitrates and cancer.  If someone has a high genetic risk, I say avoid it. fish, poultry and plant proteins are healthier and better digested in the colon.
  • Increase plant consumption-The more plants you consume, the healthier your colon (and the rest of your body) will be.  Try and eat a variety-remember to consume the rainbow.
  • Limit alcohol consumption-Men should have no more than two drinks a day and women should have no more than one.  If you have  a strong family history of colon cancer or even polyps, I would eliminate alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke…..Everyone knows the reasons why, but it also impacts risk of colon cancer!
  • Slow down when you eat-Give your body a chance to digest nutrients and break food down. Chew 20-30 times with each bite.  Try putting down your silverware between bites, use your non dominant hand or try chopsticks. Also, have a cut off time for eating-2-3 hours before bed to give your body a chance to digest before you start the restorative process of sleep.
  • Reduce added sugars and processed foods-the more whole and natural you eat, the healthier your digestive system will be.
  • Make sure you stay well hydrated, with water! The goal is 6-8, eight ounce glasses daily. It helps to keep your GI system clean.
  • Have pre and probiotics in your daily routine. I always recommend patients take a probiotic such as Culturelle, but there are many probiotics on the market, and depending on your GI/health concerns or issues you might want to try others.  I also recommend prebiotic foods such as garlic, artichokes, whole grains and onions to keep your colon happy.
  • There are supplements and medications that are showing promise in reducing risks, but they also can be contraindicated in some people.  I recommend always talking to your physician or RD before starting a supplemental/pharmaceutical protocol for colon health. 

If you have a change in bowel habits-either constipation or diarrhea, a change in color of your bowel movements or you notice blood or stool that looks like coffee grinds, sudden anemia, pain in your belly, a drop in weight or vomiting, don’t wait or hesitate to consult with your physician. This does not mean you have colon cancer, but you should be evaluated. Early detection is the key.  Polyps can take 10-15 years to develop into colorectal cancer, but if removed, eliminate your risks. Although it can be embarrassing to discuss bowel habits and GI symptoms, it can save your life, so speak up!

Mediterranean Chicken with Orzo Salad

  • Prep   40 m
  • Ready In 40 m

Recipe By: Carolyn Casner-Eating Well


    • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (8 ounces each), halved
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
    • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
    • ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
    • ¾ cup whole-wheat orzo
    • 2 cups thinly sliced baby spinach
    • 1 cup chopped cucumber
    • 1 cup chopped tomato
    • ¼ cup chopped red onion
    • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
    • 2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1 clove garlic, grated
    • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano


  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165°F, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add orzo and cook for 8 minutes. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute more. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Add cucumber, tomato, onion, feta and olives. Stir to combine.
  • Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and the remaining ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir all but 1 tablespoon of the dressing into the orzo mixture. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the chicken and serve with the salad.


Nutrition information

Serving size: ½ chicken breast & 1 cup orzo salad

  • Per serving: 402 calories; 7 g fat(4 g sat); 6 g fiber; 28 g carbohydrates; 32 g protein; 52 mcg folate; 91 mg cholesterol; 3 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 1,744 IU vitamin A; 16 mg vitamin C; 84 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 513 mg sodium; 646 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (35% daily value), Vitamin C (27% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 2
  • Exchanges: 3½ lean protein, 2½ fat, 1½ starch, 1 vegetable