June is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and according to Bowel Cancer Australia it is the second most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia affecting both men and women almost equally and is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. They also state that “it is estimated that changes in diet and physical activity could reduce the incidence of bowel cancer by up to 75%” – so what are you waiting for?

Chinese Medicine sees your life force, your energy, as being produced primarily from the food you eat and the air you breathe. So the quality of your energy, your health, is dependent on the quality of what you consume. Additionally, it is only when your digestive system is functioning efficiently that you can transform the nutrients within the food you eat into energy, blood and body fluids to nourish you.

You might remember from high school biology that your digestive tract is made up of your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine. When you eat you need to chew your food well so that it mixes with your saliva to begin the digestion of carbohydrates. The ‘food’ then passes down your oesophagus to your stomach where it is mixed with stomach acids to begin the digestion of proteins and kill off any organisms that are not beneficial. Your small intestine then continues the breakdown of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) so you can absorb all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) into your body. Your large intestine (bowel) is the last port of call and while it’s role is technically to absorb water and dispose of waste so much more goes on down there.

Your large intestine contains billions of bacteria which help you breakdown any undigested food and absorb the last of the nutrients, produce certain vitamins (like B and K) as well as contributing to your body’s natural defences – did you know that the majority of your immune system is located in your gut? All that wonderful bacteria also helps repress the growth of harmful microorganisms by competing for nutrition and attachment sites and regulating the acidity levels.

When your digestive system is not functioning at an optimal level or if the food you eat does not suit your current condition or is of poor quality then you won’t be absorbing the nutrients you require to produce the energy you need to make the most of your day. You will also be upsetting the balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract. All of this will then contribute to the many diseases and conditions that can develop in your intestines including bowel cancer.

As I mentioned in Your Health in the Year of the Monkey this year’s fire energy can stir up inflammation and make you more prone to dryness. You may find yourself more easily constipated or find that your Irritable Bowel or Inflammatory Bowel diseases may play up more than usual.

So if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of maintaining a healthy bowel there are a number of things you can do.

  1. Diet and Exercise – remember that changes in diet and physical activity could reduce the incidence of bowel cancer by up to 75%
    • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and whole grains and a little fruit – seasonal and local is best
    • Nourish your bowel bacteria with probiotics and fermented foods
    • Hydrate well by drinking good quality spring water or filtered water
    • Reduce your red meat, processed food, alcohol and sugar consumption
      • For more information about making dietary changes watch one of my webinars
    • Quit smoking – in Chinese Medicine the bowels and the lungs have a close association
    • Daily exercise has a beneficial effect on gut health so go for a walk, go dancing, do some yoga or Tai Chi, do something new and different and fun that gets you breathing deeply and smiling
  2. Chinese Medicine treatments address both the physiological aspect (digestive function) and the psychological aspect (stress and emotions) of all conditions including digestion.
    • Acupuncture regulates digestive function through its effect on the nervous system. For example bloating is reduced by acupuncture’s ability to increase acid secretion and improve the motility of the gastro-intestinal tract. This means food is broken down more effectively and moved through the digestive tract more efficiently.
    • Herbal medicine is used to strengthen and regulate digestive function, reduce inflammation and sedate the mind. A study conducted in Australia showed Chinese herbal formulas for the treatment of IBS improved symptoms by 59%.

This month is a great opportunity for you to turn your attention to your bowel health, check in on your diet and look at increasing your physical activity. If you need some help or advice see your local health professional.

Your feed back and questions are welcome so please leave a comment below.  

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Tania Grasseschi (Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs and Wholefood counselling). Tania is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (AHPRA registered) in Kingsford and is a Contract Academic at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Sydney campus.