By Gina Cousineau
Preparing to write, I found myself looking up “the art of” meaning, finding the explanation as “to become very adept or proficient in some area, activity, or pursuit.”
This is my jam—the art of saving lives. My hope within every monthly column is having the ability to save the lives of one reader at a time.
With March bringing awareness to topics near and dear to my heart, “National Nutrition” and “Colorectal Cancer Prevention,” I merged my messaging, because these two domains should live together.
National Nutrition Month’s theme is “Fuel the Future,” encouraging everyone to realize the impact a mostly plant-based diet can have not only on our own health, but on the health of our planet.
Incorporating more plants at every meal and snack, purchasing foodstuff with minimal packaging, buying fruit and vegetables that are in season, and preparing more home-cooked meals, are sure-fire ways to make an impact in both realms.
“Mostly plant-based” doesn’t mean no animal products—unless you choose not to consume those items. My philosophy is to encourage animal products (including dairy) as an accoutrement to your vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and the nuts/seeds that should fill your plate, just like we do with our healthy fats (small amounts).
They all can be part of each food encounter; we just need to have less of these items. Keeping this “healthy eating pattern” in mind, I share the facts about colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death for men and women combined, yet it is the most preventable cancer because of colorectal preventative screenings.
Routine screening begins at the age of 45, unless your health care provider suggests earlier screening because of family history, ethnicity, and/or symptoms.
The gold standard for this screening is a colonoscopy, which is preceded by a “colon prep” beginning a few days prior with eating low-fiber foods, moving to clear liquids, and then drinking the liquid that clears the bowels.
A clear bowel assures a perfect view for your provider to remove any polyps or abnormal growths that are found, sending the findings off to pathology, and allowing for valuable information aiding in early diagnosis.
Depending on your results, patients are given recommendations on follow-up, including the timing for the next colonoscopy. Most patients are sedated for the procedure and have no recollection of this outpatient surgery.
I will mention that there are other methods to predict colorectal cancer risk that you can discuss with your provider, but in all cases, if there is concern from their results, a colonoscopy must follow.
Today, we are fully aware that early diagnosis of most cancers can save lives. When we talk about colorectal cancers, a healthy eating pattern is the first and foremost activity we can participate in to reduce our risk of this lifestyle disease.
I would be remiss to not mention other lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity, understanding that these medical conditions are thought to be produced, or exacerbated, by poor food choices and lack of activity.
That being said, understanding the power of advocacy with preventative care screenings and shared decision-making with your health care providers, along with a healthy eating pattern and a regular exercise program, can save your life.
Gina Cousineau, aka Mama G, is your local nutrition expert, chef, and fitness professional, with her BS in Nutrition and MS in functional and integrative nutrition. She uses a food-as-medicine approach for weight loss to health gain, and everything in between. Follow her on social media @mamagslifestyle, and check out her website mamagslifestyle.com to learn more about her programs and freebies offered throughout the year.