Prevention plays a significant role in bowel health. Here are just some of the lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of developing the disease…
Reduce dietary animal fat and protein intake
Increase fibre intake with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
Consume adequate calcium and dairy foods
Maintain physical fitness
Ensure a minimal alcohol intake
Following this advice will certainly help to reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer, and has other positive health benefits as well.
If you are over 50, an annual screening test for bowel cancer is the best way to help prevent bowel cancer. Through early detection and treatment, prevention really is the best cure! Click here for more information on FOB Testing.
Alcohol is widely used and enjoyed by Australians, and when consumed in moderation it can form part of an enjoyable and healthy lifestyle that includes good diet and exercise. On the other hand, drinking in excess can have harmful effects on your health, and is believed to increase your risk your bowel cancer.
'Moderate' drinking is defined as one to two drinks a day if you're a man, or one drink a day if you're a woman. Body size is also an important consideration.
Although it’s still not entirely clear when alcohol's health benefits outweigh its risks, what is known is that anything in excess of moderation is likely to cancel any health benefits alcohol might have on your body.
Alcohol is a drug that can affect mood
Although drinking alcohol can make people feel relaxed and happy, alcohol is actually a depressant. That means it can affect our judgement, reduce inhibitions, and affect coordination. Excess consumption can lead to slurred speech, blurred vision, and loss of balance. Generally, these effects are short-lived because the liver is able to metabolise and eliminate alcohol from the body.
It usually takes the body about an hour to deal with one 'standard drink' of alcohol – i.e. one 285 millilitre glass of full-strength beer; one 100 millilitre glass of wine; or one nip (30 millilitre) of distilled spirits such as whisky, bourbon, or gin.
Who shouldn’t drink alcohol?
Older people metabolise alcohol more slowly and are advised not to drink more than one alcoholic drink a day since they are likely to become intoxicated more quickly and suffer from its effects.
Others with certain health conditions such as liver disease, pancreatic disease, and some cancers are advised to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can interact with many common prescription and over-the-counter medications including antibiotics, anticoagulants, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, and antihistamines. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist about whether it is safe to consume alcohol with your medications.
Those with a family history of alcoholism need to be especially cautious about drinking, since they may be at higher risk of alcoholism.
To drink or not to drink
It is best to consult with your doctor about whether you should drink alcohol. There can be health benefits from moderate drinking but there are very serious health risks when drinking is excessive.
Most health authorities say that you should not feel pressured to drink. Rarely are non-drinkers advised to take up drinking, but most authorities advise that if you do drink and you're healthy, there's no need to stop as long as you drink responsibly and in moderation.
The National Health & Medical Research Council’s “Australian Alcohol Guidelines” describe three levels of risk:
- low risk – a level of drinking at which you have little risk of harm and, for older people, the possibility of health benefits;
- risky – levels at which your risk of harm is significantly increased, beyond any possible benefits; and
- high risk – levels at which your risk of serious harm is substantial.
There can be both short-term and long-term risks to your health from drinking alcohol at risky or high risk levels. For example, short-term risk means the risk of harm that is associated with each separate drinking occasion, such as the risk of injury, interpersonal violence and accidental death, as well as broader health effects such as stress levels, sleep disorders, reduced circulation and sexual dysfunction.
Long-term health risks mean the likelihood of harm that is associated with regular daily and weekly patterns of drinking.
Alcohol: Can there be benefits?
Although drinking in excess can have harmful effects on your health, moderate alcohol consumption may provide some health benefits.
- reduce your risk of developing heart disease, peripheral vascular disease (PAD) that cause problems with blood flow in the arteries, and intermittent claudication or pain in muscles due to PAD,
- reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack,
- reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes,
- lower your risk of gallstones, and
- possibly reduce your risk of diabetes.
People who drink in moderation are different from non-drinkers or heavy drinkers in ways that could influence health and disease. In fact, large population studies have shown that moderate drinkers are more likely than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers to be at a healthy weight, to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and to exercise regularly.
How might alcohol confer these protective effects?
There's a great deal of research that suggests people who drink alcohol are less likely than teetotallers to experience cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
'Atherosclerosis' or hardening of the arteries reduces blood flow, increases the risk for blood clots, and is a major contributing factor to CVD. Inflammation is thought to be a major contributor to atherosclerosis.
Some studies have speculated that drinking alcohol causes increases in HDL (high density lipoprotein or “good”) cholesterol or prevents unnecessary blood clots. Whether alcohol can prevent some of the steps involved hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), however, is not clear.
Health consequences of excessive drinking
Excess alcohol consumption has been linked with long-term health problems such as:
- high blood pressure,
- cancers of the bowel, stomach, throat, and liver,
- injury due to impaired coordination,
- high cholesterol,
- heart failure and sudden death in people with cardiovascular disease,
- liver damage, and
- detrimental social and psychological consequences, including suicide.
Alcohol is also high in calories, so it doesn’t matter what type you consume, a heavy intake could contribute directly to weight gain and obesity – one of the main causes of high blood pressure and heart disease.
The Guidelines also describe different patterns of drinking and how they influence how much you drink. They include:
- when and where you drink;
- the number of times you drink heavily;
- the activities associated with your drinking;
- the personal characteristics of you and your drinking companions;
- the types of drinks you consume; and
- the drinking expectations and behaviours that make up your ‘drinking culture’.
Take home message
In almost all previous studies that have attributed drinking alcohol to good health, “moderation” has been the key word. Quite clearly, heavy drinking is not good for your health. Consult with doctor if you feel that alcohol might be having a not-so-good influence on your behaviour and your health.
Reference: Foundation 49