March is the start of spring and represents starting fresh. We often associate the
season with spring cleaning and new beginnings. Taking this concept to the body,
the first thing I think of is the digestive system and its role in cleansing our bodies.
When our digestive system is functioning properly, all of our systems benefit. The
digestive system as a whole is responsible for digesting our food, absorbing our
nutrients and excreting the waste. The colon specifically removes excess liquid from
this waste and stores it before it’s ready to be evacuated.
It can be easy to write off the colon as an organ with a dirty job and not worth much
consideration, but its role is vital in terms of an overall health. If we are to truly start
fresh in our bodies, it behooves us to make sure our colon is healthy and functioning
properly. Just think about the drain in your shower. All is good when the drain is
freer and clear, but eventually residue and debris begin to build up, and before long
you are taking showers standing in water up to your ankles.
The colon plays a similar role in the body. We’d all much rather just go about our
business and enjoy the perks of a healthy colon, but the only way to do that
consistently is to sometimes lift up the drain cover and clean the pipes.
March is the perfect time to do this, as it is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. As a
nurse, I like to take this opportunity to direct people’s attention to their digestive
system and their colon health. It’s especially important for anyone reading this
magazine because it’s actually more prevalent in African Americans. Despite being
the 2nd leading cause of death among cancers for both men and women, colon cancer
is very treatable. The only problem is that only applies to colon cancer in its early
stages. Once the disease advances, it becomes much more difficult to treat. But many
people miss out on finding it in its early stages because symptoms only start to show
up as the disease advances. And those symptoms are often confused with other
bowel issues such as IBS or colitis.
The good news is that it’s not difficult to catch colon cancer early or before it even
has a chance to become cancer. If you are getting regular colonoscopies once you hit
the age of 50, you are in a great position to prevent cancer from taking hold. If you
have certain risk factors, you might consider starting as early as 45. Most cancers
will start as simple polyps that can be cleared out during a colonoscopy before they
have a chance to develop into anything more malevolent.
Scientists currently don’t have any answers as to what causes colon cancer, but
lifestyle habits may play a role. With that in mind, to stay on the safe side, it’s not a
bad idea to clean up your diet as well, avoiding too many processed foods, excessive
alcohol and tobacco.
Ultimately, take this month to consider your digestive system. It handles a lot for us
day in and day out, and we appreciate it when everything is functioning properly.
Take this cleansing moment we’re in right now, and give some attention to the
organ that works so hard. Taking the time to do that now when there is no sign of
anything wrong could be the biggest gift you give yourself this spring.