Growing up did anyone ever warn you that there could be “too much of a good thing”? Maybe you’ve warned your own children that there is such a thing as too much ice cream. They might not believe you at first, but if they eat a whole pint of ice cream in one sitting, they’ll certainly find out it’s true! This same warning applies to us in regards to the food we consume. Burgers and sodas, cookies and pastries, steaks and french fries. Too much of these delicious products can actually be very dangerous to our gut health. In fact, a recent study reported in JAMA Oncology reveals that a diet containing too many proinflammatory foods can actually raise your risk for colorectal cancer.

Research Revelations

The results of the research were based on an empirical dietary inflammatory pattern (EDIP) score given to each participant depending on the amount of proinflammatory foods they consumed. 121,050 participants were given a food questionnaire that revealed the details of each person’s diet. The questionnaire was filled out every four years over the course of 26 years. At the end of the study, 2,699 of the participants reported a colorectal cancer diagnosis. The researchers broke down this information in even more detail, separating men and women into groups based on their EDIP score. Those in the group with the highest EDIP—meaning they consumed a diet high in proinflammatory foods—were 32% more likely to develop cancer than the men and women in the group with the lowest EDIP score. 37% of the participants who regularly ate foods that promote gut inflammation were more likely to receive a colon cancer diagnosis and 70% were more likely to receive a diagnosis for rectal cancer. The study confirms health professionals’ understanding that gut inflammation is dangerous to our overall health. The research also validates any suspicion that chronic inflammation—and the foods that create it—put someone at a greater risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Proinflammatory Foods

The foods that are considered proinflammatory—that is, foods that cause inflammation in the digestive system—include processed meat, red meat, sugary drinks, and refined flour. Each of these foods were common threads in the participants with a high EDIP score and those who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Physicians agree that these foods need to be consumed in moderation. The participants diagnosed with cancer over the course of the study regularly consumed proinflammatory foods. A diet only consisting of soda, burgers, and cookies for nearly every meal will cause chronic inflammation and put you at a greater risk for a future cancer diagnosis. This information should encourage all of us to consume a healthy, balanced diet and let proinflammatory foods be the exception, not the norm.

Foods You Need

The participants in the study with low EDIP scores and thus, less susceptible to colorectal cancer, consumed foods like leafy greens, yellow vegetables, coffee, and fruit juice on a regular basis. These foods appeared to reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut. However, it’s important to make sure that you’re not cancelling out the positive effects coffee and fruit juice have on your digestive system by adding in excess amounts of sugar. As you make a concerted effort to adjust your diet, be sure to include spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, carrots, yellow squash, and sweet potatoes on your grocery list. Not only will your body thank you, but your family will thank you for taking care of your digestive health and avoiding an unnecessary cancer diagnosis.

If you have questions or concerns about your gut health, schedule an appointment with us at Cary Gastroenterology Associates. If you think you are at risk for colorectal cancer, or are over the age of 50, don’t hesitate to schedule a colonoscopy. Our team is dedicated to helping you take control of your gut health.