According to a study, millennials have twice the risk of colorectal cancer compared to those born in 1950. In the US, diagnoses of people under 55 years of age increased from 11% in 1995 to 20%, or 1 in 5 individuals. It is the fourth most common cancer among men in India as per the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN) data 2020. There is a consistent rise in the incidence of colon cancer across all Indian cancer registries, ranging from 20% to 124% per year.
What are the Causes?
Faulty dietary habits including increased adoption of Western diet with higher sugar content and packaged & frozen foods, sedentary lifestyle leading to obesity, all contribute. Let's deep dive, are these really the core issues.
Refer the figure above. Reveals some stark findings.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, US, Europe top the chart and South Asia & Africa are way below the world average. Interestingly, in the US:
1. African Americans are seen to have a 10-40% higher incidence rate, with the contrasting data that African natives staying in Africa have lower incidences (the factor of access to diagnostic aids does play a role, but may not influence so heavily)
2. Asian Americans have a higher incidence than whites for several gastrointestinal cancers.
Coupled with these statistics, I've seen a vast majority of immigrants from India to especially Australia with a severely disturbed metabolism leading to metabolic disorders springing up with thyroid issues, obesity, GYN issues in the first decade of their relocation.
This primarily is due to the change in ecosystem leading to altered homeostasis because of gut dysbiosis.
Citing a few studies that confirm this
A classic example of diet-induced gut dysbiosis was recorded in the early 70’s, where individuals from southern India who migrated to the United Kingdom in the 1970s frequently suffered from severe vitamin B12 deficiency (Britt et al., 1970, 1971; Stewart et al., 1970; Roberts et al., 1973; Britt and Harper, 1976). The subjects who presented with normal Vitamin B12 levels were found to consume a diet similar to that of South India and a later investigation reported that the synthesis of vitamin B12 precursors was modulated by microbial flora in the small intestine (Mathan et al., 1974; Albert et al., 1980).
"A recent study looked at rural Africans who exhibit significantly lower risk of CRC compared to African Americans. Rural Africans were shown to have increased Prevotella spp. and butyrate as compared to African Americans who had higher Bacteroides spp. These differences may be a consequence of rural Africans having higher resistant starch intake and African Americans having higher meat and fat intakes."
While the scientific community has published the harmful effects of the western diet on the gut and overall health, the commoners in India and most of the other developing countries have yet to realize that the herd mentality of crazily adopting the burgers, pizzas, mayonnaise, sausages, tacos, animal-fat foods is a killer in disguise.
Biofeedback mechanisms in our body which aid in the self healing process via apoptosis are key in avoiding cancerous processes. These biofeedback processes are heavily influenced by the gut microbiota.
Hence in order that the microbiota in the gut remain in normal health and quantities to not allow pathogenic bacteria to grow and produce harmful toxins to disrupt biofeedback mechanisms and as well to allow the naturally-occurring apoptosis (engineered cell death) to arrest any cancerous cell growth, it is important that we understand the gut microbial is utmost important.
Preventing Colorectal Cancer
Tips to prevent CRC:
Avoid animal-fat rich western diet, foods with additives & preservatives that are harmful to the gut.
Eat local produce, i.e., grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds that are grown in the region you have been living. Importantly, if you have migrated to a new place with a different environmental conditions, you ought to take care of you gut health by having foods that you have been taking all your life and gradually adding the foods available in the new region, enabling your gut microbiota to sustain and transform. Take care that you do not change your eating habit aggressively at the new place.
While you calculate calories while designing your diet, including food that boosts biofeedback mechanisms aids in preventing cancer. This can be done by having the Shad-Ras Diet, which means having a diet with six flavors, viz., sweet, acidic, salty, bitter, savory, and astringent, eating in order such that you start with a minimal quantity of sweet, then having the rest flavors in moderation.
Maintain a regular input of prebiotics and probiotics.
Respect your body clock, i.e., the circadian rhythm of your body. Follow Dinačaryā & Rutučaryā as elicited in Ayurved to ensure the circadian rhythm of your body physiology and gut microbiota is taken care to ensure a healthy gut.
Avoid taking jobs that demand a rotational shift.
Avoid antibiotics for self-limiting infections.
Exercise, in moderation
Practice Yoga and listen to your favorite music during your me-time.
Dr. Cyril Kadam
Founder & Chief Health Mentor @ Genesis Positive Health
Practices Pančakarma and works on gut microbiota correction using Ayurvedic Detox.