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March Madness for Colon Cancer Awareness

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The staff of Troy Gastroenterology, Center for Digestive Health, showing their support for Colon Cancer Awareness Month by dressing in blue on March 3.

Every March, the Colon Cancer Alliance celebrates Colon Cancer Awareness month, to push for more support, research and recognition of the struggle the disease incurs.

We lose more than 50,000 Americans every year to colon cancer, with more and more young people turning up with the disease.

“Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States,” says the CCA.

The good news is, with early screening, detection and even prevention is possible. Most cases of colon cancer appear in folks over the age of 50, which is why the current recommendation for colonoscopy is also age 50. Even then, people with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) are far more likely to develop the cancer than others. For those folks, your doctor might recommend starting your colonoscopy routine even earlier.

How can you help?

Get involved with Colon Cancer Awareness by making a donation. The Salah Foundation matched donations in 2016 to generate more than a quarter million dollars in extra revenue for research.

If you’d rather participate, the CCA hosts the Undy Run/Walk all over the country to raise funds and awareness.

The Never 2 Young campaign is also doing its best to raise awareness about the decreasing age of colon cancer’s victims.

“As the leading national colon cancer patient advocacy organization, we’re dedicated to bringing together the brightest minds to increase screening rates and survivorship,” says N2Y.

This month, show your support for fighters, survivors and family members of folks with colon cancer. Wear blue, join a local event, and donate money. Every little bit counts to get us to a stage of early detection and prevention.

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More common foods to help your tummy

Image result for healthy foodsOne of the most effective ways to improve your digestion is through food. We all know that, but
it can be difficult to make those decisions when life is so busy. But there are so many common foods that you can easily incorporate into your diet that’ll help improve your digestion.

Bustle recently gave us another list less-obvious tummy helpers that you can add to your grocery list. We’ve got some suggestions on how to do just that.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt can help with digestion, and Greek yogurt is an easy add to your normal menu. Stick to plain, since the flavored tends to have more sugar.

  • Add low-sugar granola or cereal with fresh fruit for breakfast.
  • Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream at your next Mexican night. Stir in lemon juice, salt and fresh cilantro to kick up the flavor.
  • Mix in Dijon and yellow mustards and your favorite pepper, then spread it on a sandwich with turkey breast and avocado.

Onions and Garlic

These favorite flavor boosters are also great for your immune system and digestion. If you don’t like the raw flavor – it’s strong! – sauteing these bulbs makes them a sweet addition to just about anything.

  • Slow cook diced onions in a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Put these into meatballs, chili, or a cold bean salad.
  • Add garlic into the sauteed onions at the end until it just cooks through for extra flavor and nutrition.
  • Thinly slice red onions and toss with romaine lettuce, black beans, corn, and your favorite dressing.

Black Beans

These nutritious powerhouses are super versatile. (You can even make brownies out of them!) And they’re easy enough to add into a quick meal.

  • Mix a can of black beans with diced bell pepper, avocado, onion and fresh cilantro. Add a dash of salt, pepper, cumin and red pepper or hot sauce for an easy lunch.
  • Make a pot of no-chop chili (beef or turkey, seasonings and salsa – promise it’s easy), and add black beans at the end.
  • If you make eggs in the morning, add black beans and salsa for a southwestern kick.

Bananas

These ready-made snacks are perfect to add to your daily routine, and if you don’t have time to prepare them, bring them along for your mid-morning munchies.

  • Dice up some bananas to add to your oatmeal, and put a dollop of Greek yogurt on top for extra protein and digestive powers.
  • Make a fruit salad, even in the winter. Thaw your favorite frozen berries, add slices of banana, some cinnamon, nutmeg and fresh lemon juice.
  • Whip up two-ingredient banana pancakes and smear on some peanut or almond butter for a super-satisfying breakfast.

Want more? Check out the other surprisingly common foods that can help with your tummy.

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Blueberries for a blissful belly: Three square meals

These potent little berries help with everything from bone health to collagen production.

These potent little berries help with everything from bone health to collagen production.

Blueberries are quite a powerhouse. They can help lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation, and keep blood sugar even. But what we like most about the little guys is their ability to aid your digestion.

What’s even better is that blueberries freeze perfectly, so you can stock up when they’re in season to keep them on hand all year.

We found three recipes – breakfast, lunch and dinner – that include blueberries and come together quickly.

Breakfast: Banana Blueberry Bread

This recipe works great for a quick and easy slice in the morning. You can bake a loaf on Sunday and have your first meal of the day ready for the whole week.

Ingredients

  • 3 large over-ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup of your choice of soymilk, almond milk, or apple sauce — whichever flavor you prefer
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups blueberries

Our suggestions

  • Go nuts! Add some slivered almonds or chopped walnuts for an extra nutritional boost.
  • If you’re avoiding wheat, you can substitute coconut flour or almond meal.
  • You can leave out the agave nectar. It won’t be as sweet, but it’ll be just as satisfying.

Lunch: Veggie Couscous

We love this recipe for lunch because it’s a one-dish dream that’s both filling and healthy. When you’re done making it, portion it into containers and grab one for lunch each day.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves, chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups frozen wild blueberries
  • 1/2 cup cooked (canned) chickpeas
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 sprigs each fresh coriander and flat leaf parsley, chopped

Our suggestions

  • If you don’t have these exact veggies, use whatever you have. This is versatile enough where you can throw in some tomatoes, bell peppers or cucumber.
  • Add some chicken or crumbled feta for added protein.
  • Sub quinoa or lentils for the couscous for the same satisfaction.

Dinner: Rainbow Salad

This salad is loaded with fresh fruit, herbs and flavor. It comes together in a snap for a light, weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dried Wild Blueberries (soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes and drained)
  • 7 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled, sliced and quartered
  • 1 fresh pomegranate, seeds removed from white pith
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted

Our suggestions

  • Balsamic vinegar has a very distinct flavor, but any vinegar or acid you have will work. Red wine vinegar or lemon juice are great alternates.
  • Buy pomegranate seeds rather than the whole fruit. They’re much easier to pour in.
  • Serve this with a lean piece of grilled chicken or fish for a full, hearty meal.
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How to stay motivated when it’s cold

It's difficult to stay motivated when it's cold.

It’s difficult to stay motivated when it’s cold. But the benefits are worth it.

Exercise can be hard. Then add endless weeks of freezing temps and 5 p.m. sunsets, and it’s even more difficult to stay motivated.

We all know that exercise is important, but it’s even more important in winter months. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, “your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” says Mayo Clinic. Dark days can be more than an early sunset.

To help give you a little motivation, we’ve got some reasons to get moving.

Holiday weight

After a season full of potlucks and egg nog, winter exercise can get you back on track. If you can swing it, buy yourself some new clothes to make the process a tiny bit more exciting.

Happiness

As we mentioned, Seasonal Affective Disorder can take a toll on your well being. But if you get moving, your hormones can take over. “Regular exercise is a powerful way to fight seasonal depression,” says Help Guide. “Especially if you’re able to exercise outside in natural daylight.”

Adventure

Wintertime can offer up an opportunity to try some new activities. Cross country skiing, hiking and sledding can all burn a lot of calories. Even just walking in the snow is more difficult and gets the heart pumping more than on concrete.

And now, a few tips for your winter workout.

Stay hydrated

Your body works hard in the cold so it’s important to stay hydrated when you exercising outside. And it’s easy to forget because you don’t feel as thirsty as in warmer temps.

Dress properly

Layers are important. A lighter cotton layer close to the body can help wick away sweat. A waterproof layer on the outside will prevent your clothes from getting too wet if it starts to rain or snow.

JUST DO IT

Now’s the time!

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How *not* to fail at your New Year’s resolution

Set yourself up for resolution success by approaching your resolution in small steps.

If you break down your resolution into chunks, you’re more likely to be successful.

It’s that time of year – New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. Just as cliche as these can be, so is the moment you fail. It’s almost become an expectation; not if you’ll fail, but when.

So we started thinking, what’s a New Year’s resolution that you could break down into smaller parts? Would it help you reach your goal if you focused on those parts rather than the whole? Then we realized, you can approach just about any resolution that way.

To give you an idea of what we mean, we’re going to look at bettering your digestive health in 2016. But, rather than proclaiming, “I’m getting healthier!” (which can be empowering!) we’ve created smaller, more attainable lampposts to get you to your ultimate goal.

Out with the old

One reason why so many people fail to fulfill their resolution is because they make very broad, sweeping statements that are unrealistic and ambiguous (and thus, easy to to let go of). “Losing weight is not a specific goal,” says Psychology Today. “Losing 10 pounds in 90 days would be.”

So you’ve got a great resolution! How are you going to accomplish it? We’re taking it a step further. Because the “what” isn’t the most important – the “how” is. Sure, you’d like to improve your health or save more money, but how are you going to do that?

You need the right tools

When you make a resolution to do something, what you’re really saying is that you want to change a behavior. A great way to change a behavior is to arm yourself with some tools that can help.

Here are some ideas.

  • If your goal is to drink more water, get a double-walled tumbler to take with you to work. Then, set a reminder for every two to three hours to finish and refill it.
  • If you want to save more money, open an account at a different bank, and set up a direct deposit of $20 (or whatever you can afford) each pay period. Since it won’t be connected to your regular checking, you won’t be able to pull from it as easily.
  • Want to eat more veggies? Invest in some new tupperware and each Sunday, cut up some fresh veggies and portion them out. Take one to work with you each day.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, look into a meal tracking app, an exercise buddy or an online workout plan.
  • Quitting smoking? Work with your doctor to put together a course of action and decide what tools you’ll need. Gum, patches, a journal, therapy, or whatever you decide will work best for you.

Break it down

Back to digestive health, what kinds of behaviors might improve yours?

  • Drinking more water
  • Exercising more
  • Avoiding certain foods
  • Seeking out healthy alternatives
  • Getting screened

If you try to do this all at once, you’re bound to feel overwhelmed. Instead, make one move at a time, let yourself get used to it, then add or alter another behavior. It typically takes three weeks to form a new habit, so give yourself at least that much time between each. Here’s a sample calendar to get your gut in a healthier state.

January 4 – Start drinking an extra 8 oz. of water each day. Get a refillable bottle and figure out how many times you need to fill it up to hit your goal. Take it with you everywhere.

January 25 – Find a seven or ten minute exercise routine you like and do it once a week. Write or type it in your calendar to hold yourself accountable. Try to schedule it for a morning or weekend where you have the fewest chores to take care of.

February 15 – Cut out one bad thing you eat each day. It could be your afternoon bag of chips, your mid-morning doughnut or your after-dinner cookies. Rather than eliminating those calories, have an extra serving of the next or previous meal you eat.

March 7 – Start doing your exercise routine twice a week.

March 28 – Schedule your next screening. March is Colon Cancer Awareness month, so make a push to get all of your appointments in order.

April 18 – Now, instead of having an extra serving of your meal, replace that with apple slices and a tablespoon of peanut butter, half an avocado with salt and smoked paprika or a half cup of roasted chickpeas. Any snack you like that also has some fat, protein and fiber.

May 9 – Now you’re drinking more water, eating less junk and more healthy food, exercising twice a week and your screenings for the year are on your calendar, if not complete.

When you break your goal into small chunks, it’s not just more attainable and less intimidating, but your chances of success go through the roof. And you might even find yourself adding or changing additional behaviors as you move along.

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Healthy Thanksgiving recipes that are good for the gut

If you have tummy troubles, you can try some recipes that aren't as rich.

Thanksgiving is a great time to indulge, but you can still have a healthy day.

Thanksgiving is all about indulging. But if you’re struggling with a digestive issue, that one day can throw your tract completely off course.

We’ve found a few recipes that you can swap out for your richer, less gut-friendly favorites.

No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

This recipes has no sugar, dairy, eggs or flour, which is great for anyone with a sensitive tummy. The crust calls for pitted dates and almond flour, offering tons of fiber and natural sweetness.

These nibbles come together pretty easily, but you’ll need a food processor to get that creamy, cheesecake consistency. Cashews, maple syrup and pumpkin puree round out the “cheese” part of the bites.

Ingredients

Crust:
    • 1 cup pitted dates
    • 1/2 cup almond flour
    • 1 tbsp cacao powder
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp almond milk
Cheesecake layer:
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice

Find the rest of the instructions as well as serving and storage info.

All-Natural Green Bean Casserole

A staple on American dinner tables, green bean casserole is usually mixed with canned soup and fried onions. While that definitely tastes great, preservatives and other undesirable ingredients are also in there.

In this version, you’ll use all natural ingredients, which is not just better for you but easier on your stomach. And it calls for fresh green beans that are roasted, which adds another nutritional bump as well as a deeper flavor that the roasting process offers.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Tips) or 1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese

Read the instructions here.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Greek Yogurt

Yams, the super nutritional, sweet variety of the root vegetable family, are abundant in the fall. Lots of Thanksgiving recipes call for its orange goodness, but not all of them are healthy.

In this recipe, just a few ingredients whip up into a creamy, nutritional flavor fest. Greek yogurt adds another layer of goodness for your gut, and it cuts back on the fat you get with butter. If you’re watching your sugar intake, you can forgo both the brown sugar and the maple syrup, since yams have a lot of natural sweetness on their own.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

See the simple instructions here.

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September to remember: Cancer awareness continues

September continues cancer awareness with childhood and prostate cancers.

The average age of little ones diagnosed with cancer is just six years.

We recently wrote about ovarian, thyroid and blood cancers awareness and their campaigns. But September is barely halfway over and there’s still more to come.

This month also recognizes childhood and prostate cancers to raise awareness.

Childhood cancer

The American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) says that more than 15,000 people under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer each year. Cancer also remains the leading cause of death by disease for kids under 15.

Many of these diseases are treatable if they’re found early, but the ACCO says oftentimes, symptoms are misdiagnosed. They provide a list of common ailments that can be an early sign.

The ACCO is pushing for fundraising for many reasons. “The market for rare pediatric cancer treatments is so small that pharmaceutical companies lack the financial incentives to develop new childhood cancer medications,” the organization reports. Instead focusing on cures and treatments for diseases that affect a larger portion of the population.

The ACCO offers lots of resources for families and fighters dealing with childhood cancer, as well as many ways to get involved as a supporter.

We encourage you to join with the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) in our mission to celebrate the courage of these childhood cancer warriors, to stand together with the families impacted by this number one disease killer of children in our country, and to bring greater awareness to the continuing danger that this disease and current treatment options pose to the health of our children.

Prostate cancer

The Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) tells us that age is the most common factor that influence the risk of prostate cancer. “More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65,” the foundation reports.

Many other factors impact the disease, such as race, family history and geographic location. The symptoms can be easily overlooked, and many men don’t have any at all. Depending on your level of risk, you and your doctor can decide when screenings are right for you.

The PCF offers support and resources for fighters and their families.

For the men and their families fighting prostate cancer globally, PCF is a primary source for new standard-of-care and research information. We connect patients, loved ones, care providers and scientists to critical updates, the latest developments, best practices and news from the treatment pipeline.

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Wise Eyes: Contact Lens Health Week

Proper contact lens care is important for overall eye health.

Healthy eye care should start early with the help of parents.

The Centers for Disease Control has organized Contact Lens Health Week to raise awareness for healthy eye care. This year’s campaign focuses on teenagers, aiming to start healthy habits early.

“As teens head back to school, reinforcing proper contact lens wear and care can promote good vision and healthy eyes throughout the school year and throughout life,” says the CDC.

The theme this year is “Healthy Habits Means Healthy Eyes,” with emphasis on hygiene, care and storage, as well as regular visits to the doctor.

There are three main habits the initiative supports.

1. Wash your hands before you handle your contact lenses.
2. Don’t sleep in your lenses unless your doctor prescribes.
3. Keep your lenses away from water. Take them out before you shower or use a pool or hot tub.

Eye care is important for your overall health. According to the CDC, “People with vision problems are more likely than those with good vision to have diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and stroke, as well as have increased risk for falls, injury and depression.”

Contact Lens Health Week runs from Aug. 24 to 28. The CDC’s site has promotional materials and access to their social media library and web apps.

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Luscious Legumes: Three quick recipes for digestive health

Legumes help digestion and are easy to make.

Legumes aren’t just affordable; they’re healthy and great for digestion.

Legume sounds like a fancy word, but peanuts, beans and peas all fall into that category. And they have some really good features: legumes are affordable, easy to find and great for digestion.

“Legumes, while not often considered a vegetable, are still a healthy source of dietary fiber and can help cleanse your system,” says LiveStrong.  Legumes can also “get waste and food moving steadily through your system.”

We thought we’d give you a couple of quick recipes to get more legumes into your diet.

Peas and Parsley Salad

The beauty of this salad is that it can be served warm or cold and is really versatile. It calls for thawed, frozen peas, tomato, scallion and parsley. Then you dress is up with olive oil and vinegar and top it with salt and pepper.

Our take

  • Since this dish is good year-round, you can add any seasonal veggies or herbs that you have or look good at the store. We recommend bell peppers, zucchini or basil.
  • To make this a complete meal, top it with some cubed chicken breasts or tofu, stir in ground turkey or serve it over top of a piece of fish.

Lentil Stew with Greens and Sausage

One-pot dishes can simplify dinner time and they make really great leftovers. This hearty stew has the digestive bonus of sweet potatoes, upping the nutritional value. Onions, garlic and Italian sausage add lots of flavor and the short list of ingredients makes this recipe a breeze.

Our take

  • The recipe calls for mustard greens or kale, but any earthy green will do. Frozen spinach is an inexpensive way to add some volume to the stew.
  • Garnish the stew with parsley or stir in some Rosemary before you simmer it for extra flavor.

Cucumber and Peanut Salad

Yes, another salad – but it’s not like the other! This recipe from Martha Stewart comes together in a jiffy and since it gets better with time, you can make it ahead. Cucumbers, peanuts and mint get dressed with lime juice and red pepper flakes for a fresh and summery salad.

Our take

  • You could substitute most of these ingredients. Use lemon, olive oil and cilantro, or sub almonds and hot sauce if that’s what you have.
  • This dish is perfect for a party or potluck since you can make it in advance. Just be sure no one has a peanut allergy.
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Cancer research: What’s new and what you can do

May is National Cancer Research Month.

What’s new, breakthroughs and what you can do.

In honor of National Cancer Research Month, we sat down with Dr. John Weber, MD,  who is American Board of Internal Medicine certified in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine. He told us what we need to know about what’s happening in cancer research.

What’s new

“This is an exciting time in colon cancer research,” says Dr. Weber. Researchers “continue to unravel the molecular basis of tumorigenesis,” or the study of tumors. There’s also been a push to figure out who is at a greater risk from “having a hereditary predisposition to colon cancer.” This is so important because if we can pinpoint the dangerous conditions in a family’s history, “we are better able to make a determination of those who may benefit from genetic testing.” All of that leads to more prevention. 

Troy Gastroenterology is also in the mix. The research department is “involved in a multi-center study looking at important biomarkers that may be important in the development and early detection of colon cancer,” says Dr. Weber.

Breakthroughs

“The most significant breakthroughs in colon cancer research involve targeted therapy,” says Dr. Weber. Some thought this type of targeting wouldn’t be possible.

“Our medical oncology colleagues are beginning to define tumors at the molecular level and are using specific targeted precision therapy with increasing efficacy and fewer side effects,” Dr. Weber says. These drugs are allowing the medical community to offer a personalized approach to treatment as they figure out more about genetic mutations of specific tumors. 

What you can do

“The general public will continue to play a crucial role in successful future colon cancer research,” says Dr. Weber. Participation in clinical trials is one huge way that regular folks can help the research process along. “By participating, patients at risk for or with colon cancer  contribute significantly to our knowledge of optimal therapy,” he says.

Dr. Weber tells us that “patients with a previous history of colon cancer can also enroll in an important national colon cancer prevention trial,” that Beaumont Health Systems and the National Cancer Institute are offering.

Our physicians and staff will gladly provide individuals who are interested in available research opportunities with additional information.

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