Friday, April 26, 2013

Low Carb and Your Colon -- More Than You Ever Wanted To Know

Nobody particularly wants to think about their colon.  I've had to think about mine quite a bit lately, though, because of abdominal pain I'd been having.  I had to have a colonoscopy and an endoscopy -- yeah, at the same time, and yeah, please just take the "bookending" jokes as made and ignored, okay?  I spent the time between referral and procedures having nightmares about colon or stomach cancer.

The procedures themselves weren't much fun either.  'Nuff said on that.

Years ago, when I hadn't been on Atkins very long, I had a physician (we parted ways soon after) who informed me that low carbing would give me colon cancer.  Of course, he was so knowledgeable about Atkins, he was operating under the popular misconception that people on Atkins eat nothing but steak, eggs and bacon.

Ten years later -- yes, ten years on Atkins -- I had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and was informed that my colon is perfectly healthy.  Immaculate, even.  The gastroenterologist was pretty impressed, actually.  My stomach was fine too.  He chalks the pain up to stress and reflux.

The reason I'm imposing this TMI moment on my blog is this:  There is absolutely NO reason that low carbing should endanger your colon health.  Since I began low carbing on March 13, 2003, I've eaten far more vegetables than I ever did in my life.  I eat a lot of vegetables.  I don't eat a lot of fruit, but when I do, it's high fiber fruits like berries.  I also eat shirataki noodles and flaxmeal, both of which are high in various types of healthy fiber.  When I want crackers, I eat GG Scandinavian Crispbreads, which are basically pure bran.  I also drink a lot of water.  Starting Atkins pretty much ended any problem with irregularity that I'd ever had.  On the other hand, my pre-Atkins diet consisted of a lot of highly processed foods, starch, sugar, trans fats, empty calories and very, very little natural fiber -- and basically no vegetables, because I'd been raised with canned vegetables and hated them with a passion.  If I'd kept on as I was, I probably would have been a poster child for a high risk of colon cancer, among all the other health problems I was courting.

I've actually seen very low carbers who advocate totally cutting out fruits and vegetables and so forth.  I'm not one of them.  For a woman who, prior to Atkins, ate nothing green but M&M's and Jello, I've done a 180 -- I love my veg.  I love the crunch, I love the flavor, I love the variety, I love the versatility, I love experimenting with new recipes, and I love the way eating plenty of veg makes me feel.  I'm not qualified, really, to put down anybody else's WOE, but I think there is a line of cutting carbs unreasonably, and in my opinion, reducing even low-carb veggies is probably it.  Popping fiber supplements is no substitute on any front for servings of tasty, well-prepared, vitamin-rich fresh vegetables.  Any low carber drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of veg should never have any problem with irregularity or endangering their colon health.  Even better, eat plenty of cruciferous veggies -- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts -- and berries, because they're powerful cancer fighters!  (Okay, I still loathe brussels sprouts and refuse to eat them, honesty forces me to admit it.  I also still will not touch canned veggies.)

I feel for new low carbers who protest that they hate vegetables.  I really do sympathize, because I was there ten years ago.  I started out with salads, grudgingly.  I branched out into vegetables I'd never tried before and therefore didn't already hate.  I then started experimenting with eating vegetables prepared in ways I'd never had them (like cauliflower fauxtatoes).  I remember discovering palak paneer (highly spiced Indian creamed spinach with cubes of cheese) and shocking myself by eating a copious quantity and wanting more.  It wasn't long at all before I was scarfing down the veg with the best of them.

So eat your veg, people.  If you don't like some vegetables, then try others.  Try weird ones.  Try jicama and chayote and bok choy and daikon and spaghetti squash.  If you don't like steamed broccoli, try broccoli cheese soup or broccoli slaw.  Embark on a grand veggie adventure and fall in love.

And laugh in the face of any doctor who tells you that low carbing will give you colon cancer.