Polyp Protection

By David Blyweiss, Advanced Natural Wellness

How’s your colon? That’s probably not a question you hear very often, but it’s an important one. A healthy colon is key to good overall health. This is where the water and minerals from solid digested food is absorbed. The colon (with the liver) is also the body’s waste processing factory. If it’s not operating properly, toxins can build up and lead to some serious health issues.

The problem is that it’s often hard to tell how your colon is doing until its too late.  The most serious threat is colon cancer. Colon cancer strikes more than 108,000 Americans each year and it stems from the formation of polyps—precancerous growths that are painless and often missed unless you have a colonoscopy. They start off as benign, but can turn into cancerous tumors. Unfortunately, these tumors aren’t typically discovered until it’s too late.

In hopes of preventing future cancerous growths, polyps found during colonoscopies are snipped off and biopsied. Unfortunately though, pre-cancerous polyps often return. But scientists at the National Institute for Cancer Research in Genoa, Italy, conducted a long term study that shows the risk of pre-cancerous polyps returning after they’ve been removed can be greatly reduced. One of the keys? Taking specific antioxidants, especially selenium.

The research team studied volunteers between the ages of 25 and 75 who had already had one or more polyps removed. None of the participants had been diagnosed with any other colon problems and none were taking vitamins or mineral supplements when the study began.

The scientists randomly divided the 411 participants into two groups: Those in one group received an inactive placebo and those in the second group took a daily antioxidant supplement containing 200 mcg. of selenium, 30 mg. of zinc, 6,000 IU of vitamin A, 180 mg. of vitamin C and 30 IU of vitamin E. Even though these amounts weren’t exceptionally high, it turned out that the participants who took the supplements had a 40 percent lower incidence of polyp formation in their colons.

Of course, this isn’t the first study to target selenium’s colon benefits. Another study of more than 1,700 people who had had precancerous polyps removed found that those  with the highest blood levels of selenium were less likely to develop polyps again.

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In another study of nearly 1,900 participants with and without colon cancer findings showed that boosting your intake of omega-3s from cold water fish such as salmon, also helps to prevent colorectal cancer. Each of the participants filled out a food questionnaire detailing the type and amounts of foods they ate over the past 12 months. Those who ate more long-chain omega-3 fatty acids had a significantly lower risk of colon cancer. In fact, the highest intake was linked to more than 35 percent less risk. These findings back up preliminary research showing that omega-3 fatty acids reduce tumor growth, suppress the formation of tiny blood vessels that feed tumors and help prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

How much is enough? I tell my patients to try and eat fatty fish at least twice a week and to take 3,600 mg. of supplemental fish oil every day, taken in divided doses. Not only does this give the maximum benefit to the colon, it also enhances overall health by reducing inflammation. Just boosting your omega-3 levels and making sure you are getting enough selenium can give your colon the protection it needs against potentially deadly polyps. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!


Irons R. Both selenoproteins and low molecular weight selenocompounds reduce colon cancer risk in mice with genetically impaired selenoprotein expression. Journal of Nutrition. 2006;136:1311-1317.

Jacobs ET. Selenium and colorectal adenoma: results of a pooled analysis. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2004;96:1669-1675.

Oh K. Dietary marine n-3 fatty acids in relation to risk of distal colorectal adenoma in women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2005 Apr;14(4):835-41.

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