'The Chef Doc' Shares Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Gut


Dr. Colin Zhu, also known as “The Chef Doc,” recently shared his tips for maintaining a healthy gut with national nonprofit Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC).

Colin Zhu, DO, DipABLM, Chef also known as “The Chef Doc,” recently shared his tips for maintaining a healthy gut with national nonprofit Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC). Dr. Zhu was featured in the latest issue, Beyond Blue, a magazine designed for CRC patients, survivors, and loved ones. He was also the featured guest for a Fight CRC webinar focused on diet and nutrition.

In what feels like overnight, “gut health” has become a hot topic of conversation. But Fight CRC regularly hears from patients that diet and nutrition are topics rarely discussed during oncology visits. With so much misinformation, Fight CRC called upon “foodies” from across the country to design a credible resource for cancer patients. Dr. Zhu gladly teamed up to join the fight.

Dr. Zhu specializes in lifestyle medicine, which uses evidence-based approaches to prevent, treat, and in some cases reverse chronic lifestyle-related illnesses. Here are six tips to improve our health through changing our dietary habits he recently shared in the Fight CRC webinar.

1. Forget about diet. Think lifestyle.

“I’m not a big fan of the word ‘diet,’” Dr. Zhu said. “It connotates temporary; it connotates short-term and yo-yoing. I use the word ‘lifestyle.’” Instead of thinking of a diet, Dr. Zhu encouraged patients to embrace a lifestyle of healthy eating. This doesn’t require hard and fast rules for each meal, but it offers a nutritional North Star: a philosophy of eating that puts you on the path to health.

2. Think Beyond Calories

If you zoom in on calories when you look at a nutritional label, you’re missing most of the story, Dr. Zhu said. “Foods in their whole nature have all these different components—whether they’re vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, calories, fiber—that are all working synergistically. So the big takeaway is that it’s more than singular components. I don’t want you to just look at nutritional labels and look at calories.”

3. The essential nutrient you’re probably missing: fiber.

Fiber is one of the most essential nutrients that is not talked about,” Dr. Zhu said. “Fiber plays a huge role in promoting or reducing the risk of colorectal cancer, depending on what you’re ingesting.”

Want to learn more about fiber? Check out “What the Fiber?” aFight CRC resource by Connie Rizzo, MEd, RD, LD, Medical Nutrition Therapist at Mercy Hospital, Cancer Resource Center, C.H. “Chub” O’Reilly Cancer Center of Springfield, Mo.

4. Your poop matters.

“We’ve got to talk about poop,” Dr. Zhu said. “You increase your risk for colorectal cancer if your daily average poop measures below half a pound each day.” If you’re curious how to know exactly how much poop you pooped, Dr. Zhu recommends getting on a digital scale before and after. Another rule for poop? You want the time between eating food and pooping that food to be less than 24 to 36 hours. Curious about how to measure your poop transit time? Find something that will announce its presence in your poop—beets, anyone?—to help you time your transit.

5. Embrace your veggies; limit your meat.

“The largest study of diet and health in history…found that meat consumption was associated with increased risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, and dying prematurely in general,” Dr. Zhu said. The National Cancer Institutes developed the study that he references, the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, which followed 545,000 people between 50 and 71 years of age for a decade to study mortality risks associated with food. It found an eight-fold increase in risk for colorectal cancer for people who have a high-meat/low-vegetable lifestyle compared to those who follow a high-vegetable/low-meat lifestyle. Dr. Zhu emphasized that the benefits don’t only come with limiting meat, but by increasing the intake of plants too.

6. Invest the time to increase your nutrition.

Fast foods are convenient, sure, but they’re also not really food. Dr. Zhu called highly processed foods “food-related products” because they’re so far removed from the foods that nature intended for us to eat that they may not even qualify for the label anymore.

“Good food takes more time, cooking takes more time, and good health takes more time. It’s about lifestyle changes, about changing behaviors to last a lifetime,” said Dr. Zhu.

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