According to recent research by Bupa, Brits are heading towards a potential bowel cancer epidemic, as 60% admit they’re not eating their five-a-day.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK. Around five in 100 people will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.

Changing diet habits is the first step towards reducing the risk of bowel cancer, however a large proportion of Brits are ignoring this advice and continue to avoid their recommended daily fruit and vegetable allowance.

During the study, researchers discovered that 60% of British people shun their five-a-day, men being the worst offenders with a mere 37% admitting to eating the optimum amount of fruit and veg each day.

As a nation, only 45% of Brits consider themselves ‘healthy’ when describing their eating habits.

“It is worrying to think that over half of the population are not eating enough portions of fruit and vegetables each day,” Bupa's medical director, Dr Katrina Herren, told HuffPost Lifestyle.

“What we put in our body can have a direct impact on our health; a healthy diet, which includes lots of fruit and vegetables, cannot only help with preventing bowel cancer but can also help you to maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and cancer.”

Health experts recommend that in order to beat bowel cancer, people have to improve their eating habits by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. The foods you should be eating are:

  • Five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • Foods that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain bread, cereals and wholemeal pasta
  • Non-processed foods, such as meat, red meat and foods high in saturated fat

Five easy ways to get your five-a-day...

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  • Alternative Ways To Get Your Five-A-Day

  • Make A Lettuce Wrap

    "For fajitas and other food traditionally served in a wrap, try wrapping in whole lettuce leaves. This increases your vegetable intake as well as being helpful for people trying to reduce their wheat or gluten intake and a great, easy way to get one of your five-a-day." Daisy Connor, Nutritional Therapist at the <a href="http://www.nna-uk.com/" target="_hplink">Naturopathic Nutrition Association.</a>

  • Try 'Carrot Cake' Porridge

    "Add grated carrot or an apple, ground almonds and cinnamon to plain porridge." <em>Yvonne Bishop-Weston, Nutritionist for</em> <a href="http://www.foodsforlife.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Foods for Life</a>.

  • Add A Vegetable Twist To Your Mash

    "Use mashed mixed root veg as an alternative to mashed potato, such as carrot or squash and swede, or mashed cauliflower. "Potatoes don't count as one of your five-a-day, so this way, you can still enjoy mash but with a five-a-day boost." <strong>Clare Casson</strong>, <a href="http://www.clarecasson.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach</a>.

  • Choose Tofu

    "Swap beefburgers for tofu burgers - these are made with the soy pulp left over after soy milk has been extracted from ground, soaked soybeans, which contain all the fibre from the beans." <strong>Clare Casson</strong>, <a href="http://www.clarecasson.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach</a>

  • Add Veggies To Your Cakes

    "We all know about carrot cake, but other vegetables work just as well. Beetroot makes a delicious addition to chocolate brownies. "Halve the amount of sugar recommended in a recipe, to make them super-healthy." <strong>Clare Casson</strong>, <a href="http://www.clarecasson.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach</a>.

  • Frozen Fruit Treats

    "For a fast treat that packs in plenty of fruit, try instant frozen yoghurt: Blend equal quantities of frozen berries and natural or soy yoghurt. "Sweeten to taste with honey or xylitol and serve immediately. Raw fruit that feels like a treat!" <strong>Daisy Connor</strong>, Nutritional Therapist for <a href="http://www.nna-uk.com/" target="_hplink">Naturopathic Nutrition Association.</a>

  • Learn To Love Lentils

    "Blend cooked courgettes and lentils into plain tomato pasta sauce to give extra vegetables plus protein. "For a creamier sauce, try blending pine nuts and adding to the sauce for creaminess with added vegetable protein and healthy fat." <strong>Daisy Connor</strong>, Nutritional Therapist for <a href="http://www.nna-uk.com/" target="_hplink">Naturopathic Nutrition Association</a>.

  • Make Your Own ChickPea Pasta

    "Pasta doesn't count towards your five-a-day, but what if you make your own? "Use chickpea (gram) flour to make home made pasta. Chickpeas are a great five-a-day source." <strong>Clare Casson</strong>, <a href="http://www.clarecasson.co.uk/" target="_hplink">Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach</a>.

  • Blend A Veg-Packed Pasta Sauce

    "Blend cooked courgettes and lentils into plain tomato pasta sauce to add extra vegetables plus protein. "For a creamier sauce, try blending pine nuts and adding to the sauce for creaminess with added vegetable protein and healthy fat." <strong>Daisy Connor</strong>, Nutritional Therapist at the <a href="http://www.nna-uk.com/" target="_hplink">Naturopathic Nutrition Association</a>.

  • Create Your Own Veggie Smoothie

    "Include a handful or so of cooked, bland-tasting cooked beans like butter beans in a fruit smoothie to add thickness and protein as well as an additional one of your 5-a-day," says <em>Clare Casson, Nutritionist and Wellbeing Coach.</em> "Try a bespoke veggie smoothie with avocado and celery! Because it includes avocado, which many people aren't keen on but find it surprisingly tasty when mixed with fruit," says <em>Daisy Connor, Nutritional Therapist. </em>

Sadly, Brits aren’t only letting their health down in the dietary stakes – they also feel ‘too shy’ to visit their doctor if they suspect something is wrong with their bowel.

According to recent research by Bowel Cancer UK, over a quarter of Britons are ‘put off’ going to their GP with a potentially serious symptom because they’re worried about the diagnosis and feel ‘embarrassed’.

Despite around 80% of people being aware of the common symptoms of bowel cancer, 23% admit to being too scared to book the appointment and 22% feel too self-conscious discussing their symptoms with a doctor.

Deborah Alsina from the charity said in a statement: "It's good news that people are now more likely to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer.

“However it's deeply worrying if they are still unwilling to act upon them. I can't stress enough how important it is for people to go to their doctor if they have concerns, it really might save their life."

What is bowel cancer?

According to Bowel Cancer UK: “Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal or colon cancer. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowel - two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in the rectum. Most bowel cancers develop from polyps which are usually non-cancerous and, once detected, can be removed easily if caught early enough.

Spotting the signs early is crucial, as a higher number of people beat bowel cancer the earlier it is detected. However, this type of cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose, as symptoms can be vague and can be another underlying health problem.

The most common symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A change in bowel habit lasting for 3 weeks or more especially to looser or runny poo
  • Unexplained weight-loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

“Most people may experience some of these symptoms from time to time and it can be embarrassing topic to discuss. However, if you experience any of these symptoms you must visit your GP,” says Dr Herren.

Worried about bowel cancer? Take a look at these simple lifestyle changes you can make today which will help prevent you against the disease:

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  • Bowel Cancer: Lifestyle Changes You Can Make To Prevent Risks

    Find out what you can do to help prevent yourself against bowel cancer.

  • Exercise

    Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week.

  • Drink... In Moderation

    Drink alcohol in moderation - no more than two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men.

  • Boost Your Vitamin D

    Getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risk of developing a number of cancers, including bowel cancer - although more research needs to be done to be certain. Vitamin D is produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight and can also be obtained from some foods, such as oily fish.

  • Stop Smoking

    Smokers are 25% more likely to die from bowel cancer than people who had never smoked. If you smoke - quit now.