The colon, or large intestine, is a long muscular tube that breaks down food into small, absorbable parts, which then pass through the colon wall into the bloodstream for use throughout the body. Each day your colon absorbs liquid and essential nutrients from the foods you eat and holds waste until it is expelled a feces (stools). This allows your cells to repair and regenerate while maintaining and supporting all the functions that keep the body working.
An efficient and healthy colon helps you absorb water and nutrients, promote healthy bacteria, resist the buildup of toxins, improve immune function, and reduce the risk of suffering a variety of chronic and degenerative diseases.
What inhibits colon health?
Diseases are more likely to occur when your digestive health is compromised, reducing your immune response and your ability to absorb nutrients. This can occur for a variety of reasons: medication (especially antibiotics), Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, pollution, stress, allergens and inactivity.
If these characteristics of a modern, busy life style continue for an extended period, they can trigger or worsen existing digestive problems. These factors can also have negative impact on the speed and efficiency of eliminating waste. Waste materials passing through the colon carry with them many toxins and unwanted substances.
If food residues take too long to pass through your intestine, they may undergo excessive fermentation, forming gas, pain and bloating. They also make your colon a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, parasites, yeasts, and molds.
What can go wrong with your colon?
Most colon problems such as constipation, flatulence and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be managed or prevented only minor changes to your lifestyle.
Some conditions such as hemorrhoids, appendicitis, and diverticulosis also require medication or surgery to correct the problem. By monitoring yourself, maintaining healthy habits, and talking to your doctor as soon as digestive problems arise, you can reduce the risk of suffering serious complications.
A major problem in respect to colon health is the embarrassment people feel when discussing the symptoms with their doctor. But it’s important to overcome this stigma, because early detection can make all the difference when treating colon problems, especially more serious illness like Crohn’s disease and colon cancer.
Crohn’s disease is an auto immune disorder, where your own immune mistakenly attacks itself, targeting the lining of the digestive tract. The resulting inflammation can cause severe bouts of watery diarrhea and abdominal pain. Parts of your digestive tract may thicken, ulcerate, and become infected resulting to poor absorption of food. Some common initial signs of Crohn’s disease includes abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, rectal bleeding, fever, joint pain, and fatigue.
To begin treatment, you need the right diagnosis. While there are no cure to Crohn’s disease, the sooner it is diagnosed, the better the chances of controlling the symptoms effectively and minimizing any discomfort. There are a number of drugs available to help you live with the disease. Dietary strategies can also be employed, such as herbal remedies, healthy eating, eliminating foods that make your symptoms worse and small portion sizes.
Understanding colon cancer
A most serious colon health problem is cancer. An estimated 150,000-plus people in the U.S. will contract cancer in the colon or rectum this year; one third that number will die of the disease.
Having a family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory colon disease, a high-fat diet, or a low fiber diet, all increase your risk. Most colon cancers begin as a small, noncancerous clump of cells called polyps. Over time some of these benign polyps grow abnormally and become cancerous. Colon cancer is slow growing, and there are often no symptoms in the early stages.
When symptoms appear, they vary depending on the cancer’s size and location. Blood in your stool maybe sign, but it can also indicate other conditions. However, any sign of blood or change in your stools should prompt you to see your doctor especially if you are 50 or older. Your chances of beating cancer increase significantly with screening and early detection. By the time symptoms develop, it may be too late for a full recovery. Depending on the size of any cancer detected, the disease is treated by surgery and maybe followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy to prevent the cancer from reoccurring.
Who is at risk of colon cancer?
The following factors are associated with a higher risk of colon problems:
· Age: Age is one of the greatest risk factors of colon cancer, especially after the age of 50.
· Poor diet: A low-fiber diet that doesn’t include fruits, vegetables or whole grains greatly increases you risk of colon problems.
· Family history: You are likely to develop colon problems such as colorectal cancer if you have a parent, sibling, or child with the disease. But this connection isn’t necessarily genetic and may result from diet or lifestyle factors.
· Smoking and alcohol: Smoking and drinking both increase your risk of colon cancer. The combination of smoking and drinking makes it even more likely you’ll develop problems.
· A sedentary lifestyle: When your inactive, waste stays in your colon longer, lengthening your exposure to toxins and increasing your risk of constipation and colorectal cancer.
Symptoms of Colon Problems
Most people will experience a digestive problem at some time. Mild conditions such as indigestion or diarrhea are easier to treat, while others may require medical attention. Some common signs of bowel problems include:
· Reduced immunity
· Bad breath or coated tongue
· Body odor
· Mental dullness
· Pale skin
· Failure to pass a stool every seven days
· A change in your bowel movement
· Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool on more than one occasion
Minor Colon Problems
· Irritable-bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Ways to prevent problems
Taking care of your digestive health is not just about regularity. You can prevent colon problems and boost your digestive health by making a few changes in your diet and lifestyle.
· Eat plenty of fiber: The two types of fiber--- insoluble and soluble---- help to regulate your colon functions. Highly foods force your digestive system to work harder to extract whatever nutrients it can.
Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran and whole-grain products, providing a bulking effect that aids colon regularity and protects against constipation, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer.
Soluble fiber is found in oats, legumes, fruits and vegetables. It helps to maximize the absorption of nutrients, making your colon movement softer and easier to pass. Through its bulking and softening actions, fiber reduces the pressure in the intestinal tract, reducing the risk of getting diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.
· Drink plenty of water: Fibers acts like a sponge in your digestive tract, soaking up water, keeping your tools smooth and moist. A high-fiber diet can actually constipate you if it isn’t accompanied by plenty fluid. Six to eight glasses of water will help to prevent constipation.
· Exercise regularly: Physical activity and maintain a healthy body weight both help to improve colon health. The jolting movements that occur during exercise stimulate the digestive process and reduce the time your colon is exposed to harmful toxins. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
· Have a checkup after 50: Screening is used to detect colorectal cancer early, making it far more treatable. Screening measures include a sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy or fecal blood test. If you are in higher risk group for colorectal cancer, talk to a doctor about the most appropriate tests for you.
· Other tips: Further tips to promote colon health include chewing food thoroughly, eating smaller meals, eating anti-oxidant and calcium rich foods, avoiding diet high in saturated fats and avoiding cigarette smoke. And one final, very important tip to protect your colon—limit the delay when your feel that pressing need to use the bathroom.