What is the Colon, why is the Colon so important?
The colon is also known as the large bowel or large intestine. It is an organ that is part of the digestive system (also called the digestive tract) in the human body. The digestive system is the group of organs that allow us to eat and to use the food we eat to fuel our bodies. The colon is about 5 feet long and about 3 inches in diameter.
Problems associated with an unhealthy Colon
Many facets of modern life such as too much stress, too little sleep, eating a diet of processed and high-sugar foods, and taking antibiotics can all damage our gut microbiome and colon health. This in turn may affect other aspects of our health, such as the brain, heart, immune system, skin, weight, hormone levels, ability to absorb nutrients, and even the development of cancer.
There are a number of ways an unhealthy colon might manifest itself. Here are some of the most common signs:
1. Upset stomach
Stomach disturbances like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and heartburn can all be signs of an unhealthy gut. A balanced gut will have less difficulty processing food and eliminating waste.
2. A high-sugar diet
A diet high in processed foods and added sugars can decrease the amount of good bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can cause increased sugar cravings, which can damage your gut still further.
3. Unintentional weight changes
Gaining or losing weight without making changes to your diet or exercise habits may be a sign of an unhealthy gut. An imbalanced gut can impair your body’s ability to absorb nutrients, regulate blood sugar, and store fat. Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain may be caused by insulin resistance or the urge to overeat due to decreased nutrient absorption.
4. Sleep disturbances or constant fatigue
An unhealthy gut may contribute to sleep disturbances such as insomnia or poor sleep, and therefore lead to chronic fatigue. The majority of the body’s serotonin, a hormone that affects mood and sleep, is produced in the gut. So gut damage can impair your ability to sleep well. Some sleep disturbances have also been linked to risk for fibromyalgia.
5. Skin irritation
Skin conditions like eczema may be related to a damaged gut. Inflammation in the gut caused by a poor diet or food allergies may cause increased “leaking” of certain proteins out into the body, which can in turn irritate the skin and cause conditions such as eczema.
6. Autoimmune conditions
Medical researchers are continually finding new evidence of the impact of the gut on the immune system. It’s thought that an unhealthy gut may increase systemic inflammation and alter the proper functioning of the immune system. This can lead to autoimmune diseases, where the body attacks itself rather than harmful invaders.
7. Food intolerances
Food intolerance are the result of difficulty digesting certain foods (this is different than a food allergy, which is caused by an immune system reaction to certain foods). It’s thought that food intolerances may be caused by poor quality of bacteria in the gut. This can lead to difficulty digesting the trigger foods and unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea. There are ways to test for food intolerances which can be helpful.
Steps on how to keep your colon healthy
1. High Fibre Diet
Fiber-rich food is a great choice for a healthy colon. Eating a good amount (about 25-35 grams daily) of high-fiber foods like raspberries, bananas, prunes, peas, steamed broccoli, beans, celery, among other lightly cooked vegetables is a great start to cleanse the colon. Other fiber-rich options include brown rice, lentils and oats. Fiber keeps food waste moving along your digestive tract, which helps your intestines stay clean and can decrease your risk for diverticular disease.
2. Limit red meat consumption and steer clear of processed meats
The American Cancer Society states that the risk of colon cancer increases by 15 to 20 percent if you consume 100 grams of red meat (the equivalent of a small hamburger) or 50 grams (equivalent of one hot dog) of processed meats, like sausage, bacon or hotdogs, per day.
3. Avoid holding it
If you feel a bowel movement coming, head for the bathroom. If you try to hold it in, built-up fecal matter can release toxins into your body, which has the potential to cause diverticulosis and IBS. Regular bowel movements is one of the ways your colon keeps itself clean and healthy.
4. Increase water intake
Inadequate hydration can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body. As those toxins accumulate, the risk for constipation, bloating, gas, IBS, and fatigue increases. If you’re trying to keep your colon healthy, try to drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water in a day to cleanse your body.
When you’re trying to keep your colon healthy, exercise is a huge part of the equation. By increasing blood flow and circulation through exercise, your colon (and entire gastrointestinal system) gets more oxygen. This may help ward off colon cancer and other diseases. Your fitness routine doesn’t need to be extreme. Stretching, doing yoga or walking for 10-15 minutes a day is sufficient to help keep your colon healthy.
6. Cleansing your colon
There are also natural ways to keep your colon clean. Colon Hydrotherapy is a popular procedure, and can help to remove toxins and waste material that have become trapped in your colon. If you suffer from constipation, colon hydrotherapy can be the best way to regain regular bowel movements and restore your colon’s health.
Posted by Ciara Prendergast, CNP, Certified CH Therapist
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The iHMP Research Network Consortium. (2014). The integrative human microbiome project: Dynamic analysis of microbiome-host omics profiles during periods of human health and disease. DOI: