A healthy colon contributes to overall body health, as the colon plays an essential role dispelling waste material. The colon is part of the body’s digestive tract and is lined with muscles that push the faecal matter towards the rectum through which it is eliminated. The colon also houses a store of the good, immune-strengthening bacteria that the body relies on for disease prevention.
Why should you Care about your Colon?
Just about everyone has suffered a bout of diarrhoea or constipation at some point (usually when it is most inconvenient) and knows the frustration and pain that results from an irritated colon. This alone should be enough to make you want to ensure you maintain a healthy colon. If it isn’t, you should know that the colon can develop a variety of painful (and odorous) diseases that can be prevented by keeping a healthy colon. Diseases include colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, and diverticular disease.
How do you know if you have a Healthy Colon?
If you have regular bowel movements without abdominal pain or bloating; rarely get diarrhoea or constipation, and have never noticed any blood in your stools, then congratulations, you probably have a healthy colon. The occasional case of constipation or diarrhoea – such as after a particularly rich and wonderful birthday feast – while horribly uncomfortable, should not worry you unless it becomes a frequent occurrence. As far as regularity goes, this will be different for everyone – for some people it is normal to have a bowel movement three times a week, but for others it could be every day or even three times a day.
Signs of a Not So Healthy Colon
Many of the symptoms related to gastrointestinal irritation are similar to those of other issues, so when the following symptoms are present, it is necessary to see a doctor.
- Frequent constipation or diarrhoea
- Bloating or excessive gas
- Abdominal pain, particularly during or after eating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood in the stool
- Black stools that look like tar
- Sudden change in bowel movement regularity
- Heartburn or chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss without dieting
How to Achieve or Maintain a Healthy Colon
The road to achieving a healthy colon is pretty much the same one that would be advised for good health in general, and involves living a healthy lifestyle. Whether you already have a healthy colon and just want to maintain it, or whether you have several of the symptoms listed above, the following tips will encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, and should regulate your bowel movements.
- Stay hydrated – you know the rule: six to eight glasses of water a day!
- A balanced diet high in fibre – plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Cut out known food sensitivities, but don’t assume that you’re lactose or gluten intolerant just because it’s the in thing.
- Limit red meat, food high in the bad fats and those highly processed.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol.
- Throw away those cigarettes.
- Exercise several times a week.
- Talk to your medical doctor and alternative practitioner about the possible benefits of a short-term colon cleansing programme.
- Get your colon screened for cancer and other diseases annually – usually beginning between the ages of forty-five to fifty.