Your colon, also called your large intestine, is the lower part of your digestive tract. The role of the digestive tract as a whole is to break down food and to absorb the nutrients in food that your body needs, as well as to absorb fluid, and produce and hold waste before it is expelled when you go to the toilet. The colon is a long tube, surrounded by muscles. Healthy bacteria in your colon help to maintain colon health by keeping it clean, and preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Stools are formed as the muscles surrounding the colon work liquid fecal matter that has passed through your upper digestive system, extracting fluids so that the stool forms and becomes harder. If stools remain in the colon for too long, water will continue to be extracted and the stool can become too dry, leading to constipation.
The colon can be further separated into the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and sigmoid colon.
Ascending colon – Water is absorbed from faeces as it moves upwards through the ascending colon, which is on the right side of your abdomen.
Transverse colon – The transverse colon runs horizontally across your stomach, below your belly button. Stools start to take shape here.
Descending colon / Sigmoid colon – Stools become more solid, and might be stored in the descending colon and sigmoid colon which run down the left side of your abdomen before connecting to the top of the rectum.
It is very important to maintain a healthy colon, and failure to do so can lead to several health conditions. The most serious of these is bowel cancer, which affects 6% of people. Studies have shown a definite link between lifestyle and bowel cancer, and diet and exercise play a big part in colon health. Regular exercise is important so that the muscles surrounding the bowel stay in shape. A short walk every day is generally enough exercise for this. A diet high in fiber is also particularly important, as is the need to drink enough fluids throughout the day. Both of these actions help to form stools that are quickly and easily passed. High fiber diets are linked with lower rates of bowel cancer. Fiber can be found in foods like whole grain bread and other whole grain products, fruit, vegetables, and pulses. It’s also important to listen to your body and go to the toilet when you feel the urge – otherwise the urge to go can become weakened and you might be more likely to become constipated. Keeping your colon healthy might also be achieved with colon health supplements like probiotics, which help to maintain or restore the good bacteria in your colon as well as fiber supplements like psyllium.
Maintenance of colon health is one of the reasons that laxatives should be avoided for long term treatment, although as a short term soloution a more natural solution is Senna. Over use of laxatives can harm the sensitive lining of your colon and cause the growth of harmful bacteria.
Colon cleansing (enemas) / colonic irrigation
Alternative health practitioners are increasingly performing high enemas, also called colonic irrigation. In colonic irrigation, liquid is introduced in such quantity that the whole colon is filled, from the rectum upwards. Sometimes massage is used to clean the colon while it is full of water, and herbal tea is sometimes used in addition to other herbs such as catnip. Proponents claim that this practice keeps your colon healthy helps to expel built up fecal matter which has resulted from poor diet, and can not be passed by the body alone. Critics of this procedure say that it can cause dehydration, and doesn’t have any real benefits for colonic health as the body naturally eliminates waste material as it is supposed to do. There is not much scientific evidence on either side of this debate. If you do choose to practice this, doctors recommend drinking plenty of fluids before and after, consulting your GP about possible health risks, and using sanitary equipment such as a brand new enema kit especially designed for the purpose.