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Good Colon Function, Good Health

Understand the function of the colorectal tract and learn how its health can be affected by your physical and emotional well-being.

The colon is part of the gastrointestinal tract, which is the part of the body concerned with the ingestion of food, digestion of nutrients, and excretion of indigestible waste.

The colorectal tract, or large intestine, starts at the end of the small intestine and ends at the anus. The main function of the large intestine is to absorb water. Each day, about two to three litres of fluid from the small intestine pours into the large intestine and, as waste matter passes through, the colon and rectum absorb 95% of this fluid, leaving about 100–150ml of water in the expelled faeces.

A problem with this absorption mechanism results in watery stools (diarrhoea). This symptom may indicate inflammatory bowel diseases, food poisoning, or irritable bowel syndrome. It could also signal anxiety or a dietary intolerance. The opposite condition, constipation, can be caused by a wide variety of reasons, such as illness, intake of certain drugs, dietary habits, colorectal cancers or painful anal growths such as piles and fissures. These examples reveal the connection between physical and emotional health and colon function, and showcase how closely the various systems in the body are related.

Of course, many diseases of the lower gastrointestinal region are linked to other diseases. Consider familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), a genetic mutation that causes thousands of colonic polyps. The danger is not limited to the colon; these growths are liable to affect many organs throughout the body, including changes in the eye, thyroid cancer, sebaceous cysts, benign bone growths (osteomas), gastric and duodenum polyps, bile duct cancers, and other tumour growths.

Even a small abscess in the perianal region (the area around the anus), for example, is not ‘just a pimple’. It can cause not only pain for the patient, but also interfere with his ability to sit, stand and sleep. It goes to show that there is no such thing as good colon health without a healthy body itself; in the same way, the colon cannot be healthy if the body isn’t.

Common-sense tips for health

  1. Eat what you like and avoid what you do not enjoy. But do this in moderation and enjoy the occasional festive feast or special occasion.
  2. Engage in light or moderate exercise to improve stamina and cardiovascular fitness. Unless you are an elite athlete and have the proper supervision, avoid excessive physical exertion.
  3. Get adequate rest and sleep. Chronic lack of sleep leads to fatigue and lowered immunity, increasing your susceptibility to viruses, bacteria and other pathogens.
  4. Avoid excessive stress by learning to live one day at a time. Remember that some stress is important for normal bodily function, so manage your stress levels.
  5. Accept your past, look forward to your future, and be at peace with the present.