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Good Colorectal Health

Understand how the colon works and adopt sensible habits as the key to its health.

There is not any part of the body that exists in isolation - and the colon is no exception. As medical specialists, we may develop focused expertise in a certain organ, bodily system or disease, but as holistic doctors we take on much more. While a conventional understanding of medical practice would simply state that a colorectal surgeon looks after the colorectal region, anus, perianal region and the small intestines, there is much more to this.

The colon-health connection

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 end of the small intestine and ends at the anus. Its role is not only in absorbing nutrients or expelling waste. The main function of the large intestine or the colon and rectum is to absorb water. Each day, about two to three litter of small intestinal fluid pours into the large intestine and as waste matter passes through, the colon and rectum absorb 95% of this fluid. This leaves about 100 to 150ml of water in the expelled faeces. A dysfunction in this absorption results in watery stools of diarrhoea.

This symptom may indicate inflammatory bowel diseases, food poisoning or irritable bowel syndrome. It could also signal anxiety or a dietary intolerance. Similarly, 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 just how closely the various systems in the body are related.

Of course, many diseases of the lower gastrointestinal region are also linked to other diseases. In a disease such as 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. These may include changes in the eye, thyroid cancer, sebaceous cysts, benign bone growths (osteomas), gastric and duodenum polyps, bile duct cancels and other tumour growths. Even a small abscess in the perianal region (area around the anus), for example, is not 'just a pimple’. It can cause not only pain for the patient but also an extraordinary amount of bodily upset with lethargy, and inability to sit, stand or 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. Ensure adequate rest and sleep. Chronic lack of sleep leads to fatigue and a decreased immunity, resulting in increased susceptibility to viruses, bacteria and other illnesses.
  4. Avoid excessive stress by learning to live a day and a step at a time. Remember that some stress is important for normal bodily function and manage your stress levels.
  5. Accept your past, look forward to your future and be at peace with the present.