How to Care for Your Colon
Although the term “colon” is often used interchangeably with “large intestines”, it is actually the longest portion of the large intestine, which is made up of the cecum, colon and rectum.
Being the last part of the human digestive system, the colon serves to absorb the remaining water and salts from waste materials coming from the small intestines. Additionally, the colon also provides lubrication and storage for waste products before they are finally expelled as faeces.
Colon Care Principles
Have you ever heard of the old saying, “Death begins in the colon?”
In Singapore, colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer. The high incidence of colon cancer is attributed to the change in today’s modern lifestyle. These changes include a decreased fiber and water intake, coupled with an increased consumption of processed food and less physical activity.
The basics of a healthy colon is simple: a high fiber diet, sufficient water intake and enough exercise. As simple as it sounds though, colon care is often neglected, leading to conditions such as constipation and colon cancer.
Fiber (found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) is a plant material that cannot be broken down by the human digestive system that forms the bulk of our stools. Once undigested fiber enters the colon, it increases in size by absorbing water. This stimulates the muscles in the colon wall to contract and push waste materials forward to be expelled.
Without fiber, the waste products will stay in the colon for a longer time and will become smaller and harder to expel as water is absorbed from them. This allows for bacteria to ferment them, producing toxins and gases which may lead to, or worsen, colon diseases. If you cannot get enough fiber from your diet, you may want to consider taking supplements as directed by healthcare professionals.
The importance of water cannot be stressed further in preserving colon health. Water prevents faeces from sticking onto the colon wall and also softens the stools for easy expulsion. Barring any fluid restrictions, you should drink at least seven glasses of water a day. Even more water should be consumed if there is increased fluid loss from heavy exercise or during hot weather. It is advisable to drink less tea, coffee, and alcohol as they increase water removal from the body.
Exercise is another important factor in maintaining a healthy colon. Some studies have shown that there is a close relationship between decreased exercise and an increased risk of colon cancer. Through some adjustments to your daily lifestyle (e.g. taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk instead of watching television programmes), the risk of developing colon cancer can be greatly reduced.
There are many health supplements in the market that are indicated for colon health. These supplements may contain herbs such as triphala, fennel, cumin, cardamom, ginger, or some bitter herbs such as rhubarb root, cascara, or buckthorn bark.
Studies have shown that most of these natural ingredients offer some relief for digestive problems like indigestion, bloated-ness and constipation. However, further evidence is required to support their routine use as daily health supplements. Although many also believe in routine colon cleansing using enema, there are in fact no studies to support or refute the benefits of it. Always check with your healthcare professionals when in doubt.
It would be wise to detect and treat any forms of colon diseases before it is too late. Do visit your physician should you have any symptoms such as stools with blood or mucous, unexplained weight loss, prolonged pain at the abdominal area, or persistent diarrhoea.