The colon is one of the most over-looked organs in the body, with many people not paying much attention to it until something goes wrong. It's one of the most hard-working and sensitive organs in the body, key to the creation and maintenance of good health.
Although the colon is shorter than the small intestine it's wider and that's why it's secondary name is the large intestine. It's found between the small intestine on one end and the rectum and anus on the other. In the body it forms a kind of rectangle starting at the lower corner of the abdomen (cecum) on the right, goes up towards the rib cage (ascending colon), across the diaphragm to the the left (transverse colon), down the left side of the abdomen (descending colon) and finally curves (sigmoid colon) down into the rectum. The appendix is attached to the cecum.
It has a myriad of functions, many are only beginning to be understood by western science today. Where the small intestine is there mainly to absorb nutrients from your food, your colon is responsible for maintaining balance and equilibrium within the gut, the immune system and the body as a whole.
The organ itself balances water and mineral content in the body, helps keep a healthy ratio of good fats to bad fats, plays a role in oestrogen and testosterone balance, partners with the liver in cleansing and detoxification, and eventually acts as a storage organ of biological waste, helping maintain healthy bowel movements.
Within its folds the colon holds trillions of micro-organisms that outnumber your human cells 10 to 1 - you are more micro-organism than human! These micro-organisms form a symbiotic relationship with your body and rely on the healthy environment inside a healthy colon to live and produce nutrients that your body in turn relies on to maintain a resilient immune system and general health. Without a healthy colon to host these micro-organisms you end up with higher levels of inflammation, a weaker immune system that's more susceptible to the attacks of unfriendly bacteria parasites and viruses, and a host of other diseases.
Imbalances in the colon or the micro-organism population lead to a range of conditions. Symptoms include bloating, cramping, fatigue, food intolerances, pain in the abdomen, stool irregularities such as diarrhoea or constipation, and unintended weight gain or weight loss. These may eventually progress to serious diseases of inflammation like inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and colon cancer. Other diseases affected by an unhealthy colon include acne, allergies, arthritis, autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, autism and dementia.
Now you understand why a healthy colon leads to a healthy body, here are some things you can do to support this important organ.
1. Remove offending toxins and foods from your life that kill your colon and cause imbalance:
2. Caffeine and
3. Alcohol are the three major culprits. Also cut out
4. Processed foods - these contain harmful chemicals used to flavour, sweeten and preserve, and bad fats used to prepare these foods. Other dietary triggers include
5. Dairy and
2. Add foods that benefit the colon and the micro-organisms in it. These include:
1. Foods high in fibre, like fruit (raspberries, bananas, prunes), vegetables (peas, broccoli, beans, celery), nuts (almonds, walnuts) and rice.
2. Foods high in prebiotics (nutrients that feed the micro-organisms in the colon), like asparagus, burdock, chicory, dandelion root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks and onions. Also include fermented foods like cabbage and kimchi.
3. Drink lots of clean water - 2 litres a day for a person weighing 60-70kg.
4. Sweat more regularly - exercising regularly will flush the walls of the colon with fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients. These help create a healthier organ and a healthier environment for the micro-organisms.
5. Pay attention to your stress levels - because of the links between your colon and your brain, any level of mental or emotional stress impacts the colon and your micro-organism population through acidity and inflammation.
6. Check with your health care practitioner if your colon would benefit from one of the following nutraceuticals:
1. Vitamin D - shown to benefit all stages of inflammatory colon conditions.
2. Prebiotics - to supplement or top-up the population of healthy micro-organisms in your colon
3. Omega 3 fatty acids - these healthy fats cool inflammation in the gut
4. Zinc - to help manufacture digestive enzymes and hormones in the body
5. Herbals like turmeric, cinnamon or mint - to help regulate colon physiology
6. Supplemental fibre such as psyllium - to top-up your dietary fibre
7. L-Glutamine - an amino acid that helps to heal the colon wall
Dr Yesheen Singh MBChB (UFS), MBA (UCT) is a qualified medical doctor, registered with the Health Profession's Council of South Africa. He is passionate about health and practices holistic wellness that respects the biological, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of individuals and communities. Yesheen believes strongly in empowerment through education and uses seminars, articles, TV and radio to help people learn more about how their bodies work and how to correct imbalances that may have arisen through the stresses of a modern life. Find out more at www.healthnation.co.za
“Wellness Warehouse strives to help you live life well but because we are retailers and not medical practitioners we cannot offer medical advice. Please always consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements, complementary medicines or have any health concerns and ensure that you always read labels, warnings and directions carefully, prior to consumption.”