The colon or the large intestine is a long, tube-like organ that removes water from partially digested food. Certain medical conditions can have an adverse effect on the functioning of this organ. This write-up provides information on these medical conditions and their symptoms, along with dietary guidelines to lower the risk of such conditions.
Colon, which is commonly referred to as the large intestine, is the part between the cecum and the rectum. It extracts water, as well as salt from the partially digested food, and expels the solid waste as feces. The solid, digestive waste is stored in the rectum until it is excreted via the anus. The ileum (the last part of the small intestine) connects to the cecum (the first part of the colon) in the right section of the abdomen. The rest of the large intestine is divided into four parts:
- ‘Ascending colon’ travels up the right side of the abdomen
- ‘Transverse colon’ runs across the abdomen
- ‘Descending colon’ travels down the left abdomen
- ‘Sigmoid colon’ is a short curving, just before the rectum
Though large intestine is not a major player in the process of digestion, it has its own importance.
There are various tests to ensure whether the body is affected by issues related to this. It can cause bleeding in the anus, which may or may not be accompanied by severe stomach aches. Here are some conditions associated with the large intestine, that could affect men, as well as women.
Fissure is a dreadful tear/cut in the skin lining of the anus. When the anal mucosa is stretched beyond its limit, it leads to an anal fissure. Fissures usually cause severe pain during bowel movements. Anal fissure is the most common cause of rectal bleeding in infancy.
Hemorrhoids can be described as masses or clumps (“cushions”) of tissue within the anal canal. Internal hemorrhoids are clumps of tissue within the anal canal that contain blood vessels, muscle, and elastic fibers, while external hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels surrounding the anus.
Diverticulitis occurs due to inflammation of diverticula (small pouches that bulge outward through the large intestine), that could form along the wall of the large intestine. The key factor promoting the development of diverticulosis is elevated pressure within the large intestine, which could occur in people who follow a diet that doesn’t include sufficient amount of dietary fiber.
IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are group of chronic intestinal diseases characterized by inflammation of large/small intestine. These include ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Intussusception refers to the folding in (prolapse) of a portion of the intestine within another immediately adjacent portion of intestine. This condition predominantly affects children. Viral infections of the intestine or presence of tumor/polyps may lead to this condition.
Abnormal Growth of Organs
Abnormal growths near or on the large intestine can be non-cancerous, precancerous, or cancerous. An example of abnormal growth is a polyp. It can be as large as a golf ball or even larger. Polyps are found on the lining of the intestine or rectum.
Medical conditions that affect the large intestine need immediate attention. If not treated on time, they can cause serious diseases. Colon cancer is the most frequent form of cancer detected in US. This cancer usually starts in the upper section of the large intestine and matures in around two decades, making it impossible to detect it in the early stages.
Some common symptoms are given below:
- Stomach infection, indigestion, nausea, and vomiting
- Irregular bowel habits such as constipation and diarrhea
- Gassy stomach caused due to Crohn’s disease
- Bright red stool due to the bleeding within the intestines.
- Irregular weight loss
- Severe abdominal pain
- Blood and mucus appearing in the stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Palpable (can be touched or felt) tumor
If any of the aforementioned symptoms are observed, a doctor needs to be consulted immediately. Alternative treatment options that might be recommended to improve this condition include colon cleansing/colon hydrotherapy and colonic irrigation.
An average American’s daily fiber intake amounts to 11 grams; however, the ideal fiber intake recommended by nutritionists is 35 grams. Fiber helps in smooth bowel movement and prevents constipation. Thus, eating the right food is recommended for the intestinal issues. Below are some tips on a healthy diet for people affected by intestinal problems:
- Grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits must be included in the diet due to their high content of fiber. Fiber supplements can also be opted for.
- Increase the intake of water and fruit juices.
- Minimize consumption of alcohol and aerated drinks; refrain from the consumption of fatty foods and caffeine.
- Exercise regularly to prevent constipation and other digestive ailments.
- Abstain from the excessive use of laxatives, as they disturb the smooth functioning of the large intestine
Doctors usually recommend regular check for intestinal issues, after the age of 50, as this will help diagnosis and treatment of any complications in their early stages.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.