What you should know about your colon
Most of us don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about our colons… at least not until our doctors mention that dreaded first colonoscopy! Well, it turns out our colons deserve a lot more attention. The health of your colon actually plays a huge part in your overall health… from your moods to your weight and everything in between!
You may have noticed that the colon and gut have been a hot topic in the medical community recently. Science has even come up with a new buzz word to describe the microorganisms that live there. They’re referring to them as your microbiome, and it’s basically a jungle of bacteria that live in your colon.
In fact, it’s estimated that there are more than 100 trillion microorganisms living in your gut, and most of these tiny critters aren’t just hitching a ride. They actually have important jobs to do! Over the past few years, science has been exploring exactly how the bacteria in your colon affect your health, and here’s what they’ve discovered.
Understanding the purpose of your colon
The colon is actually your large intestine. It helps the body absorb nutrients and water, as well as eliminate waste. The colon is part of the digestive system, which includes your small intestine, esophagus, stomach, and mouth. Each part of this complex system has its own job to do in the process of digesting and absorbing nutrients from the foods we eat.
The colon is basically a five to six-foot-long tube that is curled up inside of your abdomen, running from the small intestine to the rectum. The muscles in the digestive system contract when you eat, moving food through the small intestine where nutrients and calories are absorbed. The waste material that’s leftover ends up in your colon, mostly in liquid form.
The colon removes the moisture from the waste material and balances pH and electrolytes. The microorganisms in your colon support the digestive process, assist in absorbing nutrients, and protect the body from harmful bacteria. It takes about 36 hours for food to travel from your stomach to the rectum.
How your colon affects your overall health
Stress, eating too many processed foods, lack of proper sleep, taking antibiotics, and other aspects of our modern lifestyle can damage the beneficial bacteria in our colons, allowing harmful bacteria to grow unchecked.
If you have an overabundance of harmful bacteria in your gut, it can lead to many chronic conditions throughout the body, including:
- Chronic inflammation
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Heart disease
- Acne and other skin conditions
- Digestive problems
- Mood swings, depression, and anxiety
- Headaches and migraines
- Insomnia and lack of energy
- Brain fog
- Hormonal imbalances
- Autoimmune disorders
Usually, the first indicators of an unhealthy colon are digestive issues like diarrhea, heartburn, bloating, gas, and constipation. An unhealthy gut can also lead to food sensitivities and food allergies.
You may also notice unexplained changes in your weight because your body can’t absorb nutrients or regulate blood sugar efficiently. Some people also experience sleep issues because serotonin (the hormone that regulates sleep) is produced in the colon.
Skin conditions such as eczema and acne can also be caused by a damaged gut. The gut also plays a key role in the health of the immune system. Those with an unhealthy gut often get sick easily or experience autoimmune problems.
How to improve your gut health
There are several things you can do to support the beneficial bacteria in your gut. The functional medicine experts at Rahav Wellness recommend colon hydrotherapy as a safe way to remove harmful bacteria and waste that can build up in the colon over time. It’s also the most effective way to give your gut a complete reset.
Learning how to manage your stress levels is also important. Yoga, meditation, exercise, acupuncture, and massage are all great ways to keep stress in check. Getting plenty of sleep is also essential. Chew your food thoroughly and eat mindfully to improve digestion.
Staying well-hydrated is also crucial because it supports the mucosal lining of the colon. Probiotics are also important for replenishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut. You should eat probiotic foods every day or take a daily probiotic supplement to keep your gut healthy.
Getting checked for food intolerances is also a good idea. If you continue to eat foods that you have sensitivities to, it will only contribute to inflammation and digestive issues. Cutting back or eliminating sugar, processed food, and unhealthy fats will also support your microbiome.
Foods that support colon health
There are also certain foods that will support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. These include high fiber foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Garlic and onions may also be beneficial because they support the immune system.
Fermented foods lie yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi are great food sources of probiotics. Foods that are rich in collagen, such as bone broth, may also support a healthy gut.
Although the colon and digestive system are a bit complex, keeping them healthy is pretty simple. Making a few healthy adjustments to your diet will help your colon do its job and keep your immune system strong. Committing to these lifestyle changes will have a positive effect on your overall health as a result.
Written by Donna Maurer.