By Melanie Stewart
Well, we’ve reached the end of our journey, literally and figuratively, as we approach our final organ of digestion, the super sexy colon! Ideally, once our food has traveled the length of the small intestine and all the nutrients have been removed and sent to the liver; the balance of water, bacteria, and fiber-rich chyme pass through another valve into the large intestine. As the fiber sweeps clean the colon walls, water is absorbed back into the body. This is also where our B vitamins, folic acid, and vitamin K are synthesized; unless we are not eating properly. In that case, a noxious and fibreless sludge arrives to the colon and I can only imagine its dismay. To protect itself, the colon will secrete mucus to surround this toxic sludge, which in its fibreless state travels ever so slowly allowing mucus and waste material to get impacted in the folds and narrow the passage. When impacted mucus reaches a critical pressure it can cause a pocket to balloon outward called a diverticula which can trap waste material and become infected (diverticulitis).
When stool passes too quickly through the colon, water is unable to be absorbed properly leading to diarrhea. Conversely, stool that sits too long in the colon can become dry and hard to pass leading to constipation which is not only uncomfortable, it is very dangerous! The longer waste materials sit in the colon the more concentrated the bile acids become which can irritate the lining of the colon. As a result, hormones and other toxins that were broken down to be eliminated can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream increasing the risk for hormone-dependent cancers. Many other health problems can arise in the colon including appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, rectal polyps, colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and everyone’s favorite…hemorrhoids.
Which brings us to our third rule: Veggies are awesome! They’re good… no, they’re great! Make sure they cover 2/3 of your plates!
Vegetables are both nutrient and fiber rich and are a weight loss goldmine! Let’s touch on the importance of fiber for a minute. Fiber is an important part of the diet that helps curb the appetite, reduces the absorption of calories from food, and keeps the bowels clean and functioning smoothly. For optimal health, men should strive to take in 35 grams of fiber daily and women should take in 25 grams of fiber daily. Currently, adults in the United States average about 15 grams a day which is not nearly enough to protect us from preventable diseases.
To increase your daily fiber grams try including vegetables at every meal and even when snacking. An easy trick is to always include something healthy, even if you are going to include something unhealthy. For example, a snack of guacamole and salsa could be served with cut carrots and celery and just 7 to 10 chips. The fiber in the veggies will help satisfy you and help reduce the absorption of calories from the chips.
I could probably make a case that nearly every preventable disease is in some way connected to the health of your colon. And, while it is not always a pleasant subject, it certainly is important to know how to best enhance the health and performance of this vital organ. If you struggle with accomplishing regular and complete elimination, in addition to upping your fiber intake, you might also consider adding magnesium to your daily regimen as it encourages healthy peristalsis.
Melanie Stewart has written 2 books for children (Yum Tum, Good Food is Fun! and Yum Tum, We Get it Done!) and one for adults (Yum Tum For Everyone!) all available on Amazon or at https://www.yumtumnutrition.com/ All content is commentary or opinion and is protected under Free Speech laws. It’s not meant to give individual medical advice or to make any health claims on the prevention or curing of diseases.