The colon is a misunderstood organ – most people have heard of the colon, but many people do not understand the important tasks it performs in the human body. A healthy adult colon is about six feet long and works to remove water from waste material before it leaves the body, as well as helping remove toxins and absorb various vitamins and nutrients into the bloodstream.
The good bacteria
Our colons are full of good bacteria. In fact, approximately 100 trillion organisms call our bowels home. These bacteria in the gut fulfill a variety of important functions, such as aiding digestion, stimulating cell growth, blocking the growth of harmful bacteria, training the immune system to respond to disease causing pathogens and defending against some diseases.
The bad bacteria
Sometimes the good bacteria in the gut die as a result of illness (such as the flu) or taking antibiotics. When the good bacteria are killed, it upsets the balance of bacteria in your colon, which results in diarrhea (watery bowel movements) since your colon can’t absorb water as it normally does. It can also cause an upset stomach.
Keeping a healthy colon
This all means that bacteria are part of our normal intestinal environment and serve a very useful and vital purpose in our everyday body function. In order to make sure your colon is healthy and working at its full potential, here are some habits to keep in mind.
- Focus on probiotics, such as yogurt
- Get plenty of prebiotics, such as whole grains, onions, garlic, leeks and artichokes
- Get plenty of fiber (aim for 20-25 grams daily)
- Avoid fatty food
- Control your stress
- Don’t hold bowel movements
- Get adequate hydration
- Exercise regularly
- Get a colonoscopy screening if appropriate