What Does the Colon Do?

by admin on January 15, 2010

The colon is the biggest part of the large intestine. Your entire intestinal tract between your stomach and your anus includes your small intestine that is divided into the duodenum, the jejunum and the ileum. Your large intestine is made up of your cecum, ( in anatomical order) the ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colon, rectum and anus.

The cecum is the small sac that connects to the ileum of the small intestine to the ascending colon. Chyme is the mostly digested food matter that enters the cecum from the small intestine. 90% of digestion has already taken place. The colon has no digestive enzymes, but positive intestinal bacteria called gut flora and mucus are added to the chyme to form feces. At this point, your body will reclaim water and vitamins; essentially concentrating the feces before it exits the body. Note; when you have watery poop, your colon is not reabsorbing water and vitamins from the feces; the last step in digestion is being skipped. This is one of the reasons why it is so important to stay hydrated when you have diarrhea.

One type of gut flora – Candida albicans

Now, a word about dietary fiber. We are constantly reminded to eat lots of fiber for colon health. But why? The bacteria in your large intestine consume the largely undigested fiber for their own sustenance, and give off acetate, propionate and butyrate as waste products which the cell lining of the large intestine uses as nutrients. It really is amazing how efficient our bodies are; the 3 R’s to the extreme.

What can go wrong?

Colitis (“col” is colon and “itis” means inflammation), not matter what the cause is a swelling of the large intestinal wall. It can caused by autoimmune processes, idiopathic (of unknown cause), vascular (an interruption of blood flow to a portion of the intestine), infectious (as is the case with clostridium difficile and e coli), or caused by parasites.

Hereditary or other causes of colorectal cancer affect approximately 7% of U.S. citizens.

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the colon wall, causing colitis.

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