One of the most important ways to make sure your body is happy and healthy is to take care of your colon. Although it can be easy to neglect your colon until something has gone wrong, keeping ahead of any issues that might develop is an invaluable preventative health technique. Careful caretaking of your colon can help identify any issues with your colon before they turn into health disasters.
What is Your Colon, and Why Should You Care?
According to Best Health Magazine, the colon is the final stage of the digestive tract. Also known as the large intestine, the colon processes indigestible food residue in order to absorb fluid and produce solid waste. The waste is stored in the colon until you are prepared for elimination, allowing you to control this aspect of digestion.
However, your colon is responsible for several other important functions as well. For instance, your colon is home to many “good bacteria,” which are necessary for your optimal health. Furthermore, your colon is essential to the absorption of electrolytes, fatty acids and fluids. Obviously, your colon is an essential organ that you cannot neglect.
Do You Have a Healthy Colon?
The best sign your colon is healthy is that you haven’t given it much thought lately. When everything’s going well for a colon, it tends to be easily forgotten: it’s performing its function properly, so you probably won’t give it much thought.
It’s when problems begin to arise within your colon that it will draw attention to itself. If you are regularly moving your bowels, and are not experiencing pain, bleeding, straining or diarrhea, then your colon is most likely performing its functions properly.
Common Colon Harbingers: Red Flags You Should Know About
There are many ways your colon may alert you that it is having issues. First and foremost, however, you must be familiar with the goings-on within your own body: know yourself, and you’ll know when symptoms arise that comprises a threat to your colon’s health. Remember, when you start seeing unusual symptoms, your first step should be to communicate with your doctor.
There are 10 common symptoms of colonic trouble, including:
- Mucus in stool: One of the most common symptoms is the appearance of mucus in your stool. Be sure and check your stool regularly and note any significant changes in composition.
- Diarrhea: Another common symptom is consistent diarrhea. Consistently soft stool may indicate that your colon is attempting to communicate something to you.
- Changes in Bowel Habits: Be sure and be cognizant of your regularly bowel evacuation schedule, and take note if there is unusual variation. Consistent observation is key in maintaining colonic health.
- Rectal Bleeding: Take care to make note of any bleeding that may be occurring on your rectum, as this many indicate issues with the colon.
- Constipation: Just as too-soft stool can indicate a colonic issue, so too can constipation. Once again, you must be aware of your bowel movement schedule and be sure to note any variation in your regular habits.
- Heartburn: Although it may seem innocuous, heartburn can indicate issues with the colon.
- Chest Pain: It may seem counter-intuitive that a pain in your chest would be connected to your colon, but remember that every system in your body works in tandem.
- Stomach Cramps: Issues with your colon may cause symptoms in other parts of the digestive tract, including cramping in the stomach.
- Bloating: Excessive bloating of the abdomen can indicate that there is an issue occurring within your bowels.
- Excessive Gas: When there is tumult within your colon, it may result in excessive gas, that is unaffected by over-the-counter treatments.
Remember that many of these symptoms may be caused by more benign symptoms, as well. The best practice is to remain cognizant of the unique behaviors of your body, and to take note when a break from the normal occurs.
Urgent Colon Harbingers: Know When It’s Time to Call Your Doctor
However, there are certain symptoms that indicate a more urgent health issue, which must be addressed immediately. If you encounter one of the following symptoms, you will likely wish to seek urgent medical care immediately:
- Intense Pain While Moving Your Bowels: Your digestive tract is designed to evacuate your bowels without intense pain; if you begin to experience intense pain during bowel movements, it may be indicative of a serious issue with your colon.
- Your Stools Turn Black Tarry: Be sure and be aware of the composition of your stool, and know what your stool looks like under normal and healthy circumstances. Any sudden alteration in color may be indicative of problems with your colon. However, one of the most urgent changes in color is when your stool becomes a dark black color.
- Stool or Diarrhea Contains Bright Red Blood: As stated above, you must be cognizant of the usual composition of your stool, and note any alterations. One of the most urgent alterations is when bright red blood begins to appear within your bowel movements.
- Diarrhea Lasting More Than Five Days: While getting a touch of diarrhea now and again is simply a normal part of being a human – even a healthy one – excessive or consistent diarrhea may indicate something more sinister. If your diarrhea lasts more than five days, you will want to seek medical attention.
- Unintended Loss of Weight: While planned weight loss can be necessary for positive health, unintended loss of weight is quite the contrary. If you experience a sudden and unintentional loss of weight, it may be indicative of a colonic problem.
- Constant and Persistent Vomiting: Once again, vomiting is not in and of itself an urgent indicator of colonic issues. Vomiting can be experienced by a normal, healthy person without concern. However, when it becomes constant and persistent, it may indicate a more serious problem, and should be addressed.
- Constant and Persistent Fever: As stated above, even a completely healthy person many experience a fever from time to time; it is simply part of being human. However, when this symptom becomes constant, it is time to visit a doctor and see if it might indicate a more serious issue.
- Abdominal Pain That Gets Worse When You Eat: If you are experience stomach pain, and it increases exponentially as you consume food, it may be indicative of a severe issue with your colon. Remember that the colon is part of the digestive tract, and as such, when there are issues with the colon, there are issues with the digestive tract.
- Abdominal Pain So Severe It Awakens You From Sleep: If you experience abdominal pain or cramping so intense that it wakes you up when you are sleeping, it may be indicative of a colonic issue. Once again, some occasional abdominal pain is just part of the experience of being human; however, if you are familiar with your body’s processes, you will be aware when you are experienced a more normalized pain and when you are experiencing a more severe pain.
- Inexplicable Fatigue: While everyone is tired from time to time, especially if you stayed up late the night before, a more persistent fatigue may be indicative of issues with your colon.
This list represents more urgent issues with the colon, and it is recommended that you seek urgent medical care immediately if you begin to present any of these symptoms.
Nearly 93,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year in the United States alone. Colorectal cancer begins in the large intestine – the colon – and is one of the most deadly cancers in the world. However, it is treatable when it is caught in time.
Are You at Risk?
There are several factors that can contribute to an individual being at high risk for colon cancer. The first is simply age. If you are over the age of 50, you qualify as an individual who is at high risk for colon cancer. Another factor that can place you in the high-risk category is if you already have a history of colonic cancer, or a history of colonic polyps.
Another previous condition that can contribute to the risk of colon cancer is a history of inflammatory bowel disease. You should also look to your family history, since individuals with a first-degree relative that has had colon cancer also have a higher risk of contracting the disease. If you have a first-degree relative that has had colon cancer, it is advised that you begin screening for colon cancer regularly once you have reached the age of 40, or when you are ten years younger than the age at which that relative was diagnosed.
In fact, if you qualify as a high-risk individual for colon cancer, it is strongly advised that you begin regularly screening, even if you are not presenting symptoms. Because colon cancer can be symptomless in its early stages, if you know you are at great risk of contracting colon cancer, it is always best to inform your doctor of your concerns ahead of time.
One of the Most Treatable
Although colon cancer is one of the deadliest cancers – it is considered the second deadliest cancer in Canada – when it is caught early enough, colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers of all. In fact, using endoscopic surgery or removal, colon cancer is more than 90 percent curable when it is caught early. As such, it is of paramount importance that you pay attention to what your colon is telling you thorough your bowel movements, and take special care to ensure that you alert your doctor when there is any change in the usual.
Staying Abreast of the Colon
However, it is not necessary to wait until you are displaying severe symptoms in order to thwart colon cancer. There are a number of techniques you may employ on a regular basis to help stop colon cancer before it begins. Colon cancer may be one of the most treatable cancers, but using these preventative techniques can head it off at the pass before it even gets to the treatment phase. The best way to stop colon problems is to stop them before they even begin.
Steps to a Cancer-Free Colon
1. Choose Healthy Foods
A big part of keeping your colon healthy and happy is choosing healthy foods for consumption. By eating more healthy foods, you’ll be placing the nutrients your colon needs right where you need them – in the digestive tract. So what foods are best? The foods you would expect, of course.
Be sure and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and breads, beans, and nuts. But why these foods in particular? For one, these healthy foods are linked to lowered risk for some cancers. For another, these healthy foods will help you regularize your bowel movements, which, as indicated above, is one of the best techniques for monitoring your risk for colon cancer.
2. Avoid Unhealthy Foods
The converse of seeking out healthy dietary choices is to avoid those foods that you know are unhealthy for you. When you consume too many foods that are high in fat or fatty acids, they man increase your risk for contracting colon cancer. In addition, heavily processed foods may increase your risk for colon cancer by placing additional strain on your digestive tract.
Avoid red meat and other foods that are high in fat or are processed. Remember, modifying your diet is one of the most basic and surefire ways to shield yourself against colon cancer.
3. Watch Your Weight
As discussed above, one of the most effective tools in the colon cancer treatment book is observation. By keeping a watchful eye on your weight, you’ll have a good handle on one of the most basic metrics used in maintaining a healthy body. By calculating and keeping an eye on your Body Mass Index or BMI, you will have a good baseline for keeping an eye on your health.
It may seem like a straightforward tip when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but exercising regularly can mean the difference between a healthy body and an unhealthy one. In particular, exercising at a moderate intensity five days a week for 30 minutes can help decrease your risk for colon cancer in two ways.
The positive health benefits of regular exercise are numerous. For one, it will help you maintain a healthy weight, which as discussed above can be essential in avoiding colon cancer.
5. Limit Your Alcoholic Consumption
The regular consumption of alcohol is a general risk factor, like the consumption of red meat. By limiting the amount you consume of products like alcohol or red meat, you can easily and effectively lower your risk for colon cancer. The recommended limits for consumption of alcoholic drinks are one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men.
6. Lower Your Stress
It may seem obvious, but by ensuring that your stress levels are managed in a healthy manner, you can help prevent against a plethora of health risks, including issues with your colon like colonic cancer. There are myriad ways that you can manage your stress level, and you must determine what the best course of action is for yourself with regard to management of your stress.
Some people find it relaxing to go for a walk in a natural setting, or to mediate. If you are having excessive difficulty with lowering your stress, speak to your doctor, who will be able to provide you with relaxation techniques, or recommend you to a mental health professional that may assist in your stress management.
7. Get Yourself Checked
If you are an individual who is at a high risk for colon cancer, or if you have a family history of colon cancer, you will want to alert your doctor so that the proper testing procedures may be completed. As a general rule, once you have reached the age of 50, you will likely want to begin testing for colon cancer regardless of other risk factors.
However, if you have a higher risk for colon cancer, such as an immediately family history of the disease, you will want to inform your doctor even early to ensure that you can head colon cancer off at the pass. Specifically, if you have a family member that was diagnosed with colon cancer, you will want to begin screening for the disease ten years before the age that that family member was when they were diagnosed.
8. If You Smoke, Quit Now
If you are a cigarette smoker, now is the time to quit and decrease your risk for colonic cancer. On top of a number of other associated health risks, tobacco is a many factor in increasing your risk for colon cancer. If you are a smoker, quit now, and you will greatly reduce your likely of colon cancer.
If you have difficulty quitting smoking, speak to your doctor, who may be able to provide medication or health advice in order to help you quit today.
9. Drink Plenty of Water
Another simple way of lowering your risk for colon cancer is to drink plenty of water. It may seem straightforward, but consumption of water can greatly help your body in automatically cleansing itself, which will help reduce your likelihood of contract colon cancer.
10. Avoid Excessive Consumption of Caffeine
Like alcohol, too much caffeine can have a negative effect on your digestive tract. By moderating your consumption of both caffeine and alcohol, you can reduce your risk for colon cancer while still enjoying your favorite beverages in moderation.
11. Maintain A Diet That is High in Fiber
As discussed above, regular bowel movements can be paramount in maintaining a happy and healthy colon. By consuming a diet that is high in fiber-rich foods, you can help your colon find a regular bowel movement schedule. This will help lower your risk for colon cancer, while simultaneously providing an opportunity for you to better acquaint yourself with the movements of your bowels, thus assisting in your endeavors to closely observe your colon.
As far as how much fiber is best, it is recommended than women consume 25 grams of fiber each day, while men should consume at least 32 grams.
12. Consider Supplements
Your local pharmacy likely carries a variety of products that will help you get your colon healthy and keep it that way. Next time you visit your local pharmacy, ask the pharmacist what products they recommend to help you get your colon healthy and keep it that way. They will be more than willing to oblige.
13. Have A Colon Cleanse
Many people find a colon cleanse to not only help lower their risk of colon cancer, but to be a refreshing and rejuvenating experience. For those open to the experience, a colon cleanse can be an invaluable and enjoyable way to maintain a healthy colon.
By keeping a watchful eye on your colon, and taking careful note of any changes or new symptoms, you can take a big step towards a happy digestive tract. While colon cancer may be one of the most deadly types of cancer, it is also one of the most treatable, and as such you must be vigilant and be prepared to take preventative steps if any symptoms arise. With a healthy colon, you can enjoy a healthy lifestyle, too.