If we consider that the Intestinal System is actually a major component of the Digestive System since its function is to “consume” the nutrients found in the food we eat and deliver them to the bloodstream for delivery to the rest of the body, then the Large Intestine, which we call the Colon, actually carry out the water reclamation and waste disposal function of the body.
The colon is also called the large intestine, begins in the lower right part of the abdomen, and is divided into four parts: the ascending colon which travels up the right side of the abdomen, the transverse colon that runs across the abdomen, the descending colon that travels down the left side of the abdomen, and the sigmoid colon that curves to align the colon with the rectum to allow waste to leave the body.
The colon removes water, salt, and some nutrients from the stool and has muscles that line the colon’s walls, squeezing its contents along. Like a balloon, as this muscle is overfilled and evacuated for some time, it begins to “dimple”. These dimples are called diverticula and are pockets where foreign mater can collect, become inflamed, and cause disease. Therefore, regular bowel movements are necessary; ideally, you should have a bowel movement about 45 minutes after each meal.
To keep your bowel healthy, you need fiber, water, and regular bowel movements. There are two types of fiber that are necessary – soluble and insoluble.
I call the soluble fiber “sponges”. They wipe down the colon walls, absorb toxins, and help remove liquid waste. We refer to herbs that perform these actions as mucilage – herbs like slippery elm, glucomannan, and marshmallow.
The insoluble fiber I call “brooms”. This type of fiber “sweeps” heavier waste and scrubs colon walls to remove the more solid waste material from the colon as the muscle linings move all the waste along. Herbs that help perform these functions generally contain more cellulose/structure, like acacia, psyllium, and cascara sagrada.
A healthy colon will also have billions of probiotics (friendly bacteria) lining its walls, living in a healthy balance with the body.
As for a healthy colon diet:
- Increase your fiber intake. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Consider apples, pears, raspberries, bananas, oranges, and cooked peas, corn, broccoli, and artichoke. Add whole grains and legumes: Consider whole wheat flour, barley, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal, and beans.
- limit red meat consumption. Try to stay under 100 grams of red meat, and under 50 grams of processed meats.
- keep sugar intake at a minimum because of its inflammatory potential.
- control your weight
Last year our blogs covered the topic of cleansing for each body system. I would reiterate here that an annual bowel/colon detox could be helpful in keeping the colon functioning well. (Refer to last year’s colon cleansing blog.)
Colon issues can be very uncomfortable, and also very deadly. Keep it healthy. Add “intestinal” to your list of Healthy Body Systems!
– Randy Lee, BSE, MS, ND, is the Owner of The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 73130. Call us at (405) 736-1030, and visit our website at www.thehealthpatch.com.