How to Keep Your Colon Happy

| How-To

The colon is a critical part of your digestive system. It acts as a pipe that distributes nutrients and gets rid of the waste after your body has absorbed what it needs. Just like the pipes in your house or car, it needs care and maintenance to function properly.

Why Your Colon Health Matters

The health of your colon affects your entire body. If your colon is happy, you can feel healthier, stronger, and increase your resistance to disease. In addition to improving your overall well-being, maintaining a healthy colon can lower your risk for colon cancer.

The Symptoms of an Unhealthy Colon

The colon is prone to inflammation, which can be triggered by stress, diet, and medications. The signs of an unhealthy colon can vary, but constipation and diarrhea are key indicators that your colon is off. Some other common symptoms may include:

  • Hard stool
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Blood in your stool

How to Keep Your Colon Happy

You don’t need to wait until symptoms appear to start thinking about your colon health. There are simple steps you can take to feel better and reduce health risks.

Eat a high fiber, low-fat diet: People who eat a high-fiber diet are less likely to develop colon-related diseases, including cancer. Consumption of fats should be limited, however, it’s important to include healthy fats like those found in olive oil, salmon, nuts, and avocados. Limiting inflammatory foods like red meat, fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and coffee can also improve your colon health.

Get more exercise: A sedentary lifestyle can aggravate the colon and trigger inflammation. Regular exercise encourages healthy and consistent bowel movements, even a 20-minute walk or short yoga session can help keep your colon happy.

Drink plenty of water: If you're not properly hydrated, toxins can build up in your body, putting extra strain on the colon. The lack of moisture can also cause constipation, blocking it from effectively removing waste. Aim to get around eight glasses of water per day to stay hydrated.

Follow screening guidelines: The American Cancer Society recommends regular colon screenings beginning at the age of 45. A colonoscopy is the most thorough form of colon screening, it not only detects cancer but also finds and removes precancerous growths that can form in the colon.

Take Control of Your Health

It’s never too early to start colon-healthy habits. Simple lifestyle changes like a short walk during your lunch break or an extra glass of water during the day are great places to start. If you struggle with symptoms of an unhealthy colon or have additional questions, contact our gastroenterology team or your primary care doctor.

Sources

About the Author

G. Brandon Millick MD

Dr. Brandon Millick is a board certified general surgeon with Schneck Surgical Associates and Schneck Surgical Weight Loss. He attended medical school at Indiana University School of Medicine and completed his residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

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