The colon, also known as the large intestine, is a thick and approximately 1.5-meter long tube that is found at the end of our digestive systems. Here we will look at ways to prevent ailments that can affect our colons.
The large intestine is responsible for the realization of the final phase of digestion. It takes the chyme (digested food) from the small intestine in order to finalize the absorption, changing the chyme from its initial liquid state to a solid one in order to convert it into feces.
Its primary function thereafter is the storage of the solid waste so that it can later be evacuated from the digestive system.
There are also conditions that keep the colon from functioning properly. And in some cases these conditions can produce colon cancer. This type of cancer is more common in people over the age of 50, who present risk factors and have a family history.
Since colon cancer in its initial phases can fail to show symptoms, we urge you to realize regular exams in order to be able to detect any anomalies as early as possible.
Colon cancer, when diagnosed in its initial phases, has a good chance of being overcome, but in its later phases prospects are quite grim.
The most common conditions that affect the colon
The following can be found among these conditions:
- Ulcerative colitis,
- Intestinal polyps,
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory conditions that affects the large intestine and the rectum. It is marked by the appearance of ulcers in the interior of the colon.
As far as we know, it seems to be at the root an immune system condition where the tolerance of certain antigens that normally inhabit the intestine is lost. The symptom that most commonly presents itself is diarrhea, sometimes with blood and pus, abdominal pain, fever, pain in the rectum, and weight loss.
Laboratory tests, x-rays, endoscopies, and other such tests are generally needed in order to properly diagnose this condition.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic pathology that can also fall into remission for long periods. The active periods are generally referred to as outbreaks.
The cause of this condition is unknown. It generally shows itself before 40 years of age, but it has also been diagnosed among the elderly. As of yet there is no cure apart from the removal of the affected portion of the colon.
Conventional treatment generally consists of the administration of medications that reduce inflammation and prevent new outbreaks.
While stress and certain foods can trigger ulcerative colitis, they are not the principal causes.
Due to the fact that the cause is still unknown, prevention is still primitive. The best available option for prevention is to avoid factors that trigger the condition.
Thanks to a faulty absorption of nutrients that bearers of this condition suffer the consumption of fruits and vegetables, nuts, milk, eggs, blue fish and cereals is generally recommended. Foods that should be avoided include legumes, fatty meats, alcoholic beverages, condiments, and sweets.
Nevertheless, in order to have a better idea of the recommended dietary guidelines, we have provided the following table:
Intestinal polyps are protuberances or abnormal growths on the surface of the colon. The majority of such polyps are benign, but they can also be or become cancerous.
The best way to avoid the transition from benign to cancerous is to remove them directly. People who have had polyps removed should return for endoscopic checks every one to three years in order to check for new growths.
These polyps are generally asymptomatic. They are usually discovered during check-ups for other problems, and are detected and subsequently removed via colonoscopy. They can occur either as a result of hereditary factors or external factors.
Should symptoms present themselves, they generally take the following form: anal bleeding, constipation or diarrhea that lasts longer than a week, blood in feces.
The field of medicine is as of yet unsure as to proper prevention of polyps, but the risk can be drastically reduced with the consumption of fruit, avoidance of alcohol and cigarettes, keeping weight in check, and the consumption of foods rich in calcium.
Diverticulosis consists of herniated sacks of mucus that protrude through the muscular layers in the weak points of the walls of the colon. They generally are more frequent with advanced age and often do not present symptoms.
What complications can arise from diverticulosis?
- Diverticulitis: Inflammation via subsequent infection.
- Hemorrhaging: patients that suffer from diverticulosis may present hemorrhaging. This can consist of hidden fecal loss or massive rectal hemorrhaging.
- Perforation: When the diverticula is inflamed, it can perforate and cause life-threatening infections.
The symptoms that may present themselves include constipation, abdominal discomfort, and fistulas.
Weakness of the intestinal muscles due to:
Diets poor in fiber are linked to the appearance of this condition. Fiber ensures more regular bowel movements that consequently exercise the intestinal muscles.
A diet poor in fiber can weaken the intestinal muscles through lack of activity and also cause constipation.
Family history can also predispose a person to this condition. Some people have weaker intestinal walls due to genetics.
The treatment can be carried out when an episode of diverticulitis appears, with the use of antibiotics in order to eliminate the infection. In more serious cases, hospitalization or even surgery may be needed.
A diet rich in fiber in order to avoid constipation and keep the intestinal musculature active and strong.
If you feel you are suffering any of the symptoms of the aforementioned conditions you should consult with a doctor. Keep in mind that early detection can mean a better prognosis and a better chance of recuperating full health.