Many people suffer from colon problems these days. The reason for the surge in patients suffering from colon problems lies in our unhealthy dietary habits. Colon problems can cause extreme pain and discomfort. Some cases of infection may require hospitalization and surgery. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the common colon problems and how to prevent them.
First, let’s try to understand the functioning of the colon. The colon is also called large intestine. The food you eat goes into your stomach where it mixes with digestive enzymes and acids. This mixture passes on to the small intestine where it is further digested and nutrients are absorbed by the body. The digested mass passes into the large intestine where most of the water is reabsorbed and solid waste is eliminated from the body during a bowel movement.
What does one mean by colon problems? Colon problems include diarrhea, constipation, gas, abdominal bloating, colitis, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Diarrhea is caused by bacterial infection in the stomach due to contamination in the food you ate. Your diet is also responsible for incidence of constipation and gas and the like. Sometimes, small polyps like growths are seen on the colon. Although small and usually benign, they can cause colon cancer in some cases. Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation in the colon.
Diverticulitis is a more serious colon problem. Older people are more at risk of diverticulitis, especially if they suffer from constipation. Straining during bowel movements can lead to the formation of diverticula or pockets in weak spots of the colon. These diverticula are harmless but they can get plugged with bacteria. Remember, the colon is a region with high bacterial population. These bacteria are useful in processing and digesting food. Bacterial infection in the diverticula can cause inflammation and irritation which in turn causes fever and pain. Medical attention and antibiotic treatment is essential for combating diverticulitis.
What steps can you take to prevent colon problems? As mentioned before, the root cause of colon problems lies in our diet. Dietary modifications are therefore the best way to prevent these problems. Here are some tips to help prevent common colon problems:
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Make sure that you eat different kinds of fruits and vegetables, not just few of the ones you like.
• Include whole grains in your diet. These are rich sources of fiber.
• Make sure that you get plenty of fiber through the foods you eat. Fiber is essential for proper digestion and ensures smooth bowel movement. Experts recommend taking at least 20-30 grams of fiber per day.
• Avoid junk food. They contain too much unhealthy fats and minimal amounts of fiber.
• Drink plenty of water and fresh juice. Remember, fiber alone won’t help your body. As a matter of fact, it can cause constipation. Combine fiber with a substantial intake of water to keep digestion in going smoothly.
• Avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol and diuretics like coffee and tea.
• Say no to laxatives. They are addictive and will just interfere with the normal functioning of the digestive system. They also reduce the uptake of nutrients by the body. Excessive use of laxatives can even cause malnutrition and dehydration. Similarly, enemas and colon cleansers should also be avoided.
• Stick to homemade foods as much as possible. Spoilt food can cause diarrhea. Treatment of diarrhea and vomiting may require a dose of antibiotics which in turn can destroy the bacterial flora of the colon. Avoid anti-diarrhea medicine as much as possible.
• If you are over 50 or if you have a family history of bowel problems, go for regular colon screening checkups.
Contact a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Severe abdominal cramps with fever
- Rectal bleeding
- Diarrhea for over 2 days
- Constipation for over 2 weeks
- Frequent vomiting
- Sudden unexplained weight loss