Your colon is the largest portion of your large intestine, which includes the rectum and anus, too. The small and large intestines are sometimes referred to as your “gut.” Your colon wraps around the perimeter of your small intestine and connects your small intestine with your rectum so you can eliminate digested food. The colon consists of the:
- Cecum — entry point between small intestine and colon
- Ascending colon — travels up from cecum
- Transverse colon — travels across the top of the small intestine
- Descending colon — travels down from small intestine to sigmoid colon
- Sigmoid colon — S-shaped tube that connects colon to rectum
The approximately 2.5-inch wide and 5-foot long colon processes fecal matter from the small intestine. Your colon absorbs water from the fecal matter as it passes up, sideways, and down toward the rectum, where it’s stored before defecation.
The walls of the colon also absorb vitamins that are released by fecal matter when it’s fermented by your gut bacteria. One of the best ways to keep your colon healthy is by keeping your gut bacteria healthy. And one of the best ways to keep your gut bacteria healthy is to feed them the right foods.
Our colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford want your colon to stay healthy, strong, and filled with beneficial gut bacteria. At our offices in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut, we help you stay free of diarrhea, constipation, and other conditions that can plague your colon. A few dietary tweaks can help you do so.
Not all bugs are bad
You may associate bacteria with unwanted conditions, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), urinary tract infections (UTIs), and food poisoning. But our bodies need certain types of beneficial bacteria (i.e., “good bugs”) to carry out their functions. Beneficial bacteria are particularly important in your gut.
When you have an abundance and variety of beneficial gut bacteria, the walls of your colon stay strong, which protects the rest of your body from the pathogens in your feces. Good bugs, in fact, prevent your colon from becoming inflamed and transferring that inflammation to other organs.
If you don’t have an abundance of beneficial gut bacteria, however, you may develop a condition called “leaky gut.” In a leaky gut, the walls of your intestines become so thin that pathogens leave your feces and travel into your bloodstream, causing inflammation.
Beneficial bacteria also help you metabolize the nutrients in food. They keep fermentation to a minimum in your colon, so you’re not bothered by bloating and gas.
Feed your good bugs
Your good bugs need whole, unprocessed, fiber-rich foods to stay healthy, plentiful, and varied. Good bacteria break the fiber in foods into short-chain fatty acids. The fatty acids change the pH in your colon, so that bad bacteria can’t thrive, but good bacteria can.
The kinds of fiber-rich foods that feed your good bugs are known as “prebiotics.” Some examples of prebiotics you should feed your colon include:
- Vegetables, including onions
- Fruits, including bananas
- Whole grains
Another type of prebiotic is called resistant starch. Resistant starches aren’t broken or digested by your small intestine. Instead, they ferment in your colon, where they’re eaten by your good bugs.
You can turn some otherwise “unhealthy” starchy foods into resistant starches simply by cooking and cooling them. Cooking and cooling white potatoes or white rice, for instance, transform them from high-glycemic (i.e. sugary) starches to low-glycemic resistant starches.
After you’ve transformed a starch into a resistant starch, you can’t change it back. When you heat up the cooled rice or potatoes, you'll still enjoy the benefits of a resistant starch.
Give your good bugs some friends
Another way to eat your way to good colon health is to include plenty of probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are another type of beneficial bacteria that are present in fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt.
However, the bacteria must be alive in order to help your colon. That’s why you should choose refrigerated, raw sauerkraut over canned sauerkraut. Make sure your yogurt, too, has live bacteria and little-to-no sugar. Mix up your probiotics and indulge in at least one or two servings per day.
If you’re ready and willing to eat your way to good colon health, but still suffer from constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, or an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), call our team at 860-242-8591 today. You can also schedule an appointment online.