Your colon, or large intestine, is the last part of your digestive tract. Its primary function is to process and eliminate waste from your body.
Though you may not give your body’s waste removal system much thought, you should. There are many health conditions that affect your colon, like constipation, colon cancer, and hemorrhoids. Unhealthy lifestyle habits may play a role in the development of these conditions or contribute to their symptoms.
At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, our board-certified family medicine physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, specializes in colon health and rectal disorders. Many of her treatment recommendations for conditions like hemorrhoids center around lifestyle changes.
In addition to alleviating rectal disorder symptoms, these lifestyle adjustments also promote colon health.
About your colon
What you eat supplies your body with all the nutrients it needs to function. By the time food reaches your colon, your body has absorbed almost all the nutrients and water. What remains is mostly indigestible food matter.
However, your colon does more than just serve as a holding tank for waste. It absorbs any remaining water, electrolytes, and vitamins from the indigestible matter, helping solidify the waste for easier elimination.
Your colon is also home to trillions of microorganisms that protect and maintain colon health. These microorganisms break down and feed off the indigestible matter as it passes through your colon. Through this process — known as fermentation — they produce essential nutrients like vitamin K and biotin that your body absorbs and uses.
Lifestyle and colon health
Just like your heart and bones, your lifestyle habits, including your diet, affect the health and function of your colon. In fact, many of the unhealthy habits that increase your risk of heart disease also affect the health and wellbeing of your colon, including:
- Eating too much red meat and processed food
- Not eating enough fiber, fruits, or vegetables
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting enough exercise
- Having poor sleeping habits
Many of these unhealthy lifestyle habits may also make it hard for you to maintain a healthy weight. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity increases the risk of colon cancer.
Easy lifestyle adjustments
Making changes to your lifestyle is hard and requires time and commitment. But, there’s no rule that says you need to change everything at the same time.
For our hemorrhoid patients, we encourage a diet filled with high-fiber foods. But when we make these recommendations, we tell our patients to go slowly. Adding too much fiber too quickly may make things worse.
The same is true when making lifestyle adjustments to promote colon health. Small, reasonable changes over time lead to big rewards without making you feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
When it comes to promoting colon health, create a plan with attainable goals and specific actions, such as:
- Adding more colorful fruits and vegetables to your usual diet
- Swapping out some of your refined grains for whole grains
- Making water your go-to drink
- Replacing your red meat with fish or poultry
- Limiting your intake of sugary foods
- Getting regular exercise
Make one or two lifestyle adjustments at a time.
In addition to promoting colon health, many of these healthy lifestyle habits improve bowel movements and alleviate constipation, which decreases your risk of hemorrhoids and anal fissures. That’s why lifestyle adjustments are such a major part of our treatment plan for managing rectal disorders.
Whether you’re suffering from a rectal disorder or simply want to make lifestyle changes to improve bowel function and colon health, we can help. Call our office at 636-228-3136 to schedule an appointment with our expert today.