Your colon is the final part of your gastrointestinal tract, which is part of your digestive system.
Your colon is about five feet long and about 2.5 inches in diameter. Your small intestine is actually longer than your large intestine but your large intestine is thicker in diameter, which is why they refer to your colon as the large intestine.
Your large intestine wraps around the border of your abdominal cavity. Your colon begins on the right side of your abdomen, where it connects to your small intestine. The hollow tube of your colon moves upward on the right side of your stomach, a segment of the intestine known as the ascending colon. The transverse colon then takes a 90-degree turn to move from the right side of your upper abdomen across to the left side, where it takes another 90-degree turn. Your descending colon then runs down along the left side of your abdomen. The large intestine bends slightly at the end of the descending colon, so that the end of the colon terminates at your anus.
Your colon performs three very important jobs:
- Converting food into stool
- Absorbing essential vitamins from bacteria living in the gut
- Reclaiming water from stool
A semi-liquid mixture of digested food, known as chyme, passes from the small intestine into the large intestine. Powerful muscles move the chyme through the colon in a motion known as peristalsis. It takes about 36 hours for chyme to move through your colon.
The chyme mixes with beneficial bacteria living in the gut. As the chyme moves through the colon, bacterial fermentation turns the chyme into stool and releases vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, K, and biotin that the body uses for various functions.
Your colon also turns chyme into stool by absorbing excess fluid and salt. Your body uses this reclaimed fluid and salt for other metabolic processes. The remaining waste moves through to the final segment of the colon, known as the sigmoid colon, which stores the stool for elimination. Once or twice a day, the stool moves from the sigmoid colon to the rectum and then to the outside world during a bowel movement.
For more information on your colon and its importance to your good health, talk to your doctor or other healthcare professional. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.