A chalk illustration of a humans’ digestive system, specifically the colon.

Colon 101

The colon is an important, but often overlooked, part of the digestive tract.

The colon, also known as the large intestine, is the final part of your digestive tract. Its main jobs are to reabsorb liquid and process wastes for elimination from your body. Your large intestine stores waste, absorbs vitamin K and other nutrients, and helps maintain the body’s water balance. Your colon also provides a home for beneficial bacteria that help fermentation, or break down, and absorption of nutrients other parts of your digestive tract could not absorb.

Other parts of your digestive tract include your stomach and small intestine. Together, your stomach, small intestine, and colon work to perform many functions that affect your entire body.

The Colon Performs Several Important Jobs in Digestion

The colon is an important part of the digestive tract. After you chew and swallow food, powerful muscles and enzymes in your stomach grind the food into a creamy liquid, which moves into the small intestine that absorbs the vitamins and nutrients from the food. The leftover matter, which is mostly liquid, moves into the colon.

The colon reabsorbs liquids and salts from the leftover material for use elsewhere in your body. Beneficial bacteria in the colon break down the remaining material. The small intestine can then absorb more vitamins and nutrients from leftover material before the resulting stool moves into the rectum for elimination from the body.

Importance of Colon Health

A number of conditions, such as constipation, colon cancer, polyps, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and diverticular disease, can affect the colon. These conditions can cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, suffer pain, or experience uncomfortable or inconvenient changes in bowel habits. Cancer affecting the colon and rectum, known together as colorectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in cancers that affect both men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Keeping your colon healthy can help you prevent some of these conditions from developing; healthy lifestyle changes can improve symptoms of other colon problems. Diet and exercise play an important role in colon health. Preventive testing, such as colon cancer screening, can help detect certain diseases in their earliest and most treatable stages. For more information on your colon and on colon health, talk with Virtual Imaging today. The more you know about your small intestine, the better you will be able to take good care of it.