A healthy colon is a happy colon

And who doesn’t want a happy colon?

And who doesn’t want a happy colon?

Wouldn’t you agree: When your plumbing isn’t working, it makes for a really bad day. I’m not talking about the plumbing in your house. I’m talking about your colon. When things aren’t moving like they should, it can make you pretty miserable.

Do you know how to keep your colon in good working order? And do you know why it’s important?

The colon, also called the large intestine, is a major part of your digestive system. It helps reabsorb water and electrolytes back into your body. It also helps to form and eliminate waste.

If your colon is in good working order, you should be having bowel movements regularly. They can be of varying shape and consistency but should be soft and easy to pass. Signs things aren’t working so well include constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating.

“Polyps can also develop,” said Rajesh A. Joseph, M.D., gastroenterologist with Norton Gastroenterology Consultants of Louisville. “These are small growths in the colon that may not carry any symptoms but can develop into cancer.”

That’s why it’s so important to take care of your colon — if not for your everyday comfort, then to reduce your cancer risk. More about cancer later … first, Dr. Joseph suggests these tips for keeping your colon happy:

  1. Eliminate or cut down on processed and red meats. Processed meats are those that are smoked, cured, salted or made with chemical preservatives, such as lunchmeat. Yes, that means bacon too. Sorry. Red meats include beef and lamb.
  2. Eat your veggies and fruit. They contain fiber, and the colon loves fiber. In addition, many veggies, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale, also contain cancer-fighting compounds. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. (Ideally, 3 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit)
  3. Did I mention fiber is your colon’s friend? In addition to fruits and veggies, incorporate other fiber-rich foods into your diet, especially from whole grains. These include barley, bran, oatmeal, beans and nuts.
  4. Exercise to keep “things” moving and to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for colon cancer, as is having more fat around your belly than other parts of your body. Adults should get moderate to vigorous activity most days of the week.

Now back to cancer. Why should you take care of your colon? Because colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the U.S., yet it’s one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Taking care of your colon, combined with getting colon cancer screenings starting at age 50 (age 45 if you are African American or at least by age 40 if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps), means you don’t have to add to this sad statistic.

Want to know your risk for colon cancer? Take an online risk assessment here.


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