The colon has a big job in our bodies, essentially neutralizing waste from the foods we eat, absorbing and producing essential nutrients from it, and letting it pass safely through our bodies. When things don't work right—primarily due to toxic waste buildup—the colon is taxed, often leading to constipation, diarrhea, chronic headaches, insomnia, depression, and colon cancer.
With new health guidelines recommending colorectal screenings for those 45 and older, now's a better time than ever to learn how to care for your colon so it can do its job well. Here's how you can combat illness in this essential organ.
Eat more fiber
Fiber literally helps waste roll through your colon and promotes regular bowel movements when it's working like it should. The current recommended daily amount is 25 to 35 grams each day, which can look like half a cup of cooked beans, two servings of fruit like avocado or oranges, and a healthy serving of oats. Brussels sprouts, carrots, lentils, nuts, oats, peas, and raspberries are also good sources of fiber. Probiotics like yogurt and kimchi are good to eat as well. And don't forget to drink enough water!
Limit processed foods
We all want to treat ourselves to some tasty processed foods every once in a while—and that's OK! But that's exactly what they should be: treats. Eating highly processed and fast foods won't do long-term damage if you eat them occasionally. Just don't make them a regular thing, and your colon will thank you for it.
Exercising can do more than just make you look and feel good. It can help your colon work like it should through improved circulation and blood flow. In studies, it's also shown to increase diversity of the gut microbiome, helping to improve the overall health of the gastrointestinal tract. It doesn't have to be vigorous to be effective; regular walks can be all you need.
Regular screenings are an effective way to detect polyps and other irregularities that can pop up and lead to cancer if not detected early enough. Colonoscopies are awkward, yes—but you have your gynecologist poke around down there, so why not a gastroenterologist?
Consider a cleanse
There's some debate on the safety and efficacy of colon cleanses like flushes and colonic hydrotherapy, but some holistic practitioners swear by it. These flushes help clear the body of waste that builds up in the colon, which can become toxic over time. Think of it like an internal bath.
While many tout the benefits of a cleanse—from reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome to lessening bloat and helping with weight loss—it's important to note that a cleanse will clear out the good bacteria along with the bad. So if you're going this route, make sure you know what to do for follow-up care.
The bottom line
At its core, the colon is a self-cleansing mechanism. When you fuel your body with fiber-rich whole foods, stay hydrated and move your body, it should work properly. Maintain it well using these tips and others to achieve the perfect poop, and your colon should be in solid shape!