Is Your Colon Healthy?
Your first colonoscopy shouldn't be the first time you start thinking about your colorectal health. The colon and rectum act as the "pipes" in your body, moving food and nutrients along and getting rid of the waste after your body has absorbed what it needs for energy. They're an important part of your digestive health and just like the pipes in your house or car, they need care and maintenance to function properly. While there are many factors beyond your control, like family history, that can cause problems, there are steps you can take to make sure your colon is healthy.
How do I know if my Colon is Healthy?
Start by taking note of your bowel movements, individuals with a healthy digestive tract usually have bowel movements every day or several times a week, as it varies with each person. If you're having less than three movements a week, or if your child is only going about twice a week, it may be time to talk to your primary care provider or pediatrician about next steps. We know these issues may be uncomfortable to bring up, but they're extremely important for your doctor to know about. So, don't be embarrassed, and know that we have these conversations more than you may think.
What's An Unhealthy Colon?
If you're experiencing constipation, or less than three bowel movements a week, then your colon might be trying to tell you something. It could be that you're not eating the right food, not exercising enough, or you may have something more serious going on. You should also look for these signs:
- Hard stool
- Bloating, inability to pass gas, abdominal swelling or pain
- Lower back pain
- Feeling like your bowel is not empty
- Blood in your stool
Talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. They may be able to make suggestions or refer you to a gastroenterologist for further exams.
Healthy Bowel Habits
There are steps you can take to help your bowel health, and while these things won't take away your risk of getting colon or rectal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, or other colon problems, they can help reduce your risk.
- Eat more fiber – it helps you have more regular and complete stools.
- Exercise – even if it's a 20 minute walk a day, exercise has many health benefits, including stimulating your colon.
- Drink more water – dehydration is the leading cause of constipation. Moisture helps your body pass waste through the colon. Stay hydrated!
- Screening – get your regularly scheduled colonoscopy beginning at age 45. Family history or personal health problems may mean that you have to get it sooner. Don't put it off or delay it as this exam can catch colon cancer, which is more successfully treated when caught early.
It's never too late to develop a new healthy habit. Start small and work your way to a larger goal. Even if you begin by drinking more water or taking a short walk during your lunch break, these changes will make an impact on your overall health in the long run and improve your digestive health.
The physicians and medical professionals at Attleboro Gastroenterology Associates are committed to providing the highest quality health care to adult patients. To make an appointment with one of our providers, please call 508-222-2021.