Digestion & Your Colon

What is the colon?

There is so much information available on colon and digestion system. Just a refresher I put the highlights below. The colon, bowel or large intestine (all the same), is the end portion of the human digestive tract. The colon is approximately 5-6 feet long and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Its major functions are to eliminate waste and to conserve water. Also, there are bacteria living in the colon which synthesize valuable nutrients.
The colon is part of the large intestine, the last part of the digestive system. So just a quick reminder, of the digestive process, from the beginning.

Your Colon
Mouth and salivary glands
When you eat,  a mixture of secretions (including enzymes) help lubricate and break down food.  Chewing and the secretions transform your food into  a soft, moist, rounded mass (bolus) suitable for swallowing.

Swallowing is the effects of muscles in your mouth and throat propelling bolus into your upper esophagus, the tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Muscles in the wall of your esophagus create synchronized waves (peristalsis), one after another, propelling the bolus into your stomach.

This is the last part of the ‘breaking down process’.  The stomach has very powerful muscles and begins to churn, mixing the food into smaller pieces. Your digestive glands in your stomach produce stomach acid and enzymes. This continues to mix with the food to form a murky semi-fluid or paste called chyme. The muscles in your lower stomach contractions and propel it through a valve called the pylorus and into the first section of your small intestine (duodenum). The pylorus releases small amounts of the chyme at a time.

Pancreas, liver and gallbladder
In your duodenum, digestion continues as chyme from the stomach mixes with a variety of digestive juices from your pancreas, liver and gallbladder:

  •     Pancreas. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that break down proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
  •     Liver. The liver produces bile, a solution that helps you digest fats.
  •     Gallbladder. The gallbladder stores bile. As fatty food enters the upper portion of your small intestine (the duodenum), the gallbladder squeezes bile into the small intestine through the bile ducts.

Your Colon

Small intestine
As bile and pancreatic digestive juices mix, it moves to your the jejunum, still in the small intestine. Here the absorption begins.  80% of your nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. After the jejunum it moves to the longest and final part of the intestine, the ileum.  Here the remaining nutrients are absorbed through the lining of the ileum’s wall.

What remains of the food when it reaches the end of the ileum is a combination of water, electrolytes — such as sodium and chloride — and waste products, such as plant fiber and dead cells shed from the lining of your digestive tract.

Large intestine
Your Colon
While the small intestine plays a major role in absorbing nutrients from food, the large intestine plays a much smaller role. It stores waste, reclaims water, maintains water balance, absorbs some vitamins, like vitamin K, and provides for flora-aided fermentation.

As the material passes through the colon, most of the water is absorbed, leaving a soft but formed substance called stool. Muscles in the wall of your colon separate the waste into small segments that are pushed into cecum, ascending, transverse, descending, sigmoid and finally into the rectum. As the rectal walls are stretched, the signal the need for a bowel movement is made.The colon is supported by peritoneum, which supports the abdominal organs and serves as a conduit for blood, lymph vessels, and nerves.

When the sphincter muscles in your anus relax, the rectal walls contract to increase pressure. These coordinated muscle contractions expel the stool.

Elimination Systems
There are 5 organs responsible for getting the waste, toxins and unused material that was ingested; out of your body.  They are the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin. These organs work together to ensure that our body is able to survive. Its very important to supporting these organs and assure they are eliminating just as they are ingesting.  Consider that we get regular dental maintenance, physicals and if we are not hungry we would get this looked at quickly.  Similarly if we have elimination issues, that is a big sign there is an issue.

The Liver
Our liver is a major player, if not the biggest player in our detox process.

  • Breaks down, deactivates and removes toxic substances. Things like food additives, harmful minerals, toxic medication, excess hormones and more.
  • Regulates blood
  • It produces ‘Kupffer’s cells’ which filter and destroy foreign invaders like bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancerous cells.
  • Extracts from our blood and the waste material from the earlier breakdown of harmful substances is then carried to the intestines and the kidney via our blood and bile to be excreted from our bodies.

The Kidneys
Our kidneys are essential in keeping our body in balance.  It maintains our body’s pH balance and our sodium balance.  The kidneys filter our blood of toxic waste and excess water. They do this in three steps

Our liver breaks down harmful substances, the resulting waste materials are then carried to our intestines via bile. Bile also helps breakdown fat molecules. This waste is carried through the small intestines with food. Our small intestine absorbs the essential nutrients and transports this material to the colon where they can be excreted as part of our feces.

The lungs remove toxic gases from our body.  We breathe out toxins, for example after a night of drinking, the smell we have the next day is from the lungs expelling the toxins in our breath. The smell is from a chemical created by your liver as it destroys alcohol and it gets released through our lungs.  We can also eliminate toxins via our phlegm.

The Skin
The skin is the largest organ in our body, defending us and protecting us. Sometimes the other organs of elimination need help from the skin. Any toxins/waste that is soluble in water can also be eliminated through our sweat. The most common waste to be excreted this way are residues of the metabolism of rich foods such as meat, dairy and eggs. Which is why we look to our diet if we have skin issues..