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Sure Signs Your Colon Isn't Working Properly, Say Physicians

Everything to know about your colon and signs it's in trouble. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Your colon is a vital organ that's part of your digestive system, which helps digest food and turn it into stool, among other important functions, so when it's in trouble, you'll more than likely feel it. The colon is susceptible to many things like cancer, inflammation and other issues like constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome so paying attention to warning signals your body is trying to tell you is key to figuring out the problem and feeling better faster. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who shares what to know about your colon and signs it's not working properly. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About the Colon

Practitioner at colon therapy massaging abdomen wall of woman

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "The colon is a long, coiled tube that starts at the small intestine and ends at the rectum. The colon or large intestine has three primary functions. It absorbs water and electrolytes to maintain fluid balance in the body. In addition, the colon aids in the digestion of complex carbohydrates and helps to protect the intestines from harmful bacteria. The colon produces vitamins necessary for cell function while also absorbing other nutrients that help with health recovery after digestion is complete (such as fiber); lastly but not least, importantly-the anus sends feces toward its final destination so you can flush out any unwanted products from your system!"


The Colon is Essential for Good Gut Health

Woman holding model of human intestines in front of body.

Dr. Mitchell explains, "The human colon, or large intestine, is home to trillions of bacteria that play an essential role in gut health. These bacteria help break down food, producing nutrients the body can absorb. They also have vitamins, including vitamin K and the B vitamins biotin and folate. The colonic bacteria are responsible for a substantial portion of the vitamin K in the blood. Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting, and deficiencies can lead to problems with bruising and bleeding. The B vitamins are also crucial for good health, helping to convert food into energy and supporting the nervous system. Therefore, the healthy bacteria in the colon play a vital role in keeping the body functioning correctly."


How Colon Issues Can Happen

Sad woman drinking wine at kitchen.

Dr. Mitchell says, "Unfortunately, the colon can be subject to several problems, including inflammation, infection, and cancer. While anyone can develop colon problems, some risk factors increase the likelihood of developing issues. These include age (colon problems are more common in people over the age of 50), family history (if someone in your family has had colon problems, you may be more likely to develop them as well), and lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and eating a diet high in fat and low in fiber are all linked to an increased risk of colon problems). Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your risk of developing colon problems. In addition, they can conduct a screening test to check for any early signs of trouble."


How to Help Keep Your Colon Healthy

eat fiber foods

Here's seven tips Dr. Mitchell recommends on how to help keep your colon healthy. 

1) "Eat a high-fiber diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; this will help to keep your digestive system regular. 

2) Avoid eating processed foods and red meat, which can contribute to colon cancer. 

3) Drink eight glasses of water daily to stay hydrated and avoid constipation. 

4) Regular exercise helps keep your digestive system working correctly. 

5) Quit smoking- smoking increases your risk of developing numerous colon problems, including cancer. 

6) Be sure to get screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 (or earlier if you have a family history of the disease). 

7) Talk to your doctor if you experience any changes in your bowel habits or notice any other potential signs of colon problems. Following these tips can help keep your colon healthy and potentially avoid potential issues."


Why Listening to Your Body is Important


Dr. Mitchell shares, "Being aware of your body is essential for several reasons. First, it lets you know what is normal for you or your baseline. This is important because it can help you identify when something is out of the ordinary. For example, if you suddenly have a lot of pain in your stomach but know that this isn't something that usually happens to you, it may be a sign that something is wrong, and you should seek medical help. Additionally, being body aware can help you stay healthy overall. For example, if you know how your body responds to different foods, you can eat foods that make you feel good and avoid those that make you feel sick. Finally, body awareness can also help you notice early signs of illness or disease so that you can get treatment as soon as possible. So, overall, there are many benefits to being aware of your body and knowing what is expected.

Body awareness is especially true for your colon, as problems with this part of the digestive system can be severe. Here are five signs that something may be wrong with your colon."


Change in Bowel Habits

open the bathroom door, go to toilet

"Most people have a regular bowel pattern that is relatively consistent daily," states Dr. Mitchell. "However, it is not unusual for some variation in frequency and consistency. For example, a change in bowel habits is generally defined as a change that lasts for more than a few days and can include either an increase or decrease in the frequency of bowel movements and a change in the appearance of stool. While a change in bowel habits is often harmless and temporary, it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. If you experience a sudden or dramatic change in your bowel habits, you must speak to your doctor to identify and treat any underlying cause. If you suddenly start experiencing diarrhea or constipation, it could signify something is wrong with your colon."


Blood in the Stool

Woman with prostate problem in front of toilet bowl. Lady with hands holding her crotch, People wants to pee - urinary incontinence concept

Dr. Mitchell says, "Blood in your stool signifies something is wrong with your colon. There are a few different things that could be causing the bleeding, such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or colitis. If you have blood in your stool, it's essential to see a doctor so they can figure out what is causing the bleeding and treat it appropriately. Sometimes, blood in the stool can signify something more serious, like colon cancer, so a doctor must check it out as soon as possible.

This is a cause for concern, as it could be a sign of bleeding in the colon."


Cramping or Pain in the Abdomen

mature woman experiencing stomach pain from fatty liver disease

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Cramping and pain in the abdomen may indicate something is wrong with your colon. If the colon becomes blocked or inflamed, it can cause cramping, pain, and other symptoms. Some of the most common causes of colon problems include constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Cramping and pain may sometimes signify more severe conditions such as colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. If you experience persistent abdominal pain, you must see a doctor for evaluation."


Unexplained Weight Loss

weight fluctuates

Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "Unexplained weight loss is often one of the first signs that something is wrong with your colon. The colon is responsible for extracting nutrients from food and eliminating waste from the body. If there is a problem with the colon, it can affect both of these functions. In addition, the colon plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar levels. When the colon is not working correctly, blood sugar levels can drop, leading to hunger and cravings. As a result, people who lose weight without trying may suffer from an underlying colon problem. Therefore, if you are experiencing unexplained weight loss, you must see a doctor to diagnose and treat any underlying issues."



Woman lying on her bed with her eyes closed.

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "Fatigue is a common symptom of many different health conditions, but it can also signify that something is wrong with your colon. The colon is a critical part of the digestive system and is essential in absorbing nutrients and eliminating waste. However, the colon can also be a source of fatigue. When the colon is not functioning correctly, it can cause a build-up of toxins and waste products. This can lead to fatigue and other symptoms like headache, low energy, and constipation. If you are experiencing unexplained fatigue, it may be worth checking in with your doctor to see if there could be an underlying problem with your colon."

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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