The role of your intestinal system
Everyone talks about the health of the heart, lung and brain. The intestinal tract is just as crucial and no less important for health.
In fact, the digestive tract is something like the body's purification and power plant. Good, healthy digestion ensures vital bodily functions. When digestion is out of balance, basic bodily functions can no longer run as they should. The consequences can include fatigue, poor concentration and even serious diseases such as cancer. Maintaining a good digestive system is key to supporting heart, lung and brain health for overall wellness.
The importance of the digestive system to overall well-being
The digestive system is made up of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract plus the liver, pancreas and gallbladder.
The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, winding tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The liver, pancreas and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.
Together these body parts and organs serve many purposes. The body needs nutrients from food and drink to work properly and stay healthy. We need proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and water as nutrients, which are broken down by the digestive system into parts small enough for the body to absorb. The nutrients are used for energy, growth and cell repair.
After nourishing comes the cleansing
Of equal importance is the work of the colon. The waste products of the digestive process must be eliminated. Cleansing includes undigested food particles, fluids and older cells from the lining of the GI tract. By absorbing water, the colon converts waste from liquid to stool. Peristalsis - automatic muscle contractions - helps move stool into the rectum.
The rectum at the bottom of the colon stores stool until it is pushed out from the anus during a bowel movement.
Why bowel health affects every aspect of life
One’s well-being can already be affected by small changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool that lasts for more than a few days. Another indicator is a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one. You might start losing weight without trying and feel tired and weak, accompanied by cramps or abdominal pain in the belly.
There might be rectal bleeding with bright red blood or blood in the stool that makes it appear dark brown or black - signs that may indicate more serious conditions…
The most common colorectal health issues
Colorectal carcinoma, also called colon or rectal cancer, is one of the most common diseases of the colon. Symptoms of later stages 3 and 4 include excessive fatigue, unexplained weakness, unwanted weight loss and stool changes that last longer than a month, accompanied by a feeling that the bowels won’t completely empty.
Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition characterized by chronic GI inflammation. If prolonged, the condition can result in damage to the GI tract. Common symptoms of this disease include discomfort or pain in the abdomen, gas and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation and/or vomiting.
So-called anorectal conditions that affect the anus and rectum include hemorrhoids, anal fissure and anal fistula. Symptoms such as pain, itching, burning, bleeding and/or swelling can significantly affect patients' lives.
What are the most common causes of colorectal health problems?
This question can be answered with a resounding yes. First and foremost, it is recommended to be screened regularly for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends screenings beginning at age 45 for people at average risk.
Such examinations are tests that look for cancer before signs and symptoms appear. These tests can detect colon or rectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment can be more successful.
Some colorectal cancer screening tests can also detect and remove precancerous growths (polyps) in the colon or rectum. Polyps are not cancerous, but over time, cancer can develop in the polyps. If they are removed, the risk of cancer decreases.
If you are over 45 years of age, we recommend that your annual health screening includes a stool exam and an occult blood test, to detect blood that is not visible. Colonoscopy screenings for healthy individuals should be scheduled in 5 year intervals.
How to maintain colorectal health?
Eat a healthy diet: Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Such a diet is high in nutrients and fiber and is associated with a lower risk of colon and rectal cancer.
Red meats such as beef, pork and lamb have been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The same warning applies to processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages and midday meals such as cooked meats, cold cuts, charcuterie and deli meats.
- Get regular exercise: If you are not physically active, you may have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. Being more active can help lower your risk.
- Watch your weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing colon or rectal cancer. A healthier diet combined with more physical activity can help control body weight and thus lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Don’t smoke: People who have smoked for a long time have a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer than non-smokers.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. It's best not to drink alcohol at all. If you do, however, the American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Bumrungrad specialist doctors and clinics for colorectal health
Bumrungrad International Hospital’s gastrointestinal specialists and clinics provide all services from prevention to advanced treatment. Some patient cases require milder interventions with lifestyle changes, others are assured of state of the art expertise and facilities in all relevant fields.
Experienced Bumrungrad doctors treat a large number of cases of anal fistula. GI specialists include expert colon surgeons who perform colonoscopies using advanced techniques such as endoscopic submucosal dissection and advanced laparoscopic colorectal surgery.
3rd floor, Building B, North wing
Tel 02 011 2351-2 (8:00 - 18:00 hrs.)
Tel 1378 (20:00 - 8:00 hrs.)
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