Caring for the Large Intestine
You might not think about it much, if at all, but when stool elimination is abnormal, this organ may suddenly become top of mind.
We’re talking about the large intestine – the approximately 5 foot tube-like organ that consists of the cecum, colon, rectum, and anus.
Sure, it may not be the most attractive topic, but nonetheless, it’s important for daily life and overall health.
Not familiar with it? Let’s catch you up…
What does the large intestine do?
The large intestine regulates and absorbs salts and water (to hydrate the body with water and electrolytes), ferments fiber (for stool movement), and eliminates waste and toxins (through stool elimination).
There is a plethora of bacteria that live in this organ, comprising of the gut microbiome that feeds off fiber and then produces vitamins and nutrients for the cells of the intestinal wall.
Ideally, stool movements should take place 1-3 times per day (for a healthy transit time) in order to detoxify the body of hormones, chemicals, medicines, and other toxins. A brown and firm, yet easy-to-eliminate stool is desired.
This Bristol Chart shows the types of stool and which is normal:
What are symptoms of a breakdown in the function of the large intestine?
It can be a challenge in today’s world to live a purely clean and stress-free life.
Causes such as:
- lack of movement
- environmental hazards
- overuse of antibiotics
- foods low in fiber
- fasting for days
- dairy and/or gluten
- unbalanced microbiome
can all disrupt the normal processes of the large intestine and in turn, it can have difficulty absorbing, congealing, and/or eliminating.
Symptoms of an issue with the large intestine can be:
- constipation (due to lack of water, fiber and/or microbiome imbalance)
- diarrhea (microbiome issues, stressed nervous system, improper diet and/or digestion)
- abdominal pain
- mood and/or sleep issues (from an unbalanced microbiome)
- difficulty losing weight
- hormone imbalance (from eliminating too much or too little hormones)
- low grade inflammation (due to not absorbing nutrients and/or too many toxins not getting eliminated in a timely manner)
and may even lead to IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and/or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) such as Crohn’s disease.
How can the large intestine be taken care of?
Depending on the issue, a variety of things can be done to help alleviate symptoms and care for the large intestine.
For immediate symptom relief, over-the-counter medications such as laxatives or anti-diarrheals can be of help, but they do not fully address the issue and one can become dependent on them. Use them sparingly for acute cases.
To encourage smooth elimination, drink at least half of your weight in ounces of water daily and add more for exercise, warm or dry weather, and sweating.
Also include insoluble fiber (such as that in whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and root vegetables) and soluble fiber (like apples, bananas, oats, peas, citrus, barley).
Restore the microbiome with nutrients to “kill off” unwanted bacteria (such as oil of oregano), include pre- and probiotics (which one depends on how you respond to each and what helps the most), and add mainly soluble fiber (to bind stool) with some additional insoluble fiber (to nourish the microbiome).
Intermittent fasting can also provide a break for the microbiome and large intestine, allowing it to calm and restore function.
For more issues as well as IBS and/or IBD, naturopathic herbs can help regulate large intestine function, decrease inflammation, heal the intestinal lining, and restore the microbiome. Dr. Graves utilizes functional stool testing, a variety of supplements, and acupuncture, to calm and regulate the digestive process.
In addition, daily movement such as walking can put the body in parasympathetic mode – calming our nervous system for healthy elimination.
Maybe it’s an issue you’ve always had or maybe it’s just something that has popped up recently, but either way if your digestion is off and affecting your daily life, discovering the cause and treating it appropriately can help you feel – and live – better.
If you live in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, or the greater Denver metro area and are in need of naturopathic care for your digestion, please call us at (303) 688-6698 or click here to schedule a free 15 minute phone consultation with Dr. Graves to go over your symptoms and to learn how the CNMA office may be able to help.