Colon Health: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colon Cancer, and the Colon’s Role in Disease
Imagine you standing in an ancient Greece stadium around 350 B.C. wondering why you were counting the years down as each year passes and what in the heck happens in 350 years?!?
Here, the revolutionary physician, Hippocrates of Kos stood at a stone podium, microphone in hand, and said, “[Ahem] I hear by declare that all disease begins in the gut!” He then drops the mic and walks away from the podium.
Ok, I am not sure exactly how all that went down, but Hippocrates, a well-documented physician of ancient Greece, famously believed that all disease begins in the gut.
The wisdom of this toga-wearing Greek fell by the wayside over the last century or more. Now, physicians take more of the “diagnose and adios” approach. Your collective symptoms are given a name, and you walk away with a prescription for a man-made drug that may cause dry mouth, itchy eyes, suicidal thoughts, anal bleeding, cancer - you get the picture, right?
To Hippocrates, medicine was an art form. Health was the creation. Each patient was treated with the same respect that a sculptor had for his or her masterpiece.
At Apogee Wellness, we bring that same attention to detail that Hippocrates demanded from his students and often discover that our patients’ dis-ease started in the gut.
Function and Location of the Colon
Whatever you eat, you either use it or lose it. Your cells regenerate and excrete metabolic waste that also needs to find the exit. All this waste winds up in the colon to exit your system like the water slide at Oceans of Fun.
The colon, aka the large intestine, connects to the small intestine on the lower right-hand side of your abdomen and ascends up the right side, across the top of your abdomen and descends down the right side. From there, it takes a right turn to align with the rectum.
The colon removes water, salts, and some nutrients from the waste and gently shoves the now compact unusable solids towards the back door.
The colon represents the bottom of the detox funnel - pun intended. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, detoxing your body must begin with the end in mind. If the drain is plugged in your sewer line and springs leaks, you’ve got yourself a problem! Therefore, skilled practitioners often first focus on the colon to ensure your body’s plumbing system safely and effectively releases waste.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the colon relates to the Metal Element and the yin organ, lungs. The lungs and colon often store grief, sadness, judgment, and shame. A dysfunctional colon may indicate that you struggle to go with the flow in life and hold onto too many things. The colon teaches us to go with the flow in life and to give in order to receive.
Signs of Colon Dysfunction
By now, most of us know the obvious signs of colon dysfunction such as:
All these symptoms accompany the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal disorder, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Once again Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is simply a name for a collection of uncomfortable, often debilitating and embarrassing symptoms.
Blood in Stool
Exceptionally Dark Stool
Unintended Weight Loss
Overly Tired and Weak
These symptoms along with the typical IBS symptoms accompany an increasingly common cancer, colon cancer. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. (2)
Other, not so obvious symptoms of colon dysfunction include:
Immune System Weakness
Difficulty Losing Weight
Increase in Mucus
Food Sensitivities and Allergic Responses
Your body is a system, and as Hippocrates once knew, your gut plays a huge part in the functioning of said system. Your poop may not be the most glorious of bodily functions, but by God, that’s paydirt! What you learn about your body’s health simply from your eliminations represent the gold nuggets you need in order to live a long, vibrant life!
Dysfunctional Colon’s Role in Disease
All the body’s waste must ultimately end up in the colon to meet its final demise. In addition to properly containing and eliminating waste, it must also absorb nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins and minerals and water.
If you’ve ever had a dysfunctional colon, you know the signs. You eat. You cramp. You bloat. You may excrete solid pieces of food shortly thereafter. You feel dehydrated, weak, and generally unwell, and your color may even drain from your face.
The minerals and vitamins needed to create chemical reactions for other bodily functions diminish. If your colon isn’t working properly to absorb the electrolytes, liquid and other nutrients, your body dehydrates down at the cellular level, and your lymphatic system becomes stagnate, further weakening your immune system.
If waste stagnates for too long in your colon or your colon’s lining becomes permeable, toxins will likely leach into your bloodstream and back up into your other detox organs. Furthermore, a stagnant colon leads to an acidic body, which promotes disease and inflammation.
In addition, this amazing communication between the gut and the brain, referred to as the gut-brain axis relies on a healthy microbiome to communicate via nerves, hormones, immune system, and bodily fluids. (4) The relationship between the nervous system of the gut and the central nervous system relies heavily on a homeostasis within the bodily terrain.
As always, one must never underestimate the power of emotions. Sadness, grief, anxiety, among other emotions disrupt the feedback loop necessary for a healthy gut-brain connection. Emotions change the chemistry of the body as well as the microbiome’s expression, which greatly impacts your immune system.
How to Restore Your Colon’s Health
As functional medicine doctors, we always treat the root cause of any pain or disease including colon dysfunction. At Apogee Wellness, we often find that our patients experience colon dysfunction as a result of dysbiosis from the following:
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Environmental and Heavy Metal Toxins
In addition, Dr. Chris and Dr. Emilea may look further up the digestive tract by addressing the following issues:
Stomach Acid Quality
H. Pylori Overgrowth
We recommend eating a diet rich in fiber as well as bitter and fermented foods. The probiotics within fermented foods build back the good gut bacteria often killed or changed as a result of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, toxins, and stress.
Apogee Wellness also suggests eating according to the metal element guidelines when faced with colon issues. According to TCM, the colon prefers white and light yellow foods such as garlic, cauliflower, rice, onions, almonds, pears, and apples. Bone broth and other collagen-rich foods help restore the gut lining.
We recommend avoiding mucus-producing foods such as gluten and dairy. Gluten, especially, is known for causing a leaky gut and even crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Alcohol consumption not only creates a toxic burden for our colon but kills off the good gut bacteria. Remember in 2020 when the demand for hand sanitizer skyrocketed? Distilleries jumped on the bandwagon and used their alcohol to fulfill the demand. It’s essentially a liquid antibiotic.
Fortunately, nature provides us with a plethora of glorious herbs to repair and restore our colon’s health such as:
Aloe vera leaf
Chinese rhubarb root
In fact, Astragalus contains antitumor properties shown to effectively discourage growth in colorectal tumors. (5) We also recommend taking magnesium and probiotics to reinoculate beneficial gut bacteria. You may also use peppermint and turmeric essential oils to support the colon.
It's important to remember the importance of consistently passing a bowel movement one to three times per day. I’m not talking about alphabet soup or rock-hard pebble BM’s! I’m talking about formed, semi-solids that may tempt you into taking a picture of out of pride kind of BM’s! Some people need a little help regulating their system, so using coffee enemas and other forms of hydrotherapy may do the trick.
In addition, movement of nearly any kind like walking or yoga helps stimulate the colon to move the waste through the tunnel.
Lastly, find ways to eliminate and manage stress. Work through your grief, sadness, and stress by utilizing a therapist, meditating, journaling, or reading a self-help book.
Bottom line, respect the gut, and it will respect you. I don’t know about you all, but along with bringing back the ancient wisdom of the old Greek, Hippocrates, I think we should bring back the name! There’s nothing wrong with a four-syllable name! Just think about it, all you soon-to-be parents out there, that’s all I ask!
“Before you heal someone, ask him if he's willing to give up the things that make him sick.” -Hippocrates