In the 21st century, we have reached the peak of medical science where everything seems possible. To know if one can live without a colon, we should first know what a colon is and what its functions are.
Colon is a part of our digestive system or digestive tract. The digestive system is the group of organs that allow us to eat and to use the food we eat to fuel our bodies. Now, colon is the long and copied tube like organ that helps us to remove water and fluid from the digested food. Colon is also known as long bowel or long intestine.
What Does Colon Do?
Colon or large intestine has very important functions. After the water has been absorbed the remaining solid waste material that our body produces (stool) moves through various parts of the colon i.e. ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum. The bacteria in colon break down the remaining material before sending it to the rectum. The rectum behaves like a storage holder for the waste. Muscles in the rectum move the waste, called stool, out of the body through the anus.
Can You Live Without a Colon?
Now comes the question, can we live without colon? The answer is yes, we can. Although colon has a very important role to play in our digestive system, the gastroenterologists of our time assures that one can live a normal life without colon. One just needs to maintain proper food habit.
What is the Need to Remove Colon?
Why would one need to remove colon? When a person is subjected to colectomy (the medical surgery or surgical procedure of removing colon from the body), colon is removed from his body. Usually the surgery is done to
- Prevent colon cancer
- As a treatment for colon cancer
- As a treatment to crohn’s disease
- As a treatment to Bowel obstruction
- As a treatment to ulcerative colitis
- As a treatment to bowel perforation
- As a treatment to other critical intestinal compilations or severe gastroenterological problems.
- There are mainly 4 kinds of colectomy.
- Total colectomy the surgical procedure of removing the entire colon.
- Partial colectomy the surgical procedure of removing a specific part of the colon. It may also be called subtotal colectomy.
- Hemicolectomy the surgical procedure of removing the right or left portion of the colon.
- Proctocolectomy the surgical procedure of removing both the colon and rectum.
The small intestine is mainly responsible for the absorption of needed nutrients from the food. Most of the nutrients are already removed from the chyme (the food we eat) before it reaches the large bowel or colon. As we all know, the main function of large intestines is to reabsorb the water and solidify the fecal waste-matter. If colon is removed one may have to visit the loo much more frequently than a person with colon.
But when ones goes through colectomy, a bag is attached at the place of colon to collect the stool and one artificial stoma or opening is created to the bag to remove the stool from the body.
The part of the colon that contains the tumor or infection is cut off and the affected portion is removed. The two free ends of colon are then rejoined. The part of unaffected portion of the large intestine will then be attached to an opening or ostomy made in the abdomen, through which a bag will be connected. This step is called the colostomy procedure. Now, the procedure of total colectomy is more complicated than partial colectomy. In case if total colectomy, a bag is directly attached between small intestine and rectum and the bag is needed to be changed in regular interval. The colostomy bag collects fecal material directly from the large intestine.
How is Colectomy Done?
There are mainly two types of colectomy
Open Colectomy: This procedure is done through a long, vertical incision on your belly. The open surgery is now outdated because it increases the risk of infection.
Laparoscopic-assisted Colectomy: This surgical procedure is done with small incisions. A tiny video camera is put into one of the incisions. The camera is set to help the surgeon see the colon. This surgery may be a choice for some cancers. People often have less pain and recover quicker because of the small incisions. This method is more likely to be opted by patients than open colectomy
There are a few risks of having a colectomy surgery:
Colectomy may have serious complications depending on the condition of the health of the patient concerned, type of colectomy and whether the specified surgical technique is required. There are risks of
- Bleeding after surgery
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs)
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clots in the lungs)
- Bowel obstruction or perforation caused by scar tissue as a result of surgery
- Infection in small intestine or in parts of digestive tract
- Injury to bladder, small intestines and other nearby organs
- Tears in sutures which has been used to reconnect the portions of the digestive system.
What To Do Before and After Colectomy?
Before Colectomy Surgery:
- Approximately two weeks before your surgery, avoid taking aspirin or aspirin containing products (For example: buffered aspirin, Bufferin, regular Anacin, Fiorinal, Codeine with aspirin, Darvon compound, Soma compound, and all Alka-Seltzer products).
- Also avoid all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (For example: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, Indocin, Naprosyn, Meclomen, Clinoril, Feldene and Relefen).
- All of these medications in their full capacity can thin your blood, which can cause more bleeding during surgery. If you need pain medication during this time, you may use Tylenol, Anacin IV, Datril, Panadol, Vicodan, Darvocet, Soma, Tylenol with Codeine or Valium.
- It is also advised to avoid alcohol, smoking, intake of tea coffee or any kind of diuretics before the surgery for a month or as prescribed by your gastroenterologist
After Colectomy Surgery:
Things that many people take for granted, such as showering, moving around and using the restroom turn out to be a challenge following abdominal surgery. If you have a split-level or two-story home, it may be difficult initially for you to climb up and down the steps to shower, to tame rest, or go to bed. If you have a ground floor room available, preferably very close to a bathroom (as post-surgery one may need to pay frequent visits to washroom) — that is best. Following a colectomy, most people will have up to six bowel movements per day. It might help you conserve energy if you have access to, or can rent, a bedside commode for a few weeks.
After colectomy one must follow a proper diet to lower the risk of abdominal infection, post-surgery complications and recover faster. The enzymes secreted in low bowel are no longer available or partly available so digestion becomes difficult. This time one must follow a low residue diet.
Foods to Eat
There are certain foods and tips on how to consume food that help you to recover Eat your food slowly, chew it well and then swallow. If the food is not digested properly, then the person might face problems like diarrhea. Do not eat too much food at one go, instead, eat your meal 5 or 6 times a day, but eat in small amounts each time. Your stomach needs time to digest the food. There are certain foods and drinks which you must include in your total or partial diet. They are:
- Apple-sauce is highly recommended food. It helps to control the loose bowel problems or diarrhea.
- Fruits are not included in the diet, but eating fruits is good to prevent diarrhea.
- Fruits like bananas are also good, as they can control the loose bowel movements.
- Yogurts and tapioca again can also be included.
- Include pasta in your diet.
- Boiled rice and sugar-free cereals are also good.
- Foods that are rich in proteins, such as eggs and fish should also be consumed.
- Chicken, peanut butter, and turkey can also be eaten, as they too are rich in proteins.
- Water and juices of non-pulpy fruits are good to prevent dehydration of the body.
Foods to Avoid
There are certain foods that you need to avoid including in your partial or total diet. They are:
- Raw vegetables; not all but those that cause gas in the stomach such as cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, and Brussels sprouts should be eaten. Gas formation is one of the main problems that the patient faces after surgery.
- Fruits are not a part of the diet, as some of them might cause irregular bowel movements.
- Foods rich in fiber, such as wheat and bran cereals are a big NO.
- Beans or lentils or peas, cannot be eaten after colectomy surgery.
- Fatty foods like cakes, pies, and sausages, or maybe chicken (fried) should not be eaten.
- Processed meat like ham or pork should be avoided for few months.
- Nuts and chocolates should also not form a part.
- Caffeine and lemonade, or pulpy juices should be strictly avoided.
Besides this, if the doctor asks you to avoid any food or include some additional food, then do follow what he says. If you follow a strict and healthy diet for few months after the surgery, take proper rest, and carry out some strength gaining exercises, then you will not have any problems after the surgery.
Prevention is Better than Cure: Promoting Good Health for Colon
There are many ways to improve large intestine health. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is full of fruits and vegetables, consume fiber-rich diet, drink adequate amounts of water, exercise regularly and follow recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening and colonoscopies, Dr. Ajay Goel, director of epigenetics, cancer prevention and genomics at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, told Live Science.
Supplements, such as curcumin and omega-3, can help reduce chronic inflammation, said Goel. Other vitamins can be helpful, as well. “Low vitamin B6 levels have been associated with increased risk of certain cancers, such as colon and cognitive decline,” Dr. Sherry Ross, women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Live Science.
A study shows that taking both curcumin and boswellic acids may help prevent colon cancer. Now it is known that curcumin and boswellia both have potent anti-cancer properties how they work in conjunction to reduce proliferation and increase cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (various mechanisms by which cancer cells are killed). We found that the two together activate a broader array of gene regulators called microRNAs, with a wider spectrum of impact compared to either compound individually.
Many people use colon cleansing l as a means to keep the colon healthy. This process includes taking laxatives, teas(not excessive), powders or supplements, using enemas, or getting colonic irrigation (colon hydrotherapy) to flush out the colon. There can be side effects to cleansing, and some practices can even be dangerous. Doctors have varied opinions on cleansing. The colon’s very function is to remove toxins, so many doctors and medical groups, believe that cleansing is unneeded and advise against it or to use caution. Others believe they can be helpful.
Take a child’s pose (kneel on floor with knees slightly apart, sit back on heels, rest chest on thighs, forehead on ground). Place fists under belly.
Take a wide stance with toes out and heels in, bend knees deeply and sink hips down to height of your knees. Bring arms out at shoulder height and bend elbows so fingertips point up. Engage core and draw tailbone toward floor.
Malasana the Squat
Squat with feet as close together as possible, keeping heels on the ground, if you can. Separate thighs slightly wider than torso, lean forward, and press elbows against inner knees, bringing palms together.
Jathara Parivartanasana, a Reclined Twist with Bent Knees
Lie down, draw knees into your chest and drop them to the right as you open arms into a T-shape. Turn your face to the left.
Left-Side Lying Savasana (aka Corpse Pose)
Take 10 minutes after a big meal to lie on your left side and relax. If you’re not able to lie down, just close your left nostril and breathe through your right for 10 to 20 breaths for a similar effect.
Apanasana (aka Knees-to-Chest) Pose
Reclining on your back, draw your knees in toward your chest slowly and food them. Rest your knees on your chest, use your hands for support. Hold for 10 seconds and let go.
Get in a “tabletop” position on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows, and shoulders in alignment. Keep your head centered. As you inhale, lift your chest and the bones in the underside of your seat (your “sits bones”) up, and let your belly drop. Lift your head. As you exhale, round your spine and release your head.
Lying down on the floor, bend your knees, and keep your heels close to your sits bones. While you exhale, press your feet and arms into the floor and lift your pelvis up while keeping your thighs and feet parallel.
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