Irritation and inflammation of the large intestine are common. It makes sense, though, that such an indispensable organ (system) would be capable of such patent communication.
Symptoms involving the colon range from mild to severe. They can be intermittent or chronic. The causes are myriad. They include one or a mix of ... a bacterium, a virus, a parasite, yeast, a particular food or foods, supplements and drugs, a stretched stomach, hormones, an immune issue, certain mental states. (90% to 95% of the serotonin in our body is in the GI tract, not the brain. There are different kinds of receptors though, and different kinds of drugs based on those receptors.)
There are structural changes that can cause problems too: diverticula (out-pouches), narrowing of the lumen, polyps and lesions. If the cause of symptoms can be determined, a diagnosis can be made. That's sometimes difficult to do, even when you look inside, or view cells under a microscope, or check for antibodies. Because there are so many factors ... overlapping, synergistic, episodic. Gastroenterology is a fascinating field.
Less severe colon conditions include Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS can be managed (after you get rid of any infective agent) through a process of elimination of foods/beverages*, increased soluble fiber, probiotics, relaxation exercises, adequate sleep, and other lifestyle changes. There's a whole list of foods (and other things we put in our mouth) that may be causative or exacerbating, it's very individual. (Dairy, citrus, and fried foods come to mind.)
Once the GI lining is irritated and inflamed, for whatever reason, it's especially helpful to limit fat.
- A damaged intestinal lining (especially the ileum and proximal colon - closer to the small intestine) reduces the uptake of bile. Bile acids linger in the colon causing pain and diarrhea by themselves (in addition to the primary cause of irritation), not to mention increasing the risk for cancer. Since fat intake promotes bile secretion, it's best to avoid it.
- Limiting fat reduces fatty stools during malabsorption.
- Limiting fat reduces the gastrocolic reflex, the urge to go.
More severe cases of inflammation are grouped under Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). They include Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is thought to be an autoimmune disease; as such, it can be managed but cannot be cured. Ulcerative Colitis (distinct from nondescript colitis) can be cured by colon removal. (Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease of the small intestine. It may or may not cause symptoms in the large intestine. It is distinct from a wheat allergy. Like Crohn's, it can be managed but cannot be cured.)
Celiac Disease and the IBDs: UC and Crohn's, are more apt to involve weight loss and blood in the stool (thus anemia) than IBS. However, IBS can coexist with celiac and the IBDs.
* Since IBS involves the various nervous systems (central, autonomic), it's difficult to narrow down offending foods. One time a food may go down well (if you're not stressed), another time it may not (if you're under the gun). Also, a placebo effect may be working ... the belief that a food is offending can be enough to make it offending, with corresponding physical effects.
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