Believe it or not, your large intestine is one of the most easy-going organs in your body. It’s really all about going with the flow, whether the flow is forward or backward.

ileocecal valveIt also hosts most of the bacteria in our gut so it’s a great community builder. Your large intestine is graceful and snakelike in its action. It is comprised of smooth muscle and moves what is left of the digested food you’ve eaten through your body by undulating, contracting and relaxing in various sections. This is why, if you were to see inside your abdomen, it looks as though it has large peaks and valleys or bulges and small areas. In fact, it’s just the process of moving the food via contraction and relaxation through the smooth tube that it is. For the most part, your large intestine works smarter not harder, it engages in the work of contracting and moving waste through, only about two or three times a day. This gives the bacteria it houses a chance to sort through everything, picking out what is useful and sending everything else on its way out. Your large intestine is divided into four parts; the ascending colon, which runs along the right side of your abdomen. This is where it connects to the small intestine via the ileocecal valve. The transverse colon is the top section of the ‘rectangular’ colon. It runs across your abdomen from right to left just below your liver and stomach. It takes a right turn at your spleen and then becomes the descending colon, running along the left side of your abdomen. As it reaches the lower pelvis it takes another right turn becoming your sigmoid colon, which then connects up with the rectum. Each section has its own little specialty so they will be covered in more depth in later posts.

large intestine massageTypically, food transitions from mouth to elimination in about a day, which results in a daily poop. For some people, especially depending on the amount of roughage they eat there can be even two or three elimination events (known as pooping). Of course, the large intestine is very prone to influence by your stress levels and will not budge if it is sensing your anxiety, which in turn results in constipation or much less frequent bowel movements. The activity of your large intestine is also dependent on the activity of your ileocecal valve, so if there are issues with the valve it will dictate how food moves through this final step of elimination and will also impact the flora and fauna of your gut.

Interestingly, research is demonstrating that higher frequency of bowel movements contributes to rectal disease as well as nutrient deficiency. I’m guessing it really depends on the quality of the matter that is eliminated. Healthy fecal matter, which you can identify by size, shape, color, smell, means there are healthy things going on in your digestive tract.

How to keep your large intestine happy and chill? Move your body! Movement helps get things moving and it also keeps your sigmoid colon from suffering the issues that are created when you sit for extended periods of time. Manage your stress! Your large intestine is happiest when you are stress-free. Its dance of elimination is highly influenced by your stress levels and in turn highly influences your moods. If your large intestine is happy, your mood will be more balanced. Avoid manufactured foods! Eating fresh, whole foods gives you the appropriate amount of nutrients, fiber, and other good stuff, including good bacteria, to keep your large intestine happy.
Do you need to cleanse your colon? Research suggests that you do not. In fact, colon cleanses can end up doing more damage than good since they result in removal of the good stuff along with the bad. Of course, you will feel lighter after a flush or a colon cleanse, all the food waste will be removed from your gut, which is a couple of pounds of matter. But guess what? You’re designed to have food waste in your gut. Rarely is your colon ‘empty’, nor should it be.