The colon is an intrinsic and vital part of the digestive system. In simple terms, it is the large intestine in mammals and extends from the small intestine to the rectum. The colon works by absorbing water from food digested, and with the right bacterial action, helps in the formation of fecal matter, which is then eliminated from the body, via the rectum. By its structure and function, it helps to keep the body healthy by the correct elimination of toxins and waste products.
Picture a section of tubes, convoluted, but formed in an almost square shape. An excellent diagram and more details can be found at http://www.unv.ncbi.nhm.nih.gov/books.bv.fcgi?rid=gnd.chapter.25. The smaller and more labyrinthine tubes are the small intestine, ringed by the wider, more regular tubular structure of the colon, which leads directly to the rectum.
The digestive process begins in the mouth and ends with the process of waste elimination, via the colon and rectum. In the mouth, enzymes begin to break down carbohydrates, while more enzymes and acids in the stomach break food down further, after which, it passes into the small intestine. In this part of the process, digestive juices from the pancreas, liver and gall bladder break this now gooey substance into fats, carbohydrates and proteins, so that it can be absorbed into the blood as nutrients to feed the body. The liver itself aids fat digestion and eliminates fat-soluble toxins. All undigested matter enters the colon then, for elimination.
It is difficult to simply describe the structure and function of the colon without including the bigger picture of the whole digestive process. Because proper digestion of food and elimination of waste is necessary for health and well being, without proper colon function, the body can become overloaded with toxins. This tells us that a proper, balanced diet, with the correct proportions of the main food groups, is essential to health. If colon function is impaired, or fails, through dietary imbalance (too much fat, for example), real health problems can and do occur. They include nutritional deficiency, constipation, ulcerative colitis, bowel disease and even cancer. To ensure that the colon functions correctly, a diet rich in fiber and with plenty of water is required. It is also essential to keep stress at a minimum, as this can impact negatively on colon function.
The body is a marvelous and intricate machine, and like all machines, will deliver optimum performance if given the right fuel and attention. The structure and function of the colon are vital components of looking after that machine. If we understand this and apply the right techniques, it will serve us faithfully, helping to keep us healthy and fit for longer.