The large intestine, known as the colon, is divided roughly into four parts. These are the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon, and the very end of the large intestine is the sigmoid colon. This is a short curving of the colon right before the rectum. Although we are born without bacteria in the colon, it is quickly acquired through breast or bottle feeding. The number of bacteria in the colon far outnumber the amount in the small intestine. Bacteria can be found in any of these areas of the large intestine. Each section has different bacteria, each with their own function. Some bacteria is known as “good” bacteria; other bacteria is considered “bad”. Yet both are necessary to achieve a balance of health and well being, especially bacteria in the colon. What is the major function of bacteria in the colon, and what problems can arise from bacteria there?
Bacteria in the colon provide many benefits. Previously it was mentioned that babies are not born with bacteria in the colon. They are not able to digest foods beyond milk until they have bacteria in the colon to aid in digestion. In the digestive process, most of the body’s ability to digest carbohydrates results from bacteria in the colon and it’s ability to digest hard to digest carbohydrates. In other words, it aids in the process of digestion of carbohydrates. As an aid in digestion, bacteria in the colon also help the body absorb nutrients that otherwise would be lost. Biotin and Vitamin K, especially, are absorbed thanks to the assistance of bacteria in the colon. Early in one’s life, the bacteria in the colon also help train the immune system. By aiding the immune system in it’s growth and maturation, our body’s become more able to fight infections as we grow. Healthy bacteria also keep the growth of “bad” bacteria in check.
There are times, though, when problems arise due to bacteria in the colon. Health problems can arise when bad bacteria begin to outnumber the good bacteria. Also, when the bacterial balance is upset, as when infections develop and we take antibiotics, not only are the bad bacteria destroyed but many of the healthy bacteria, too. Too much sugar, alcohol, and environmental toxins can also damage the delicate balance between healthy and bad bacteria in the colon.
Irritable bowel syndrome, gas, bloating, colitis, and other disorders can also occur due to bacteria in the colon. Colon pylori bacteria is a specific type of bacteria that can cause infections in the stomach leading to dyspepsia, gastritis, and even ulcers. Even colon cancer has been linked to a disproportionate number of unhealthy bacteria in the colon. The best thing to do is to keep the right balance going in the colon to avoid discomfort and disorders or diseases that occur due to the wrong balance of bacteria in the colon.