What Is This Colon (Large Intestine) Really About?

large intestines colon large bowel 3d male anatomy 300x300What is this colon really about? The large intestine, also known as the large bowel or colon, is the last part of the gastrointestinal tract and of the digestive system in vertebrates. Water is absorbed within and the remaining waste material is stored as feces before being removed by defecation. The main function is to get rid of food left over after the nutrients are removed from it, bacteria and other waste. This process is called peristalsis and can take around 36 hours but is open to discussion.

One the first processes is to removed liquid and salt from the waste as it passes through the colon. Then, the waste makes its way to the sigmoid, where it is stored. Once or twice per day, when the body is ready for a bowel movement, the waste is dumped into the rectum., depending on your bowel habits,

Most sources define the large intestine as the combination of the cecum, colon, rectum, and anal canal. Some other sources exclude the anal canal. In humans, the large intestine begins in the right iliac region of the pelvis, just at or below the waist, where it is joined to the end of the small intestine at the cecum, via the ileocecal valve. It then continues as the colon ascending the abdomen, across the width of the abdominal cavity as the transverse colon, and then descending to the rectum and its endpoint at the anal canal. Overall, in humans, the large intestine is about 1.5 meters (5 ft) long, which is about one-fifth of the whole length of the gastrointestinal tract.

The large intestine houses over 700 species of bacteria that perform a variety of functions, as well as fungi, protozoa, and archaea. Species diversity varies by geography and diet. The microbes in a human distal gut often number in the vicinity of 100 trillion and can weigh around 200 grams (0.44 pounds). This mass of mostly symbiotic microbes has recently been called the latest human organ to be "discovered" or in other words, the "forgotten organ".

The large intestine absorbs some of the products formed by the bacteria inhabiting this region. Undigested polysaccharides (fiber) are metabolized to short-chain fatty acids by bacteria in the large intestine and absorbed by passive diffusion. The bicarbonate that the large intestine secretes helps to neutralize the increased acidity resulting from the formation of these fatty acids.

These bacteria also produce large amounts of vitamins, especially vitamin K and biotin (a B vitamin), for absorption into the blood. Although this source of vitamins, in general, provides only a small part of the daily requirement, it makes a significant contribution when dietary vitamin intake is low. An individual who depends on absorption of vitamins formed by bacteria in the large intestine may become vitamin-deficient if treated with antibiotics that inhibit the vitamin producing species of bacteria as well as the intended disease-causing bacteria. Other bacterial products include gas (flatus), which is a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with small amounts of the gases hydrogen, methane, and hydrogen sulfide. Bacterial fermentation of undigested polysaccharides produces these. Some of the fecal odor is due to indoles, metabolized from the amino acid tryptophan. The normal flora is also essential in the development of certain tissues, including the cecum and lymphatics. They are also involved in the production of cross-reactive antibodies. These are antibodies produced by the immune system against the normal flora, and are also effective against related pathogens, thereby preventing infection or invasion.

The two most prevalent phyla of the colon are Firmicutes and Bacteroides. The ratio between the two seems to vary widely as reported by the Human Microbiome Project. Bacteroides are implicated in the initiation of colitis and colon cancer. Bifidobacteria are also abundant, and are often described as 'friendly bacteria'. A mucus layer protects the large intestine from attacks from colonic commensal bacteria.

References

Colorectal Cancer Epidemiology: Incidence, Mortality, Survival, and Risk Factors
Fatima A. Haggar, M.P.H. and Robin P. Boushey, M.D., Ph.D.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2796096/

The Colon And Rectum
http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/colorectal/colorectal-cancer/the-colon-and-rectum/?region=on

Diseases & Conditions A-Z List
https://www.medicinenet.com/diseases_and_conditions/alpha_a.htm

Lists Of Diseases
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_diseases

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