The large intestine is partly responsible for allowing good bowel movement, which is something that most people usually take for granted. But as with other parts of the body, your large intestine can also encounter its fair share of problems over time.
If you’ve been experiencing abdominal cramps that are accompanied by bloody diarrhea or the urge to frequently empty your bowels, then it’s likely that your large intestine is no longer in good shape, and you may be suffering from a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) known as ulcerative colitis.1 To fully understand this disease, let us first discuss what the large intestine is and how it works.
Understanding the Large Intestine
The large intestine is the final segment of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s a tubular structure with a length of about 5 feet and a diameter of approximately 3 inches.2 The primary function of this essential body part is to absorb water from undigested food to form a solid stool. It also aids in the absorption of vitamins and production of antibodies.3 There are different parts that make up the large intestine, and each one performs a specific function. These include:4,5,6
- Cecum — This is a pouch-like section that’s 2 inches long and found at the beginning of the large intestine. It absorbs the digestive fluids from the digestive waste that comes out of the small intestine.
- Appendix — This is a vestigial organ that’s located at the bottom the cecum.
- Colon — Some people use the term “colon” to refer to the entire large intestine, but this is actually just a part of it, and is where the majority of water absorption takes place. It’s also divided into four sections, namely ascending, transverse, descending and sigmoid colons.
- Rectum — Found at the end of the large intestine, the rectum is where the residual waste accumulates.
- Anus — The external opening at the end of the rectum through which stool leaves the body.
The entire large intestine will be compromised if one of its parts malfunctions. This may result in various medical problems that range from something as simple as intestinal gas to serious conditions like ulcerative colitis.7
What Happens When You Have Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic IBD that causes the colon and rectum to become inflamed and develop ulcers or small open sores, which produce pus and mucus. It may also cause inflammation outside the intestine, particularly on the skin, joints and eyes.8
The exact culprit behind this disease is still unknown, but researchers believe that it’s a result of an overactive immune response. It’s also hard to predict when this disease is active since the remission period may last up to several years, only to be interrupted by an occasional flare-up just when you least expect it. The symptoms may vary from mild abdominal pain to excessive amounts of blood in stools, which may even require a blood transfusion.9,10
Ulcerative Colitis Can Be Controlled
Living with ulcerative colitis can be very hard. The urgent bowel movement that it causes can be embarrassing. On top of that, you also have to deal with abdominal pain, digestive disorders and other severe symptoms that may interfere with your daily life.
There is no permanent cure for ulcerative colitis yet, but there are holistic treatments and techniques that can help you control its symptoms, as well as achieve and maintain remission for a long period of time. Since it is a life-long disease, it usually requires ongoing treatment methods that are specifically suited for the type of ulcerative colitis that you have and the severity of your symptoms.11
Expanding your knowledge about this disease may also help you manage and avoid any possible complications that it may lead to. These pages contain helpful information about ulcerative colitis so you can learn more about its warning signs, the possible causes behind it, its different types and the recommended diet and treatment methods to keep flare-ups from occurring.