We talk about everything on the Healthy Matters podcast, and on Episode 5 of Season 2, we’re going to prove it as we discuss the colon – otherwise known as the large intestine. We’re going to geek out about colons and stool today with my colleague, Dr. Jake Matlock, gastroenterologist, and director of the Division of Gastroenterology at Hennepin Healthcare, who launched the podcast with a claim that this organ is responsible for modern human society. I required more explanation.

“Your intestinal tract provides about three liters of liquid waste to your colon every day,” he said. “And your colon is responsible for taking that three liters of liquid waste and converting it to a small volume of solid stool and providing you the opportunity to eliminate that stool on a voluntary basis without your colon. We’d be like birds, we’d be just constantly leaking stool whenever we were walking around in the day, and we wouldn’t be able to get anything else done.”

Most of us haven’t thought about our intestines in that way. But let’s tuck that thought aside for a moment and consider some other real concerns that can jeopardize the health of your colon.

“Colon cancer is obviously a very important topic,” said Dr. Matlock. “It’s the third leading cause of cancer in both men and women in this country. The most important thing is to get screened, and I think that myself and my colleagues all carry a bias towards colonoscopy. We try not to let that bias come out because the most important thing is that you do something to get screened.”

That’s right – the best screening test is the one you’re going to do. We also talked about various inflammatory disorders that can impact the colon and other maladies that can cause discomfort.

Dr. Matlock shared how it’s a huge quality of life concern if a person’s bowels are not working in a way that meets their expectations, and if you’re having issues with your colon health that interfere with your life, you should talk to a provider. Changes can be made with your diet, your lifestyle, and occasionally, medication therapies can be implemented to help bring some regularity to your bowel function.

“If you do have colon problems, as difficult as it is, let your family know, because that risk for colon cancer is increased in first degree relatives of people with problems,” Dr. Matlock explained. “So, if you’ve had polyps, or colon cancer – let your family know because it changes their cancer risk.”

What do polyps look like? Why is colonoscopy prep so important? Are all polyps precancerous? We go there when we talk about your colon on Episode 5 of the Healthy Matters Podcast.