Importance of colon to health
The rectum and the colon form a muscular tube known as the large intestine, which is part of the digestive tract, also known as the digestive system. The digestive tract is the group of organs that allows you to eat and helps the body to create necessary fuel. When you eat, food that has been partially digested enters the small intestine, then the colon.
The colon is the first section of the large intestine and measures between 4 and 5 feet in length. It helps remove nutrients and water from food and converts it into energy for the body. The colon turns the remaining food into waste (fecal stool), which passes through the colon, into the rectum (last few inches of the large intestine) and out of the body through the anus.
Eating healthy, including a regular diet of fruits, vegetables and fiber, helps to keep the large intestine healthy. Your fecal stools contain bacteria broken down from the foods you eat, so if the bacteria are not passed out of the body, you may experience discomfort, such as gas, pain and bloating. When bacteria begin to build up in the large intestine, it may lead to tumors of the rectum, colon and inner wall of the large intestine. Benign tumors are known as polyps, and malignant tumors are cancers. If you're feeling chronic gastric discomfort, it's important to seek the advice and treatment of a colorectal specialist or surgeon as soon as possible to prevent more damage to the adjacent organs and tissues.
What a colorectal specialist does
Colorectal specialists and surgeons specialize in treating problems of the large intestine. A colorectal surgeon is fully trained to conduct routine screen examinations, treat conditions that are benign or malignant and help to prevent problems that may occur in the large intestine. Screening, prevention and treatment by a colorectal surgeon typically includes the diagnosis and treatment of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, benign colon disorders (such as diverticulitis), colon cancer and stomach complications.
Colorectal specialists also diagnose and treat cancers of the anus, rectum and colon, functional colon disorders and pelvic floor disorders. Colon and rectal care is vital in preventing and treating colorectal cancer, which is a serious health risk.
Finding a top gastroenterologist
Your family physician usually will refer you to a gastroenterologist because this specialist has experience treating serious health risks involving the colon and rectum, including colorectal cancer.
You should verify the doctor's certification before your visit. Reputable surgeons who specialize in this type of treatment are board certified through the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery (ABCRS). Your general physician is often the best source for a reference, but you should check with your health insurance company that the referred surgeon is in your network. Check with your health insurance provider's directory for a list of surgeons specializing in colon and rectal care. Verify their qualifications, education, continuing education, accepted insurance plans and affiliated hospitals by consulting Angie's List, where you can also see member reviews and rankings.
When visiting the gastroenterologist for your first visit, take note of the instructions, scheduled procedures, treatments and surgery options. Ask questions: If you are suffering from a disease, what stage are you in? What are your choices for treatment? What treatments are the most beneficial, and how do you prepare for treatments?
Although children may suffer from digestive ailments and conditions that affect adults, their bodies are still developing and they may be better served by a specialist such as a pediatric gastroenterologist. For more information about what these specialists do, go to Angie's List Guide to Pediatric Gastroenterology.
No matter how fast, slow or completely our digestive system processes food, our metabolism is determined by how much energy our cells absorb from the food we eat. However, when a glandular disorder affects metabolism and fertility, it's time to see an endocrinologist.
Read more in the Angie's List Guide to Endocrinology and Metabolism.