What is the Colon
I have spent many hours studying the colon, also called the large intestine. I will tell you what I know and direct you to other sources if you want to know more.
The body is very complicated. One could devote their entire life to studying it and still not know everything there is to know about it. I have been studying the colon and what I have found out has helped my son and may help you.
The body is a self-sustaining, self-healing, amazing creation. The colon’s function in this amazing creation is; to help hydrate the body by pulling out water from the waste that body does not use, to send certain vitamins and minerals through its lining out to the rest of the body for use (hence the importance of taking supplements especially B12 and folic), and lastly pushing the waste out of the body (our bowel movements).
When your GI/doctor mentions a part of your colon that is affected by UC you will want to know what he is talking about. Stretched out, the colon is about 150cm (5 feet) long . It is made up of 5 segments. The ascending colon is on your right side.
The colon is made up of many layers. You have the muscle, the lumen, the intestinal wall, the intraepithelial layer, the epithelial layer, the mucus gap (an actual gap), the sub-mucosa, the mucosal lining, and a layer mucus on top of that (the colon’s first line of defense against bad bacteria), and then a layer of protective good bacteria that line the mucus and protect it. The good bacteria and the mucus won’t let any bad bacteria, yeast/fungus, or other pathogens into you bloodstream and body. They are the wall of defense.
In UC a trigger breaks down that mucus layer and bad bacteria gets into the epithelial layer.
It is very important to understand that inside your colon are many kinds of bacteria: “good bacteria” and “bad bacteria”. They live in a precarious balance. When the good bacteria are diminished by say antibiotics, or yeast overgrowth the bad bacteria break up the mucus barrier and work their way into the epithelial layer, diminishing it.
It is very important for people with UC to replenish the good bacteria since much is lost through the diarrhea. Probiotics are the way to do that.
When the bad bacteria enters the mucus layer, white blood cells called leukocytes (our body’s soldiers) come to the rescue. They form an antimicrobial protective wall to keep more bacteria from entering the gap. The white blood cells show up in the billions, attacking the bacteria that have entered the forbidden zones. They cause inflammation and it is that inflammation that actually forms the protective barrier and keeps more bacteria from entering. The inflammation itself however, causes the ulcers and is a very uncomfortable symptom people with UC experience. So if you are experiencing blood you know your body is working and protecting itself but also take the proper kind of iron so you don’t become anemic.
As long as the mucus barrier remains compromised and the good bacteria are not present in enough numbers to protect the mucus barrier so it can rebuild, inflammation will continue and the inflammation process will never be able to totally clear out the infiltrating bacteria.
Here is a study that was conducted on the mucosal bacterial biofilm (muous layer) in patients with IBD. There are some really awesome pictures that show what happens when the mucous layer is compromised. mucouslayerstudy.