A tortuous colon, medically known as a redundant colon, is an abnormally long colon that can’t fit inside the body without twisting and turning. This condition is characterized by the large intestine being lengthier than the average 47 to 60 inches.
In most cases, many have no idea they have a redundant colon. Meanwhile, others suffer from uncomfortable symptoms, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications.
The colon is an integral part of the digestive system. It’s attached to the small intestine at one end of the rectum and leads to the anus at the other.
Also known as the large bowel or large intestine, the colon is an organ that is part of the digestive system. It removes water, nutrients, and electrolytes from partially digested food, and the remaining material (waste or stool) is stored in the rectum, leaving the body through the anus.
As long as the redundant colon functions properly, it won’t cause any distressing symptoms. But those additional twists and turns can eventually lead to blockages with serious health complications that may require medical attention.
Moreover, the implications of a redundant colon can go beyond the digestive system. Some studies suggest that those who have normal, regular bowel movements are less likely to develop other health problems, such as certain types of cancer. And let’s not forget that a healthy digestive tract can also help us maintain a healthy weight.
So, with all of this in mind, it’s extremely important to know the symptoms of a redundant colon and any signs that it may pose a risk to your health. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Redundant Colon Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms that result from a lengthy colon affect everyone differently and vary in intensity. As such, seeking immediate medical attention is highly recommended if the below-listed symptoms become persistent and unbearable.
- Increased bloating
- Fecal impaction (a severe form of constipation where a large mass of hardened stool has difficulty passing through the rectum or colon)
- Painful gas build-up in the colon that causes sharp, jabbing pains or cramps in the abdomen
- Abdominal pain and tenderness (possible signs of an inflamed or obstructed colon)
- Mucus or blood in the stool (may indicate irritation or damage to the colon’s lining)
- Vomiting from a severe blockage in the colon
- Weight loss due to reduced nutrient absorption or decreased appetite
- Changes in urinary frequency
Redundant Colon Causes and Complications
Research into what causes a redundant colon is ongoing. We do know that some individuals have a genetic predisposition to the condition. So, for those experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above and aware of any family history of a redundant colon, it is important to bring it to your doctor’s attention.
Additionally, if you have cancer or suffer from colitis, an elongated colon could cause more complications. And if left untreated, the symptoms of a redundant colon can become unpleasant, leading to numerous potential complications.
An untreated redundant colon can lead to rectal prolapse (where the intestine protrudes from the anus). Moreover, this can also cause hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Another complication of an untreated redundant colon is a condition called colonic volvulus. This occurs when twists in the colon cause the flow of stool to slow down or stop, leading to an obstruction that can require emergency surgery.
Redundant Colon Treatment Tips
A redundant colon is usually diagnosed through an x-ray or a colonoscopy being conducted for another health reason. But once this issue is discovered, you will need to adhere to certain dietary routines provided by your health practitioner.
Most diets for redundant colon include foods that contain fiber. However, in severe cases where a person is unable to pass stool, medical interventions like surgery may be a necessary redundant colon treatment.
Conversely, in less severe situations, medical treatment can include prescribing fiber-containing supplements or laxatives in addition to diet changes.
How to Take Care of a Redundant Colon at Home
In addition to recommendations by your doctor, here are some essential tips for managing a redundant colon at home:
- Prioritize high-fiber foods in your diet, such as beans, fruits, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains
- Try to consume fewer processed foods, as they often contain less fiber
- Ensure you’re adequately hydrated to soften stools, making them easier to pass
- Get daily exercise; even brisk walking can help keep your bowel movement routine regular
Since there is signifcant overlap between redundant colon remedies and prevention, you’ll find more details on some of these home-care strategies below, in the prevention section.
Redundant Colon Prevention and Diet Tips
Constipation is one of the main problems with a redundant colon. So, if you have the condition or want to prevent it, there are some simple tips you can incorporate into your daily routine.
While many obsess over sugar, protein, and carbs, fiber has taken a back seat in the diet discussion. People seem to have forgotten how crucial this plant-based nutrient is for your general health, especially digestive health.
Fiber Foods to Treat a Redundant Colon
Fiber plays a crucial role in managing and preventing redundant colon symptoms. Also known as “roughage,” fiber is divided into two categories—soluble and insoluble—both of which perform important functions in the digestive process.
Soluble fiber pulls water into the digestive tract, transforming into a gel-like substance during digestion, thereby slowing down the digestive process.
Some great sources of soluble fiber include:
- Oats, barley, and oat bran
- Dried beans and peas
- Flaxseed and nuts
- Oranges and apples
In contrast, insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool and accelerates transit time. This is the aim when managing redundant colon and constipation.
Foods high in insoluble fiber include:
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Fruits (especially the skin)
- Root vegetables (particularly the skin), like potatoes and beets
- Whole grains, seeds, and nuts
- Wheat bran
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that men should aim for at least 38 grams of total fiber per day, while women should get at least 25 grams.
And according to the Cleveland Clinic, ideally, 10 to 15 grams should be in the form of soluble fiber, with the rest coming from insoluble fiber.
However, if your current diet is low in fiber, consider adding it gradually over a few weeks. A sudden increase might lead to uncomfortable symptoms like stomach pain, gas, and bloating.
Don’t Forget Water
Hydration is equally important when managing a redundant colon. Dehydration can lead to hard stool that’s difficult to pass, but with proper hydration, your stool stays soft and bulky.
Water also aids fiber in its function, so you should aim for roughly 64 ounces a day. However, individual needs may vary depending on activity levels and climate, so, for your specific requirements, you may want to consult a nutritionist.
In addition to plain water, try adding simple broths, broth-based soups, and high-water content foods like watermelon, oranges, and cucumbers to boost your daily fluid intake.
Foods to Avoid for Redundant Colon
If you want to prevent or help manage redudant colon, it’s important to know what foods and beverages you need to avoid:
- Refined-grain foods (like white bread, white rice, and pasta made with white flour, as these can lead to constipation)
- Processed foods (which often contain little fiber and a lot of sodium, exacerbating constipation issues)
- Alcoholic beverages (these can dehydrate the body and lead to constipation)
- Dairy products (excessive consumption of dairy products can cause bloating and constipation)
- Fried or fast foods (these are usually low in fiber and high in fat and salt, which can lead to digestive issues)
When to See a Doctor
Although a redundant colon without any symptoms is not a medical emergency, the condition increases the risk for gastrointestinal problems requiring medical attention. You should seek immediate medical care if you have extreme stomach or lower abdominal pain, haven’t had a bowel movement for more than three days, or are vomiting brown, stool-like contents.
For some people, a high-fiber diet may exacerbate symptoms due to added bulk to stool. If constipation persists, consult your healthcare provider to discuss other treatment options. These may include medications to draw more water to the colon or stimulate bowel contractions, or even a low-fiber diet in some cases.