Being diagnosed with a tortuous colon could send some into hysterics, mostly due to the ominous-sounding name. Yet despite its name, a tortuous colon isn't nearly as frightening as it sounds. It's rarely a serious condition, and the symptoms can normally be treated through dietary changes alone.
A tortuous colon isn't called that due to the pain it inflicts. In this instance, tortuous simply means "having bends and twists." While that's an apt description for all intestines, a tortuous colon, sometimes known as a redundant colon, simply means the colon is longer than usual. It only becomes a serious problem when the elongated colon loops too much and becomes severely twisted, possibly leading to intestinal blockages.
Some individuals are born with a tortuous colon. In others, the condition develops over time due to improper diet. If a person doesn't consume enough fibre, their stools can become hard and difficult to pass. This can lead to severe constipation. The subsequent straining and slow passage of stools through the digestive tract can eventually lengthen the colon, making it literally tortuous.
The symptoms of a tortuous colon are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal problems. They typically include cramps, bloating, excessive gas and irregular bowel movements. In some cases, skin rashes can develop due to waste and toxins not passing through the colon quickly enough.
A colonoscopy is often required to properly diagnose a tortuous colon. In a colonoscopy, a doctor inserts a thin, flexible camera, called a colonoscope, into the patient's rectum to examine the interior of the large intestine for any ulcers, tumours, polyps, bleeding, or inflammation. The test will also reveal if the colon itself is tortuous. If the tortuous colon is too twisted, it can prohibit the doctor from getting the colonoscope through the entire colon, limiting the effectiveness of the procedure.
The best treatment for a tortuous colon is to reduce the stress on the colon. This can be done by introducing more fibre to the diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. It's also important to drink generous amounts of water. The combination of the increased fibre and water will produce softer stools and make waste elimination much easier. If the improved diet fails to alleviate symptoms, laxatives may be prescribed to aid with bowel movements.
Despite erroneous fears to the contrary, a tortuous colon does not lead to cancer, nor does having a tortuous colon predispose someone to develop cancer.