What causes enlarged or swollen colon?
In most cases, this is often a sign of an underlying chronic inflammatory condition. The swelling can occur on either the right or left side of the colon.
Common causes would include infection, autoimmune infection, or in rare cases, it could occur as a drug side effect. Here are details on the known causes of inflammation, their symptoms and how to treat the condition.
Causes of swollen colon
Colon and rectal swelling can have a variety of causes and therefore you will require your doctor to run several tests in order to pinpoint the reasons for your condition. The following are common reasons why you may suffer this condition;
Inflammatory bowel disease- this is one of the most common non-infectious inflammatory conditions of the colon. The common bowel diseases causing swollen colon includes ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is known to affect the colon, while Crohn’s disease may affect any part of the gut including the colon. This condition is believed to be caused by autoimmune irregularities.
Microscopic colitis- this is an inflammation of colon wall normally associated with thickening of the connective tissue or a higher concentration of white blood cells in the colon. It can also be as a result of an infection or autoimmune disorder, though the exact cause is not well known.
Infections are a common cause of swelling in the colon. Infections could be caused by parasites, bacteria, or a virus. Infection can cause bloody or non-bloody diarrhea and dehydration. If left untreated, it may lead to excessive dehydration which can cause serious consequences or even death.
Infectious colitis- this is a condition of the caused by an infection usually caused by bacteria like salmonella, shigella, E.colli, and Campylobacter. It may also be parasites such as Entamoeba histolytica.
Pseudomembranous colitis is another condition that can lead to swelling of the colon. This condition is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria known as Clostridium difficile, which happens usually after use of antibiotics. It is also known as antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). These bacteria secrete toxins that irritate the colon leading to swelling.
Diverticulitis is a condition caused by inflammation of the outpouchings (diverticula), which develops in the colon, particularly in the lower parts. It may arise as a result of an infection but can also occur in case there is reduced blood supply to the outpouchings.
The treatments for this condition will vary according to the cause of infection to your colon. The swelling normally subsides after the infection is completely treated. The symptoms that will confirm that you are still infected include diarrhea, which may be bloody or not bloody.
3. Blood flow problems
Blood flow problems occur when the arteries that supply the colon become narrowed, comprising blood flow. This condition is known as Ischemic colitis.
Blood flow problems may also exist as a result of twisting of the colon, a condition known as a volvulus. Another condition causing this complication is called an incarcerated hernia.
Swollen colon can be as a result of growths that could occur in your colon. Such growths could be either colon cancer or colon polyps.
Colon cancer- you may have a swelling in your colon as a result of a malignant tumor in the colon. This may arise from tissue in the colon wall or spread to the colon from cancer at a distant site (metastasis).
Colon polyps- these are small growths that form in the wall of the colon. In most cases, they are benign and harmless but have a potential for them becoming cancerous. These growths are usually asymptomatic until the late stages where they may block the colon and cause swelling.
An injury to the colon can be caused by either blunt-force or sharp-force trauma, which may cause rupture to your colon.
Rupture of your colon is life-threatening. It can pave way for bacteria, which is normally present in your intestines. This can result in serious infections or even death.
Inflamed colon on right side
The right side of the colon is the ascending colon, which starts in the lower quadrant and runs up to the right upper quadrant. It then bends at the hepatic flexure to follow through to the transverse colon. Therefore, the right side of the abdomen is occupied by the entire ascending colon and the first part of the transverse colon. Your right side of the colon could get swollen because of any of the following reasons;
- Growth or tumors- there are several types of growths that can cause swelling in you colon. It could be as a result of conditions like colon polyps or colon cancer. These two have been discussed below in this article.
- Trauma- you may sustain injuries that may cause swelling in your colon. Such trauma can be caused by a sharp-force or blunt-force trauma. This can even cause rupture which can allow entry of bacteria already in the body. It can also be as a result of surgery to the colon or the neighboring organs, causing pain and swelling as the wound heals.
- Infections- the colon is highly vulnerable to viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Any of these infections could be the reason for your swollen colon.
Swelling on the left side
The left side of the colon is the left half of the transverse colon that continues from the right upper quadrant to the upper quadrant. It bends at the splenic flexure to become the descending colon and then runs downwards to the left lower quadrant. It then proceeds as the sigmoid colon and connects with the rectum.
- Infection- viruses, bacteria, and parasites are a common cause of swollen colon. The infections can lead to chronic diarrhea, which can cause massive dehydration.
- Blood flow problems- since the proper supply of blood is required by the entire intestinal tract for proper functioning, as well as keeping tissues alive and healthy. Problems in the flow can lead to swelling of your colon. This condition is commonly known as ischemic colic, whereby the arteries of the colon become narrowed or compromised. Some other conditions that can cause this include; volvulus and incarcerated hernia.
- Presence of chemical substances
- Collagenous colitis or lymphocytic colitis
Symptoms of swollen colon
The symptoms of swollen colon vary, depending on the severity of the condition and the affected area. They range from mild to severe.
- Diarrhea- this is the most common symptom of inflammation of the colon and can occur either as soft or watery. The colon is the part involved in absorption of water and formation of stool. If inflammation occurs in that area, the ability to perform the normal tasks becomes difficult. The infections causing the intestinal imbalance of bacteria causes diarrhea. In case the last part of the colon gets inflamed, most of the water will already be absorbed, leading to minimal or absent diarrhea.
- Abdominal pain- inflammatory bowel disease stimulates contractions of the intestinal walls, causing pain. The location of pain will be felt according to the affected side.
- Bloating- this occurs when the swollen abdomen fills with air or gas. It causes the area to appear larger or swollen. It makes the abdominal area feel hard to touch and causes abdominal pain and discomfort. In severe cases, this symptom can be accompanied by; Uncontrolled diarrhea, blood in stool, lack of bowel movements, and loss of consciousness.
- Bleeding- having blood in stool is also a probable symptom. You may notice bright red blood in the toilet bowl or darker blood in your stool.
- Weight loss- this is a common symptom because people with this condition avoid eating or consume less to prevent pain or some other symptoms. Loss of weight can also be caused by body’s inability to properly digest and absorb food.
- Fatigue- you may feel a low-grade fever if you have inflammatory bowel disease.
- Iron deficiency anemia- this is as a result of excess bleeding. This condition occurs when there isn’t enough iron in the body. Iron is therefore very important because it helps you get enough oxygen throughout your body. That is why you should take more iron when you have Crohn’s disease, in order to recover lost nutrients.
- Abdominal swelling- a swollen abdomen occurs when one area of your stomach area becomes larger than normal. Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that causes cramping and pain in your stomach and it is accompanied by other symptoms.
- Mucus in stool- this is a common symptom caused by ulcerative colitis.
- High fever
- Tenesmus- the urge to have a bowel movement
What to eat
An enlarged colon is a condition that requires a strict diet to be followed until the symptoms improve. The following are some of the diets your physician could highly recommend when you suffer from bowel diseases;
1. Drink more liquids
You should avoid solid foods and switch to liquids if you suffer from bowel infections. Feeding on solid foods will lead to stomach purging.
You should, therefore, drink plenty of water and take fresh fruit vegetable juices at regular intervals in a day. This will help soothe your stomach and the bowels as well. It also reduces the inflammation at the same time.
2. Eat more fiber-rich foods
After taking liquid diet for the first days of your infection, you can start taking semi-solid foods. The foods should, however, be rich in fiber. The main reason for this is that fiber is easily digestible and can soften the stool, hence enabling easy passing of the bowel, which in turn reduces inflammation caused by the infection. The main foods that provide fiber include; pears, raspberries, peas, broccoli, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
3. Eat flax seed
Flaxseed contains antioxidant properties that help in flushing out impurities and blockages in the digestive tract that could cause swelling. The seeds are also rich in fiber which is vital for faster digestion and assimilation of the food, thereby preventing accumulation of the food in the colon that could aggravate the existing condition or cause bowel infection.
Flax seeds are also natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can help strengthen the cells in the digestive and intestinal tracts, which in return prevents swelling of the colon and fastens recovery from a bowel infection.
- Simply, add plenty of flax seed to the foods that you eat on daily basis.
- You can also grind flax seeds to form a powder, and then
- Mix them with water and drink the resultant solution 3 times every day
4. Eat ginger
Ginger is rich in antibacterial and antiviral properties that are fundamental in fighting infections that could be affecting your bowel. It also contains some other qualities that regulate bowel movements and reduce inflammation caused by bloating and other side effects of this infection.
- Grind the ginger and swallow the paste at least 3 times every day
- Extract juice from several ginger pieces
- Add a few drops of honey and a cup of water
- Drink the juice prepared at least 3 times every day- this will yield faster and better recovery
5. Drink peppermint tea
Peppermint tea contains anti-inflammatory properties and therefore drinking it will help cool down inflammation caused by a bowel infection. It also contains antispasmodic properties that could help in dealing with acidity and intestinal cramps.
It is also rich in carminative properties that help reduce bloating and abdominal gas associated with bowel infections. You should, therefore, ensure that you take at least 2 glasses of peppermint tea every day.
6. Drink plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water is one of the best remedies during bowel infection. This should be done frequently in order to keep the body hydrated, soften the stool, and reduce pain and inflammation, and flushing out any bacteria, virus, or parasites causing the infection.
You should, therefore, ensure that you drink at least 10 glasses of water at regular intervals throughout the day in order for the treatment to be quick and effective.
7. Limit dairy products
If you have inflammatory bowel disease and you are experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, and gas, you should consider reducing or completely avoiding dairy products. Some of such symptoms could due to fact that your body is unable to digest milk sugar (lactose) in dairy foods. You can also use an enzyme product such as Lactaid; it might be helpful as well.
8. Low-fat foods
Crohn’s body is a condition that reduces the body’s ability to absorb fat normally. In case you take fat, it passes through your intestine and ends up making diarrhea worse. You, therefore, avoid fats such as butter, margarine, cream sauces and fried foods.
Consider multivitamins- These and mineral supplements are often helpful because Crohn’s disease can interfere with your ability to absorb or because your diet may be limited. The best supplements to use are recommended by doctors, and that’s why you should consult first before buying any.
It is most unlikely that your swollen colon is a symptom of a serious illness. The following are the primary treatments you should consider trying. If the symptoms persist, it is best to call your doctor for proper medical care.
1. Drink saline solution
Saline solution is a great remedy for colon swelling because it stimulates bowel movements and helps remove harmful toxins, accumulated waste, bacteria, viruses, parasites and any other impurities that could be blocking the intestines and inhibiting bowel movement. The following is the procedure of using this remedy;
- Mix 1 tablespoon of salt in a glass of water and then boil for 10 minutes
- Allow the solution to cool down until it is warm and then drink it
- Lie down on your back for a few minutes and then massage your stomach- move your hands in a straight line from the stomach to the intestines.
- Repeat this more frequently every morning until the symptoms of the infection disappear.
2. Stress management
Many people who suffer from Crohn’s disease is due to its association with stress. Many people with this condition report symptom flares during periods of high stress. The following are some of the strategies you should employ for this exercise;
- Exercise- this is vital for reducing stress, relieving depression and normalizing bowel function. It is important that you seek advice from your doctor on the most effective exercise to ease your bowel problems.
- Regular relaxation and breathing exercises- you should regularly relax your body and employ techniques such as deep or slow breath to calm down. This can be made effective if you take yoga classes and meditation or use books and CDs at home.
- Biofeedback- the main aim for this is to help you enter a relaxed state so that you can easily cope with stress. This technique may help you reduce stress by reducing muscle tension and slowing heart rate with the help of a feedback machine.
Natural home remedies
Depending upon the cause of your swollen colon, you might be able to treat or alleviate the symptoms easily at home. The following are various home remedies that have been tested and proven to cure bowel problem.
1. Oregano oil
Oregano oil contains anti-inflammatory, antifungal and parasite killing qualities that make it an effective remedy for clearing gastrointestinal parasites that cause swollen colon. This is traditionally used oil for curing bowel infections and it is highly recommended. It also cures inflammation in the gut, and it is highly effective in treating gastrointestinal infections and ailments.
2. Oregon grape root
Oregon grape root helps treat bowel infections by soothing the muscles of the intestinal tract. It also relieves the suffering from stomach cramps and abdominal pain that accompanies swollen colon. It also effectively wards off intestinal parasites and inflammatory bowel conditions. It also purifies the intestine by stimulating the flow of bile and intestinal secretions.
Berberine contains strong anti-parasitic substances. It is a bitter-tasting plant alkaloid that is highly used for in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for treating infections from fungus and yeast. Its antimicrobial properties are great for treating intestinal infections. This ingredient is available in many herbs such as goldenseal, Oregon grape, and barberry.
4. Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm contains high levels of mucilage content and also provides a calming effect to the irritated membranes of the bowel. It also contains excellent qualities for absorbing intestinal toxins as well as promoting the general health of bowel and protects it from infectious agents. The anti-inflammatory properties of this herb help in clearing infections from the bowel. The inner bark of the tree is the one used as medicine.
Thyme, also known as thymus Vulgaris, is a requirement for general digestive health. The thymol content in the herbal oil has antibacterial properties that effectively fight bacteria and fungi in the intestinal tract. Thyme also cures digestive, respiratory and genitourinary tract infections. This product is available in capsule form.
6. Gentian root
Gentian root has tinctures and extracts that are widely used to treat bowel irritation and infections causing swollen colon. The herb also contains antiviral properties that help fight intestinal inflammation. In addition to the above traits, this herb contains antiprotozoal, antibacterial and antifungal properties that kill intestinal parasites. It establishes the balance in intestinal flora and helps the body in the detoxification process, by promoting bile flow.
Boswellia is also known as frankincense. This herb has been used for centuries for treating infections because of its properties for eradicating germs. This remedy contains strong anti-inflammatory properties that play a major role in curing inflammatory bowel diseases. The herbal supplements can be used along with other drugs but it is important to seek medical advice before using them.
8. Grapefruit seed
Grapefruit seed extract contains antimicrobial properties that make it an excellent treatment for bowel infections causing swollen colon. It is a major remedy for fighting candida yeast infections. This fruit contains antioxidants for removing free-radical as well as natural immune system boosters. The herb prevents the growth of harmful intestinal organisms and protects the lining.