Your digestive tract starts with the mouth and then the esophagus, stomach as well as the large and small intestines. The rectum is the last part of your digestive tract that connects the large intestine to the anal canal. It is around 18-20 centimeters in length in normal adults.
The main function of this part of the digestive tract is to store the waste matter after your food has passed through all the other parts. When your body has finished digesting the food in the intestines, whatever is left along with the bacteria and digestive juices enter the rectum.
This waste is the feces which you then excrete out of your body through the anal canal. Thus the rectum stores the feces temporarily until you defecate.
How does defecation work?
When the waste material gets stored in your rectum, it puts pressure on the inner walls of the rectum. This causes a ‘defecation reflux’ where the rectal muscles contract and make you feel like going to the toilet. If you do not defecate immediately, then the feces harden as they absorb the fluids and this creates a severe case of constipation.
DISORDERS ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECTUM
Rectal disorders have no age limit, they can affect anyone. Youngsters are mostly prone to inflammation of the rectum while more tumors occur in older people. If you feel any pain or discomfort in your rectum and are having trouble defecating, you should always get a checkup done. This is especially true if there is bleeding in the rectum, a mucus discharge and a changed bowel movement. These could be symptoms of serious aliments like hemorrhoids, rectal inflammation, rectal cancer, rectal injuries and rectal prolapse.
When you are unable to defecate or are constipated, the veins in the rectum get swollen and this causes immense pain and discomfort. This is called hemorrhoids and you feel very itchy in that region and there may be bleeding as well. If you have any blood in your stool or feel immense pain while defecating, it could be a sign of hemorrhoids. More than half of America’s population has this disorder by the time they are 50. You should definitely get a checkup if you have any of these symptoms and eat a good, balanced diet to avoid constipation.
When your rectum gets inflamed, it is basically a disorder called proctitis. In this disorder, you feel like emptying your bowels all the time and there may be blood, pus and mucus in your stools. If you have any of these symptoms, you should get a medical checkup done immediately. This inflammation mostly occurs due to some digestive disorder in your body and so is important to eat the right kinds of foods and include a lot of fibers in your diet.
Rectal cancer is one of the most dangerous and common cancers for men and women in Western countries. If you have any bleeding in your rectum and have narrow stools, pain in your abdomen, changed bowel habits, constipation andif you feel you have not defecated completely, you could be suffering from rectal cancer. It is a very serious illness and you must go to the doctor or physician immediately for a diagnosis.
PREVENTING RECTAL CANCER
If some members of your family have had this disease, you should also get checked up, just in case. Regular screenings, a proper diet, avoiding alcohol and not smoking can all help prevent this deadly disease.
Get a medical diagnosis done
If you are above the age of 50 or have a family history of rectal cancer, you should get checked up as soon as possible. But you should also get a diagnosis done if you have any of the symptoms as stated above and are having problems defecating properly. Go to the doctor and physician and let him assess whether you need to get a screening done. This screening will include sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult testing and colonoscopy.
Exercise, exercise, exercise
Exercise has a wide range of benefits that include reducing the risk of rectal cancer by 25 per cent. A sedentary lifestyle increases your chances of getting this disorder as it leads to constipation and irregular bowel movements. Try to exercise for atleast half-an-hour to one hour everyday.
Do not smoke and drink
Smoking and drinking are harmful for many reasons and cause many kinds of cancers, including rectal cancer. If you are a regular drinker or chain smoker, you increase your chances of getting this disease by 18 per cent. Even passive smoking is harmful so try to avoid going near people who are smoking. It is best to cut down on your smoking and drinking habits or completely give it up.
Eat a balanced diet
One of the best ways to avoid rectal cancer is to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers. Try to include as many fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible as these are a rich source of various nutrients as well as anti-oxidants. Fruits and vegetables also include dietary fibers that are essential for digestion and help avoid constipation and diarrhea.
Maintain a healthy weight
You should always maintain your weight according to your age and height as obesity increases your chances of many kinds of cancer, including rectal cancer. This is especially true in the case of men. Try to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly as well as take part in some physical activities to keep an ideal weight.
Have green tea
Green tea has many benefits and drinking just a cup every day can improve your health immensely. It is also known to be rich in substances that prevent different kinds of cancers, which include rectal cancer. Drink a cup or two every day to avoid this disorder and to stay healthy and fit.
Thus, the rectum is a very important of the digestive system that stores our waste matter until it is excreted. Maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper checkups can only prevent rectal cancer and keep the rectum healthy.