Eating right, exercising, getting recommended checkups and paying attention to what your body is telling you can help keep your colon healthy and functioning properly. Test your colon IQ with this quick quiz:
1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) typically involves
2. Healthy people have a bowel movement
a) once a day, every day
b) whenever they feel the need
c) three or four times a week
3. “Occasional irregularity” can be caused by
b) your work schedule
4. Assuming you’re in good health, you should schedule your first colonoscopy when you’re old enough to
b) buy beer legally
c) join AARP
5. If you’re constipated, cut down your consumption of
a) fruit juice
6. Oatmeal, dates, lentils, purslane and spinach help keep your digestion “regular” because they’re loaded with
b) dietary fiber
1. C: Between 10 and 20 percent of Americans—more women than men—suffer from IBS, which causes both diarrhea and constipation, as well as abdominal pain and gas. If symptoms include unexplained weight loss or bleeding, that could be a sign of a more serious illness. See your doctor for a complete colon examination.
2. B: Healthy people may have a bowel movement once a day, more than once a day, or only three or four times a week. What’s “normal” varies from person to person.
3. C: Your colon has its own internal clock. Disrupting your body’s natural rhythm by working the night shift or rotating shifts can cause constipation or cramping. The same holds true when you overeat. If you’re feeling constipated, high-fiber foods such as whole grain bread, beans and berries, and noncaffeinated fluids may help. (It’s important to add both; the fluids prevent bloating.) Then get out of your chair and take a walk; sedentary people are prone to constipation.
4. C: If you’re in good health and you don’t have a family history of colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, you should have your first colonoscopy at age 50. If the results are normal, you probably won’t need another for 10 years.
5. B: The caffeine in coffee is a diuretic, which makes you urinate more frequently. It also draws water from your stool, making it harder to expel. To counter the effects of caffeine, for every cup of caffeinated fluid you drink each day you should drink two cups of caffeine-free fluid such as water or juice.
6. B: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that men age 50 and under consume 38 grams of dietary fiber daily and women should consume 25 grams. Recently, the Institute of Food Technologists drew attention to dates and purslane as under-appreciated sources of fiber. A handful of dates provides 3.3 grams of dietary fiber—about the same as a half cup of spinach—and a one-cup serving of purslane, which you can steam or sauté like spinach, provides 3.1 grams.