Your colon (large intestine) is a part of your digestive system. At one end, it attaches to your small intestine. At the other, it attaches to the rectum and anus. Large amounts of bacteria are present in the colon. Bacteria work to break down any remaining undigested food materials. The colon also absorbs water and transports the remaining waste to the rectum, where it’s expelled as stool.
The average colon size is 120 to 150 centimeters (roughly 47 to 60 inches) in length. However, a person with a redundant colon has an abnormally long colon, especially in the final section (called descending colon). A redundant colon also has additional loops or twists. Other names for a redundant colon include tortuous colon or elongated colon.
Some people may have a redundant colon and never experience symptoms associated with it. Others may have increased bloating, constipation, and fecal impaction. Impaction is a large, hard dry stool that stays in the rectum, making it difficult to pass.
If left untreated, constipation can cause complications, including hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or rectal prolapse, which causes the intestine to protrude from the anus.
People with a redundant colon are at increased risk for colonic volvulus, a condition that causes the colon to twist around itself. This slows or completely stops the flow of stool, leading to a colonic obstruction, and is often a surgical emergency.
Redundant sigmoid colon could lead to sigmoid volvulus. Sigmoid colon is the part of the colon closest to the rectum. Symptoms of sigmoid volvulus include:
- failing to pass a bowel movement in some time
- distended, air-filled abdomen
- lower abdominal pain
People have a genetic predisposition for a redundant colon. If a family member of yours has a redundant colon, you are at greater risk for having one too. Some people may have a redundant colon with no known cause.
Many people live with a redundant colon without ever knowing they have one. It is not considered a medical emergency. However, having a redundant colon can increase your risk for some gastrointestinal-related conditions that could require medical treatment.
Seek emergency medical help if you experience:
- extreme stomach or lower abdominal pain
- not having a bowel movement in more than three days
- vomiting brown, stool-like contents
Redundant colon doesn’t always require medical intervention. Many people can live with a redundant colon without requiring any treatments. Some severe cases (with recurring complications) do require surgical correction.
People with redundant colon have more colon length for digested food to travel and may be more likely to experience constipation. Consuming a diet high in fiber can reduce constipation. The added fiber will increase the stool’s bulk, stimulating the colon to move the stool more quickly.
Examples of high-fiber foods include:
- whole-grain breads
The more processed a food is, the less fiber it likely has. The recommended daily amount of fiber is roughly 20 to 25 grams per day if you eat a 2,500-calorie diet. If you eat much less, slowly increase your intake.
Drinking plenty of water also helps to soften stools, making them easier to pass. If you continue having difficulty with constipation, talk to your doctor. They can recommend an additional fiber-containing supplement or determine the need for a laxative.