The colon is also known as the large intestine. It is actually shorter than the small intestine at 4-6 feet long. The 'large' comes from the fact that its diameter is much wider at 2.5 inches.

The colon (as seen in the image below) includes the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectum and anus. The ascending colon passes from the lower right of the abdomen to the upper right, the transverse colon passes from upper right to upper left, the descending colon passes from upper left to lower left.

The main function of the colon is to reabsorb the water and salt from the fecal matter; it is where liquid stool becomes solid. Therefore people with inflammation of the colon (colitis) usually have diarrhea, and need to increase their fluid consumption to avoid dehydration. As the colon also actively absorbs and secretes bicarbonate and potassium, severe diarrhea can cause metabolic acidosis as well as hypokalemia. The colon also houses symbiotic bacteria that produce vitamin by-products and are essential to the human health and homeostasis.


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