The transverse colon is a segment of the large intestine that passes horizontally across the abdomen and sits beneath other organs in the abdominal cavity.
As the longest and most mobile part of the colon, the transverse colon plays an essential role in digestion and the excretion of waste products. It also helps absorb water from digested food, making it easier for waste products to move through the body.
Many conditions can affect this part of the digestive tract, including:
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- ulcerative colitis
In this article, we examine the transverse colon and its functions. We also explore some common conditions that can affect the colon and how people can support their colon health.
The colon, also called the large intestine, is a section of the digestive tract. It processes any food material that the small intestine did not digest by absorbing water and minerals from it. This section also maintains a healthy population of bacteria that are essential in the absorption of nutrients elsewhere in the gut.
Food moves through the colon through a process called peristalsis, which is wave-like muscle contractions. This action mixes and shifts the liquid food material back and forth, allowing the colon to absorb water and minerals.
There are four sections of the colon. They work together to absorb water and other nutrients from the waste material to prepare for excretion. These include:
- the ascending colon, which
absorbsthe remaining water and other nutrients from the indigestible food material, solidifying it into stool
- the transverse colon, which absorbs water and salts from the indigestible material
- the descending colon, which is a storage area for feces
- sigmoid colon, which moves stool into the rectum
Click on the BodyMap above to interact with a 3D model of the transverse colon.
Various disorders can affect the colon, such as:
IBS is a name for a group of symptoms that include painful abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating.
The exact cause of IBS is unclear, but a number of factors can influence its development, such as gastrointestinal infections, stress, anxiety, and a family history of the condition. The American Gastroenterology Association also cites impaired function or coordination of the digestive muscles, an increase in sensations of pain in the internal organs, and brain-gut dysfunction.
The treatment for IBS varies from person to person. It may involve:
- making dietary changes to remove triggers
- treating mental health conditions
- reducing stress
- taking medications to reduce pain and other symptoms
Diverticulosis is a disease that causes small pouches, known as diverticula, to bulge outward throughout the colon. When these pouches become inflamed or infected, doctors call this diverticulitis.
The risk of developing diverticulitis increases with age, and a low fiber diet is another risk factor.
Symptoms of diverticulitis include:
- rectal bleeding
- abdominal pain, usually on the left side
- constipation, diarrhea, or another change in bowel habits
Treatment for diverticulitis may include:
- a liquid diet
- a bland diet
- antispasmodics, which are drugs that can relax the colon
- surgery, if the infection is severe or complicated
Some symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- abdominal pain
- blood or pus in diarrhea
- weight loss
- loss of appetite
- bleeding from the rectum
- severe tiredness
- sores on the skin
- joint pain
Many types of medication can treat ulcerative colitis, but if it is severe, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the colon.
A polyp is an extra mass of cells that grows somewhere inside the body. Colonic polyps are polyps that grow in the colon. Most of the time, polyps are not a cause for concern, but some can become cancerous.
Most of the time, polyps do not present with any symptoms. If symptoms are present, they may include blood in the stool, diarrhea, or constipation that lasts longer than a week.
Colorectal cancer occurs when tumors develop in the lining of the large intestine. The risk is higher in people with:
- a diet high in fat
- a history of smoking
- colorectal polyps
- Crohn’s disease
- ulcerative colitis
- a family history of colorectal cancer
Symptoms of colorectal cancer are not always present at first, but they may include:
- frequent cramps or gas pains
- feeling bloated or full
- a feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
- constipation or diarrhea
- stool that is unusually narrow
- bright red or very dark blood in stool
- symptoms of anemia, such as fatigue and dizziness
- weight loss
Many strategies for improving overall health also benefit the transverse colon. This includes:
- maintaining a moderate weight
- avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol
- having a balanced diet
- drinking enough water
Some specific factors that may improve colon health or reduce the risk of disease
- eating fresh fruits and vegetables
- eating foods that are high in fiber
- avoiding or reducing the consumption of processed meats
- avoiding foods and drinks high in sugar or fat
Most people have abdominal pain at some time. A person should contact a doctor if the pain is severe or lasts longer than 1–2 days.
Also seek care if pain occurs with:
- rectal bleeding
- unexplained weight loss
- changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
These symptoms do not necessarily indicate a serious problem, but a doctor can treat them and order additional testing.
The transverse colon is a section of the large intestine that runs across the abdomen. It is where the body absorbs water and salts from material that it cannot digest. Later, this becomes feces.
A number of conditions can affect the colon, including IBS, polyps, diverticulosis, and cancer. People can help support their colon health by eating high fiber foods, drinking enough water, and avoiding or limiting processed meats, foods and drinks rich in sugar and fat, and alcohol and tobacco use.