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Large Intestine

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By: S. Rennie, LPN

The large intestine is almost 5 feet long and divided into six parts: cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and the rectum. Partially digested food enters the large intestine from the small intestine via the ileocecal valve. The main purpose of the large intestine is to digest food further, release nutrients into the bloodstream and absorb fluids.1

Alcohol consumption greatly reduces the frequency and strength of muscle contractions in the rectum. This, as in the small intestine, can speed movement of food through the intestines thus reducing absorption of nutrients and fluids and also cause diarrhea.2,3

Epidemiological human data and biochemical animal experimental data both show that chronic alcohol consumption poses a great risk factor for polyps and cancer of the colorectum. This can occur as alcohol may act as a cocarcinogen by enhancing the carcinogen effects of other chemicals and also interacting with enzymes that normally help detoxify substances in the body. This interaction can also increase the toxicity of some carcinogens, which results in cancer. 4,5


  1. Alcohol and the Digestive System/Gastrointestinal Tract.

  2. The Intestine. 03/31/98.

  3. Bode, Christiane, Ph.D. and Bode, J. Christian, M.D., Alcohol's Role in Gastrointestinal Disorders. Alcohol Health & Research World. Vol. 21, No. 1, 1997. 77-78

  4. Seitz, Helmut K., Poschl, Gundrun, Salaspuro, Mikko. Alcohol and Cancer of the Large Intestine. Cho CH, Purohit V (eds): Alcohol, Tobacco and Cancer. Basel Karger, 2006, pp 63-67.

  5. Alcohol and Cancer. Alcohol Alert. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. No. 21 PH 345, July, 1993.

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