Diet Don'ts and Diverticulitis?

Dear Dr. Mirkin:

I have diverticulitis; do I need to avoid nuts and seeds?

Answer: All recent data discredits the old-wives tale that seeds and nuts get into the linings of the colon to irritate diverticula, outpouchings in the U-shaped colon tube. A plant-based diet reduces diverticular disease by nearly one-third (British Medical Journal, published online July 19, 2011). Symptoms of diverticulitis include alternating constipation and diarrhea, painful abdominal cramps and bloating.

47,033 adults were followed for 12 years. Vegetarians had a 31 percent lower risk than meat eaters for developing diverticular disease. The more fiber they took in, the less likely they were to suffer intestinal symptoms. Those who took in 25 grams of fiber/day were far less likely than those taking in fewer than 14 grams/day to be hospitalized for diverticular disease. Meat eaters who ate the most fiber had a 26 percent lower risk of diverticulitis than meat eaters who ate the least.

How fiber protects the colon: When you eat, the pyloric sphincter at the end of the stomach closes and no solid food is allowed to pass into your intestines. The food is turned into a liquid soup in your stomach and only this soup moves on to the intestines. When the soup reaches the colon, the fluid is absorbed to form solid stool. The longer the stool remains in your colon, the more fluid is absorbed so the stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans contain large amounts of fiber that hold water in the stool to prevent a cast from forming and sticking to your colon. Fiber pushes the stool rapidly through your colon to increase the number of bowel movements. The faster transit of stool lowers pressure in the colon to prevent pouches from forming.


Related articles of interest:

Your Digestive System and Health: What You Must Know

Curbing Constipation Naturally

ACE Colon Health and Kick Cancer to the Curb


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About the author


A practicing physician for more than 40 years and a radio talk show host for 25, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is one of a very few doctors board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology.



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