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Fiber and Diverticular Disease

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Diverticular disease can seriously affect your health. Can preventing it be as simple as increasing the amount of fiber in your diet?

You've heard that fiber in your diet can help lower cholesterol, relieve constipation and help prevent certain types of cancer. Now you can add one more benefit to the list. A high-fiber diet can help prevent a common condition called diverticulosis.

Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
About 10 percent of Americans older than 40 and half of people older than 60 have diverticulosis and probably don't know it.

Diverticulosis is the presence of small pouches ("diverticulas") in the intestines, much like an inner tube with bulges. Not everyone has symptoms, though some may experience mild cramps and bloating. This is often mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome or gas pains.

Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become inflamed. The inflammation may be caused by bacteria from the stool, which can get caught in the pouches and cause an infection. Diverticulitis is a much more serious condition. It can lead to fever, rectal bleeding, nausea, vomiting and/or chills. In severe cases, surgery may be needed. If the condition goes untreated, it can become fatal.

The role of fiber
Scientists aren't entirely sure what causes diverticulosis. Many suspect a low fiber intake is to blame. This is often the result of eating more processed foods than whole foods.

Without enough fiber, your intestines have trouble moving waste products out of your body. Your muscles have to strain to move these waste products along your intestines. This pressure causes weak spots in the colon to bulge out, creating the diverticula pouches.

  • Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is the part of fruits, vegetables and grains that the body cannot digest.
  • Fiber bulks up the weight and size of your stool and also softens it. This eases the pressure inside your digestive tract and makes waste easier to pass.

During an attack of diverticulitis, doctors will often advise a liquid and then a low-fiber diet until the inflammation passes. Then, the fiber in the diet may be slowly increased to prevent further attacks in the future.

What about nuts, seeds and popcorn?
Until recently, it was believed that people with diverticulosis had to avoid certain foods such as nuts, seeds and popcorn to prevent a flare-up. It was thought that these foods could get stuck in the pouches and cause inflammation. Now, though, there is no scientific evidence that proves this theory.

That being said, decisions about diet should be made based on what works best for each person. Certain foods may trigger symptoms in some people. Keeping a food diary may help identify what foods could pose problems for you.

Latest recommendations
In general, experts do suggest a high-fiber diet for both prevention and healing of this condition. Follow these guidelines:

  • Increase fiber, but start slowly, working up to the recommended 25 to 35 grams a day.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Fiber absorbs fluid, which softens the stool and increases the bulk for better passage.
  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains (cereals, breads, brown rice, barley) and beans/legumes. These are the food groups that contain the most fiber.
  • There is no need to avoid the seeds in tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries or poppy seeds. They are generally considered harmless, unless they trigger a flare-up for you.
  • Ask your doctor about taking an over-the-counter psyllium supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil. Available in powders, pills or wafers, they can increase your fiber intake in addition to whole foods.

Finally, talk to your doctor about buy super p force online starting an exercise program. Lack of exercise may also be a risk factor for diverticulosis, though the reasons are not well understood.