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High Fiber Diets Don't Prevent Diverticulosis
Back in the 1960s two researchers theorized that a diet low in fiber meant higher pressure inside the colon, leading to the outpouchings of the wall of the colon that we call diverticula. When these diverticula become inflamed, this is called diverticulitis, and symptoms of diverticulitis can range from mild to severe stomach pain (with or without bloating), diarrhea or constipation, nausea and vomiting, and even rectal bleeding.

Diverticulitis, nuts and seeds
People with diverticulosis have small out-pouchings of the colon. It is a very common condition with 1/3 of the population developing diverticulosis by the age of 60 and 2/3 by the time they reach 85. Oftentimes the pouches will become infected and the result can be quite serious with abscess formation, hospitalization and frequently surgery. The longstanding theory has been that the seeds might become stuck in the small diverticula (pouches) and create a setting for infection (known as diverticulitis).

Are seeds really a problem for those with diverticulitis?
Will you please give me some information on how to eat for diverticulitis - do I really have to 'seed' a can of tomatoes? Can I still be a spontaneous cook?


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Good News for Those with Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis is a sometimes painful condition in which small pouches form in the lining of the colon. If the pouches get irritated or blocked, they can bleed or become infected (which is called diverticulitis), which can lead to lengthy hospital stays.

For years physicians have recommended that their patients with diverticulosis avoid nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn, and other high-fiber foods. Yet this advice was based only on the theory that these foods were more likely to get stuck in the diverticula (the pouches) or irritate the lining of the colon. Until recently there’s been no research to support or disprove this theory.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Harvard University (JAMA 2008; 300(8):907-914) made use of information collected in The Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a long term study of the health and dietary habits of over 45,000 men in the United States. For over 18 years the participants answered yearly questionnaires about their health, and every four years provided information about their diet.

The scientists looked specifically at the participants’ intake of nuts, corn and popcorn and grouped them into levels of intake ranging from less than one serving per month to at least two or more servings per week. They then compared the intake of nuts, corn and popcorn in those who had diverticulosis with the intake of those who did not.

Contrary to theory, those who ate more than two servings of nuts a week had about the same or slightly lower risk of diverticular bleeding than those who ate less than one serving per month. Those who ate corn or popcorn more than twice a week, however, were up to 18% less likely to have diverticular bleeding! The researchers also noted that there was no association between eating strawberries or blueberries and diverticulitis.

What this means for you

If you’ve been diagnosed with diverticulosis and your doctor has told you to avoid seeds, show this News Bite to your doctor and ask them to take a look at this research. It seems clear that those with diverticulosis can enjoy nuts, seeds and popcorn again!

First posted: October 8, 2008