November 18, 2010 in Features

Dr. Gott: High fiber diet promotes colon health


DEAR DR. GOTT: In November 2006, I was diagnosed with diverticular disease. In October 2009, I had surgery, and the diseased portion of my intestines was removed. Two abscesses were drained, one ovary was removed and a fistula was repaired. I’ve been pain free since.

My question is, could this happen again? I try to consume the recommended amount of fiber, and I drink plenty of water. Your thoughts, please.

DEAR READER: Diverticula are small sacs or pockets in one or more areas of the colon, more commonly in the sigmoid colon. People with diverticula present are diagnosed with diverticulosis. Should bacteria or waste get trapped in these pouches, inflammation and infection can result. When this occurs, the condition is then known as diverticulitis. Both conditions together make up diverticular disease. A diet low in fiber appears to be the main cause of diverticular disease, which can lead to constipation and strain during evacuation. It’s the straining that could cause diverticula to form in the colon.

Even though you had surgical repair, you could conceivably get diverticulitis again had you not taken positive steps. By modifying your diet to include more fiber, you have gone a long way toward eliminating the problems you had in the past. Whole grains such as found in multigrain or whole wheat breads, fresh fruits such as apples, pears and peaches and vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash, potatoes and legumes should provide adequate fiber. Between 20 and 35 grams of fiber per day are recommended for a healthful diet. Avoid constipation. Maintain good bowel habits. Drink adequate liquids. Exercise regularly. Obtain adequate sleep.

Diverticulosis is common as a person ages. By the time a person reaches age 60, it will occur in almost 50 percent of the population.

People without symptoms will probably not require treatment; however, they should be on a high-fiber diet to ensure they are taking all possible precautions. When symptoms do present (constipation, diarrhea, fever, chills), diagnosis can be made through X-ray, CT, ultrasound, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

Complications of diverticulitis can include intestinal blockage, abscesses and peritonitis (infection of the abdominal cavity). You appear to have presented with a classic case. Abscesses were discovered and drained. Surgery removed the damaged portion of the colon. You formed a fistula that was surgically removed. And you’re pain free.

To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Diverticular Disease.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope and a $2 check or money order payable to Newsletter and forwarded to P.O. Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092-0167. Be sure to mention the title or print out an order form from my website

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