DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I turned 50, my doctor had me get a colonoscopy. I’m sorry I did. The specialist didn’t find cancer, but he found I have diverticulosis. Now I worry all the time about what’s going to happen. What is going to happen? – R.K.
ANSWER: Most likely, nothing is going to happen.
A diverticulum is a small bulge that protrudes from the colon’s outer wall. Diverticula look like tiny soap bubbles. People don’t get them until later in life. By age 80, almost half have diverticulosis – a colon studded with diverticula – and few have or will have any symptoms from them.
The condition is common in places where grains are refined. Refining removes bran. Bran is fiber, and it serves to keep undigested food moist as it passes through the digestive tract. Without fiber, undigested food becomes rock-hard and difficult to propel through the tract. The colon has to exert great pressure to keep it moving. The increased pressure causes the colon lining to push through the colon wall and form a diverticulum on its outside wall. The evidence for a lack of fiber being the cause of diverticulosis is circumstantial, but it makes sense.
If diverticula become inflamed, that is diverticulitis, and it is most painful and often requires hospitalization.
You can prevent diverticulosis from becoming diverticulitis by increasing your fiber intake to 25 to 30 grams a day. Fresh fruit with skins, vegetables and whole grains are fiber sources. You’ll find many fiber-rich cereals with the amount of fiber listed in the nutrition information on the box. You can also buy bran cheaply at a health-food store. It’s an excellent fiber source. This is all you have to do. Stop worrying.
The booklet on diverticulosis gives a complete description of this common condition and its treatment. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 502W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What’s the best way to take care of sunburn? I want to know if I did it right. – M.M.
ANSWER: Cold compresses make the skin less painful and limit the swelling that comes with sunburn. Aspirin is good for adults, but not for children. A bath in cool water to which Aveeno Oatmeal Bath Treatment or baking soda has been added provides pain relief. Don’t apply petroleum jelly, butter or oils to the skin. They delay healing.
If a sunburned person has fever, chills, great swelling or extensive blistering, that person should see a doctor.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Enclosed is an ad for a gelatin with minerals and vitamins in it. I have arthritis in my knees. I have been taking it. What is your opinion of it? – J.H.
ANSWER: I’m familiar with the product. I haven’t found any medical endorsements for it. It won’t hurt you. I can’t say if it will help you. How about letting me know if it does you any good?