DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Five years ago I had my first colonoscopy. The doctor told me I had diverticulosis. He said if I keep my fiber intake over 35 grams a day, I can eat whatever I want. I have a friend who had colon cancer 20 years ago. Her doctor told her that she has diverticulosis and a hole in her colon. Another man told her that he has several holes in his colon from diverticulosis. What causes these holes? And why do so many people have diverticulosis? – L.R.
ANSWER: Let me give you a clear picture of diverticulosis. A diverticulum is a tiny pouch that springs up on the outside colon wall. Dry, hard stool makes the colon work very hard and makes it generate great force to push undigested food through it. That same force drives the colon lining through the colon wall, where it forms a tiny, pea-size bulge like an inner tube bulging through a tire. That’s a diverticulum. The diverticulum still communicates with the center of the colon through a tiny opening. I believe that the opening of the diverticulum must be the hole that your friends speak of.
If the opening of a diverticulum becomes plugged, then the bacteria inside of it multiply and cause the diverticulum to expand. The expansion can become so great that the diverticulum bursts. That is diverticulitis, a painful and potentially dangerous condition.
So many people in industrialized countries have diverticulosis because their diets consist of refined grains – grains with their outer bran coat removed. Bran is an excellent source of fiber. Without fiber, undigested food dries out and begets the forces that end up producing diverticula. That’s why diverticulosis is so prevalent in Canada and the United States. Our diets are devoid of fiber. Do what your doctor told you, and you won’t come down with diverticulitis and won’t form more diverticula.
The diverticulosis booklet describes this condition, how it’s treated and how it’s prevented. 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 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’ve been told that if you ingest more salt than your body requires, the body can slough off the excess if you increase your water intake. Is that true? – G.S.
ANSWER: That’s false. In fact, the extra salt holds onto fluid. The kidneys are excellent chemists, but they can do only so much. If a person overwhelms them with too much salt, they can’t get rid of it all. Much of it stays in the body and holds onto fluid.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What happens to artery buildup when one stops eating trans fats? – M.C.
ANSWER: It takes a lot of work to reverse artery buildup, but it can be done if a person carefully watches the amount of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol eaten. You have to do other things too. You have to keep blood pressure in the normal range. You have to exercise regularly. You can’t smoke.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL32853-6475.
©2008 North America Synd. Inc.