DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 55-year-old man who finally bit the bullet and had a colonoscopy. My doctor had badgered me to have one for the past five years. I don’t have cancer. I don’t have polyps. I do have diverticulosis. I didn’t know I had it before the scope exam. I’ve never had even a twinge of pain. What is this, and what do I need to do about it? — H.L.
ANSWER: A diverticulum is a small, balloonlike protrusion of the colon lining through the muscle wall of the colon and onto its outer surface. By “small,” I mean that diverticula range from 0.2 inches to 0.4 inches (0.5 cm to 1 cm) in largest diameter, around the size of a pea. Their cause appears to be a lack of fiber in the diet.
In places where the diet has lots of fiber, diverticulosis is rare. In North America, it’s rampant. Fiber keeps undigested food from drying out. Dried food residue requires powerful contractions of the colon muscle to push it along. Those contractions also push the colon lining through the colon wall, creating a diverticulum.
Diverticulosis is frequently a silent affair, not causing any troubles. Diverticulitis, on the other hand, is an inflammation and infection of diverticula. That is quite painful. It produces abdominal pain on the left, lower side of the abdomen, often with nausea and vomiting. The diverticula also can burst and release bacteria into the abdominal cavity, a serious situation. Severe diverticulitis must be treated in the hospital with IV fluids and IV antibiotics.
To prevent diverticulosis from becoming diverticulitis, increase your fiber intake. Fiber is the indigestible coverings of many fruits, vegetables and grains. White flour is refined wheat — wheat without its outer coat, the bran. Bran and other sources of fiber draw water into undigested food and make it easily pushed along the entire length of the colon.
We’re supposed to get 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Beans, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads, dates, prunes, unskinned apples and pears are examples of fi- ber-rich foods. If you cannot get enough fiber from foods, then commercial products such as Fiberall, Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon can provide it for you.
The booklet on diverticulosis provides more details on this common condition and its complication — diverticulitis. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 502W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My doctor’s nurse studied my ears with great interest the last time I was there. I asked what she was looking at. She said I had a crease in my earlobes, and it’s a sign of heart disease. I looked in a mirror. I do have a crease. Does it mean I have heart disease? — J.K.
ANSWER: Right in the area where an earring is worn, some people have a transverse crease. At one time a fuss was made about it being a sign of heart disease. If it is, it’s not a reliable sign. I have those creases too.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P. O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475.
©2012 North America Synd.