Diverticulitis And Taboo Foods


People suffering from diverticular disease are told to stop eating popcorn, nuts and corn as a part of a lifestyle change to avoid problematic conditions. This view has been questioned in recent research and avoiding such foods may not be a part of future treatment strategies.

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The reason that doctors advised patients with susceptible to developing colonic diverticulitis against consuming these foods was because these foods were said to hike the risk for full blown diverticulitis. Recent findings published on Tuesday-in the Aug.26, 2008 issue of "The Journal of the American Medical Association" from the first large scale clinical study have belied this claim, and it is now suggested that consuming such foods actually lower the chances of the condition developing in a susceptible individual.

The results of this study are eye opening and the present preventive treatment strategies for this condition need to be evaluated in the light of these new findings.

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Diverticulitis: what is it?

Diverticulosis is the development of small pouch like growths in the colon; it is widespread in the American population. The medical community estimates that approximately a third of all Americans will be affected by diverticulosis of the colon by sixty years of age. It is further estimated that at least two thirds develop such colonic pouches by the time they turn eighty five years old. Clearly, this is a serious health issue that concerns all Americans.

Diverticulosis or colonic pouches develop without any obvious physical symptoms in the majority of affected individuals. However, the condition is serious because in at least one out of four people, it will result in the development of the far more dangerous diverticulitis. This serious condition has potentially debilitating effects according to the National Institutes of Health, patients will complain of physical symptoms including the sharp and intense pain along the lower and left side of the abdominal region. Intense spells of nausea and vomiting are also likely; abdominal cramps and bleeding are also common complaints.

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Traditional treatment

Treatment strategies have focused on the dietary restriction of nuts, corn and popcorn. Patients with diverticular disease are normally put on a dietary regimen without nuts and corn and even seed bearing vegetables such as tomatoes since at least the 1950's. The main logic behind restricting such foods from the diet was based on the belief that hard to digest plant matter in these foods will accumulate in the colonic pouches-diverticula, leading to painful physical symptoms and resulting in diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis research

In one study, a team of researchers analyzed the data from a current Harvard School of Public Health clinical study of male health professionals. In this study, the researchers studied the association between eating nuts, corn, and popcorn and diverticular disease.

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The people who were studied were between forty and seventy five years of age and about forty seven thousand two hundred and twenty eight individuals were listed as participants in the study. At the start of the study, it was ensured that none of the subjects had any medical history of diverticulosis, diverticulitis or complications arising from such a disorder.

The long term study consisted of the participants having to fill out detailed questionnaires once every few years. Thee questions were directed towards finding out the type of foods normally consumed by the participants and their general health status over the years.

The study was conducted over eighteen years, during this time it was reported that eight hundred and one participants were diagnosed with diverticulitis diagnosed. In addition, diverticular bleeding affected three hundred and eighty three of the test subjects.

The study concluded that when compared to people who abstained from eating nuts, corn or popcorn, the participants who consumed these foods on a frequent basis were not necessarily at a greater risk for developing diverticulitis. The consumption of these foods also did not increase the chances of diverticular bleeding affecting such people.

The results of this study overturns the previous belief and points our that men who consumed nuts and related seed bearing foods at least two times weekly actually have a twenty percent lower risk for developing full scale diverticulitis compared to other men consuming nuts only about once every month. This is a total paradigm shift and means that treatment strategies for this disorder have to be changed in the light of these results. The study also suggests that people who consumed popcorn two times a week have a twenty eight percent lower risk for developing diverticulitis.

The results of the study also put a serious question mark on the earlier belief that eating corn was connected to the disorder as it was found that corn consumption did not appreciably affect the risk for diverticulitis. The study conclusively showed that there was no connection between diverticular bleeding with the consumption of any of the foods considered taboo previously. In addition, there was no connection between the development of uncomplicated diverticulosis and any of these previously taboo food items.


These new results from clinical studies suggest that treatment strategies must be changed. People affected by diverticulosis have advised against consuming nuts and seed bearing foods for decades now, as these supposedly hiked the risk for severe diverticular disease. Clearly, this belief has been revealed to be faulty and treatments must be changed accordingly.

Some doctors have already changed their treatment strategies in the light of these findings. One gastroenterologist in Dallas says, that he does not suggest the restriction of the formerly taboo foods like nuts, corn, and popcorn to his patients suffering from diverticular disease. However, he states that many of his patients continue to avoid such foods-such is the strength of old beliefs.

Another gastroenterologist says that "The idea that these foods should be avoided is so deeply ingrained in people that I really don't think this study will represent the nail in the coffin," he further adds "But it is very well done and a useful contribution to the literature."

These days, patients with diverticular disease are also increasingly advised by more and more doctors to eat diets that are rich in fiber-namely the nuts, the corn and popcorn which were taboo before. It is hoped that given time, the old beliefs about certain foods being high risk will go away as far and the treatment of diverticulitis will be better managed.


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