What is Diverticulitis?

A friend of mine recent­ly had a brush with death. She was unknow­ing­ly car­ry­ing a time bomb in her large intes­tine, and when it went off, it near­ly took her with it. She had a diver­tic­u­lar abscess, which burst and thus allowed the bac­te­ria to get into her abdom­i­nal cav­i­ty. That caused a prob­lem called peri­toni­tis.

All things con­sid­ered, she got off easy. She had to have emer­gency surgery to remove the dam­aged por­tion of her large intes­tine and clean up the mess in her abdomen. She may have a fierce-look­ing scar, but she’s alive, and she can still go to the bath­room nor­mal­ly, instead of into a colosto­my bag on her side.

The prob­lem start­ed when part of the wall of her large intes­tine “bal­looned out” to form a lit­tle pouch called a diver­tic­u­lum. When you have these diver­tic­u­la, the con­di­tion is called diver­tic­u­lo­sis. Here’s what diver­tic­u­lo­sis looks like, from inside the large intes­tine:

About half of Amer­i­cans over 50 years of age have diver­tic­u­lo­sis and don’t even know it. Diver­tic­u­lo­sis may cause mild, inter­mit­tent symp­toms of pain and bloat­ing in the low­er left side of the bel­ly. It may cause bouts of diar­rhea and con­sti­pa­tion. It is a com­mon cause of rec­tal bleed­ing in peo­ple over 40 years of age. Or it may cause no symp­toms at all. If one of the diver­tic­u­la gets infect­ed, the con­di­tion is called diver­ti­c­uli­tis. It’s just like appen­dici­tis, except that the symp­toms are worse on the low­er left, rather than the low­er right, side of the bel­ly. If the inflamed diver­tic­u­lum bursts, you can end up with life-threat­en­ing peri­toni­tis.

Diver­tic­u­lar dis­ease is com­mon in the Unit­ed States. How­ev­er, it’s rare in places like Africa and Asia, where peo­ple eat a high-fiber, plant-based diet. Accord­ing to the Nation­al Insti­tute of Dia­betes and Diges­tive and Kid­ney Dis­eases (NIDDK), the best treat­ment for most cas­es of diver­tic­u­lo­sis is a high-fiber diet. Both sol­u­ble and insol­u­ble fiber are help­ful, because they retain water and make the stool soft­er and eas­i­er to pass. If the mus­cles of the large intes­tine don’t have to strain so hard, they won’t gen­er­ate the high pres­sure that can cause a diver­tic­u­lum to form.

Some doc­tors say that peo­ple with diver­tic­u­lo­sis should avoid eat­ing small seeds, such as those in toma­toes or rasp­ber­ries. How­ev­er, the NIDDK says that there is no sci­en­tif­ic infor­ma­tion to sup­port that rec­om­men­da­tion.

Dairy prod­ucts increase the risk for diver­tic­u­lo­sis by caus­ing con­sti­pa­tion. When dairy pro­tein is digest­ed, it can pro­duce mor­phine-like com­pounds that slow down the mus­cles that are sup­posed to push food through the intestines.

To pre­vent diver­tic­u­lo­sis, pre­vent con­sti­pa­tion. Eat lots and lots of unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles. Avoid dairy prod­ucts. A diet like that is also good for main­tain­ing a healthy weight, con­trol­ling your cho­les­terol and blood sug­ar, and pre­vent­ing osteo­poro­sis.

Color-Blind People May Not Notice That They’re Bleeding!

Unusu­al bleed­ing or dis­charge is one of the clas­sic sev­en warn­ing signs of can­cer. Blood in the stool could be a sign of colon can­cer. It’s also a com­mon sign of diver­tic­u­lo­sis of the colon. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, peo­ple with red-green col­or blind­ness might not notice that they are pass­ing blood with their bow­el move­ments. Here’s an arti­cle about three col­or-blind men who didn’t notice that they were pass­ing blood with their stool. One of them had colon can­cer. Anoth­er had diver­tic­u­lo­sis; he was bleed­ing heav­i­ly but mis­took the blood for diar­rhea. The third patient had bleed­ing from hem­or­rhoids. The men didn’t notice the blood because they can’t see the col­or red. For­tu­nate­ly, their wives saw the blood and had them seek med­ical atten­tion.

Red-green col­or-blind­ness is far more com­mon in men than in women. That’s because men have only one copy of the X chro­mo­some in each of their cells. If one of the genes on their X chro­mo­some is defec­tive, they don’t have a spare X chro­mo­some to serve as a back­up. Women don’t get red-green col­or-blind­ness unless they inher­it a defec­tive ver­sion of the gene from both par­ents. That’s why women rarely get red-green col­or-blind­ness, but even a woman with nor­mal col­or vision can have col­or-blind sons.

For­tu­nate­ly, the intesti­nal prob­lems that these men had are pre­ventable by diet. Colon can­cer is rare in pop­u­la­tions that eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. So are diver­tic­u­lo­sis and hem­or­rhoids, which result from con­sti­pa­tion.

Note: Since I wrote this post, glass­es that cor­rect for red-green col­or­blind­ness have become avail­able!

What People Can Achieve by Eating a Low-Fat, Plant-Based Diet

If you have any chron­ic health prob­lem, I don’t care what it is, con­sid­er mak­ing a change in your diet. Often, a sim­ple exclu­sion diet pro­to­col can help you cure dev­as­tat­ing dis­eases like type 2 dia­betes or rheuma­toid arthri­tis. It can also make you heart-attack-proof and reduce your risk of can­cer. A change to a low-fat, plant-based diet is sim­ple and cheap and has no side effects. If you have any seri­ous health prob­lem, talk to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian (look for the “RD” after their name) as well as your doc­tor before mak­ing a change in diet.

Lose Weight

The secret to effort­less weight loss is to go ape and eat plants. Switch to a high-fiber, low-fat diet based on unre­fined starch­es and lots of veg­eta­bles. Eat as much of these foods as you can hold, and you’ll be less tempt­ed to snack on high-calo­rie junk food.

Stop Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Roy Swank showed that you can stop the pro­gres­sion of mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis just by tak­ing the ani­mal prod­ucts and fat out of the diet. Dr. John McDougall is car­ry­ing on this research.

Become Heart-Attack-Proof

Dr. Cald­well Essel­styn took a bunch of patients with advanced coro­nary artery dis­ease and made them “heart-attack-proof” just by teach­ing them to eat the right kinds of food.

Cure Type 2 Diabetes

Dr. Neal Barnard proved that a low-fat, plant-based diet is bet­ter than the Amer­i­can Dia­betes Association’s stan­dard dietary rec­om­men­da­tions for con­trol­ling type 2 dia­betes. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s patients with type 2 dia­betes become “undi­a­bet­ic” with­in a mat­ter of weeks if they eat that way.

Dramatically Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

T. Col­in Camp­bell, PhD, a world-famous nutri­tion­al bio­chemist and nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gist, has shown that the more ani­mal-based foods peo­ple eat, the high­er their risk of can­cer. In ani­mal mod­els, sci­en­tists could turn the devel­op­ment of tumors on and off just by increas­ing or decreas­ing the amount of ani­mal pro­tein in the diet.

Fight Arthritis

Arthri­tis is not an inevitable con­se­quence of age. It is com­par­a­tive­ly rare in soci­eties where peo­ple eat a low-fat, plant-based diet. About 70% of peo­ple with the most com­mon form of inflam­ma­to­ry arthri­tis, rheuma­toid arthri­tis, can expect dra­mat­ic ben­e­fits, and often a cure, in less than 4 weeks of diet change. The diet must be fol­lowed strictly—medications are reduced and stopped as improve­ments occur.

Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteo­poro­sis is reversible, if you eat a plant-based diet, get rea­son­able expo­sure to sun­shine, and get some exer­cise. Believe it or not, dairy prod­ucts actu­al­ly make osteo­poro­sis worse.

Relieve Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­eases occur almost exclu­sive­ly in parts of the world where the diet is high in meat and dairy foods, and are rare in coun­tries where peo­ple still con­sume starch-based, almost entire­ly veg­e­tar­i­an meals.

Avoid Surgery for Gallstones

Gall­stones are usu­al­ly made of cho­les­terol, and they result when peo­ple over­load their sys­tem with fat­ty, high-cho­les­terol foods.

Prevent Varicose Veins, Hemorrhoids, Hiatal Hernia, Uterine Prolapse

All of those dis­or­ders result from con­sti­pa­tion. When peo­ple strain to move their bow­els, the abnor­mal­ly high pres­sure in the bel­ly can dam­age the valves in the veins and push var­i­ous organs out of their nor­mal posi­tions.

Appendicitis and Diverticulosis

The high-pro­tein, low-fiber West­ern diet is the cause of appen­dici­tis and diver­tic­u­lo­sis.

The List Goes On and On

Many oth­er dis­eases have been shown to be the result of the rich, fat­ty, low-fiber stan­dard Amer­i­can diet. I should also have list­ed acne, bad breath, body odor, and erec­tile dys­func­tion, along with kid­ney and liv­er dis­ease. The sad thing is that many peo­ple unwit­ting­ly sub­ject them­selves to these dis­eases in their attempt to avoid “pro­tein defi­cien­cy,” even though pro­tein defi­cien­cy isn’t a real prob­lem in human beings. After all, where do goril­las get their pro­tein?