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?