DIETARY FIBRE HELPS PREVENT DIVERTICULAR DISEASE
When we think of any type of disease related to our digestive system, you have to remember how important and absolutely necessary it is to have fibre in our diets. This story came about after a diagnosis of DIVERTICULITIS. I was inspired to write about this because so many of us forget just how important the role is of fibre in our diets.
On a cold wintry night, two years ago, my aunt found herself doubled up in pain in the emergency room of her local hospital. The severe stomach cramps and nausea which had motivated this visit to a place where she had not previously frequented, unless of course,if it was absolutely necessary, like the year her husband, Uncle George had his heart attack. She was seen by a Doctor, who gave her an examination, followed by tests and the appropriate course of treatment. In this instance, this was a course of antibiotics. After a couple of courses of the Ciproflaxin, which was the antibiotic she was prescribed, the symptoms seemed to lesson and finally abated, thus enabling her to attain something resembling an upright position. As I said earlier, I was writing this to show how important dietary fibre is in our diets, and also in the management of Diverticular Disease,
The first thing I learned about Diverticulitis is that it involves an area in our intestine that are called diverticula(this is what we call the pleural of our diverticulum). The diverticula are abnormal sacks or pouches that form on the outside of our lower intestine. However, it is interesting to note that these can form on many of our other organs also, but were are referring to the one's that form on the lower intestine or colon here) For example, picture the bubble formed by a bicycle inner tube when it protrudes through a hole in the tyre and this gives you a pretty good idea of what these are and how they are formed. When these diverticula are present this constitutes a condition which were refer to as Diverticulosis.However,when one of these diverticular becomes inflamed or infected, then the condition of Diverticulitis is present. Therefore collectively, all these things as well as several other complications of our intestines are known as Diverticular Disease.
It is interesting to note that this disease was first recognised around 1900 and it is basically a man-made condition, and it is no coincidence that refined wheat flour (i.e. flour with the fibre removed from it) was introduced in industrialised nations around the same time. This disease is however rare in Asia and Africa, where their typical diets contain large amounts of fibre.I have also learned in my research that more than 50% of Americans over the age of sixty havediverticula, and that the percentage increases with age. However, that is the bad news. The good news is, and there is, the majority of the people who have diverticula, don't even know that they have it, unless of course, they are unfortunate enough to experience a bout of Diverticulitis, but if they don't they will never have the misfortune of getting it
IMPORTANCE OF DIETARY FIBRE WITH DIVERTICULAR DISEASE
People who were diagnosed with this problem years ago, were told that they had to stay clear of a plethora of foods, especially ones that contained fibre. These were considered lethal because they were considered potential obstructions which could be responsible for causing a block or a clog in a diverticulum and subsequently cause an infection or inflammation to occur. However, these days the latest medical thinking on this subject has changed quite considerably to the way it used to be. I realise that what I am about to impart upon you, may meet with a bit of scepticism by some people, and I must admit, this also came a bit of surprise to me, but if you'll bear with me, I can provide you with some valuable sources of information to back up my theories. These sources being, The Mayo Clinic, The National Institutes of Health, and others who have printed material on the subject.
The current medical thinking nowaday is that there is no need to eliminate seeds (sesame, poppy, caraway) or any fruits and vegetables with small seeds (berries, tomatoes or cucumbers) from your diets, if you have suffered an attack of Diverticulitis, and you are now trying to prevent yourself from having a recurrence. This also applies to nuts,skins of fruit and vegetables as well. I realise that many people would have been told otherwise by their doctors, and I would not want to suggest that you ignore what your doctor has advised you, but wouldn't it be a good idea just talking about it with someone, because just maybe your doctor isn't 100% up-to-date on the this subject.
I have also discovered that the principal reason that diverticula form in the first place is due to the lack of sufficient fibre in our diets. This can also lead to the painful and and potentially dangerous inflammation of the diverticular called Diverticulitis. The primary treatment for this is usually increasing your intake of dietary fibre (although in some extreme cases, some people may be advised by their Doctor's to have a liquid diet low in fibre to enable the large intestine (colon) time to rest while it is recuperating). Those of you who are not keen to have a recurrence of their problem are therefore encouraged to increase their intake of dietary fibre.
I therefore concluded from this that dietary fibre seems to be at the root of Diverticular Disease. Fibre is not only the single best remedy for this very painful and debilitating condition, but it is also the prophylactic measure that is prescribed to help stop any recurrences of this insidious gastrointestinal problem.
DEFINITION OF DIETARY FIBRE
Dietary fibre is the edible parts of plants or analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the large intestine. Dietary fibre includes polysaccharides, oligosaccharides,lignin, and associated plant substances. Dietary fibres promote beneficial physiological effects including laxation, and/or blood cholesterol attenuation, and/or blood glucose attenuation.
Whew!!, yes this is quite a lot to get your head around, but there are several important factors that we can extract from this definition:
- Dietary fibre comes from plants,and only plants. (okay, there maybe some fibre in mushrooms, which are technically called 'fungi', and not plants, but for now we will call them plants, okay? We cannot get dietary fibre out of such things as meats, milk or dairy produce, or eggs. None at all. Zilch.
- When it refers to the part about being 'resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine', it is saying that it passes through our digestive systems without any changes. This is why they used to refer to dietary fibre as 'bulk and roughage'. Some health professionals may still refer to it as this today.
- The part referring to 'complete and partial fermentation' in the large intestine means that the bacteria that are residing down there happily in our large intestine (colon) are able to break down the dietary fibre to some degree, even after our digestive systems have tried in vain to do this and have failed.
- The area talking about 'polysaccharides, oligosaccharrides, Lignin and associated plant substances, is one I myself can't really make head nor tails about, so I am going to leave that one to the experts,if it's alright with you, okay.
- Finally, the part about 'laxation, and/or blood chloesterol attenuation, and/or blood glucose attenuation', is really a fancy way of putting the fact that dietary fibre has health effects that go beyond helping to prevent and protect us against Diverticular Disease, as we have discussed previously.
Depending on gender and age, it is recommended that most people consume between twenty one and thirty eight grams of fibre per day. Unfortunately, the average American only consumes about twelve grams per day, and unless you are a vegetarian or eat a traditional Asian or African diet, the same is most likely true for you regardless of what country you live in.
As I have said earlier, dietary fibre is by definition those parts of plants that pass through our digestive system virtually untouched. Therefore,dietary fibre contributes no calories to our diets and anyone trying to lose weight need have no worries about it either. In fact, the consumption of fibre can give a full feeling in our stomachs and helps people more to stick to their diets by making them feel less hungry. We should therefore keep in mind also that dietary fibre (both the insolubleand soluble kinds) help in absorbing water and preventing some of it from entering the blood stream during the process of digestion.
Accordingly, any increase in consumption of dietary fibre should also be accommpanied with an increase of fluid intake as well. If you don't have sufficient liquid intake with your food, this can result in you getting constipation, one of the things that we try to avoid more than anything. Lets face it, none of us like suffering from CONSTIPATION OOH OOH PAIN.
As a precaution, Nutritionists recommend that, when switching from a low-fibre diet to a high-fibre diet , just don't jump in like a bull at a gate, do gradually, so as to avoid taxing your digestive system with the sudden increase in mass. If you increase your intake of dietary fibre in a reasonable and sensible way,you won't encounter too many problems.. Obviously, however, if you change to a diet consisting of nothing but straw, your chances of dying from malnutrition eventually, that is of course, if the blockage in your intestines doesn't get you first.
ITHE THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT UNLESS YOUR DOCTOR SAYS TO CUT BACK THE AMOUNT OF FIBRE YOU ARE PUTTING IN YOUR EVERYDAY DIET
TRUST FIBRE, IT IS YOUR FRIEND
I Therefore urge you, the sufferers of Diverticulitis, to do take note of what I have said and be aware of putting more fibre in your diet to prevent any recurrences of your symptoms. I however, you do have problems see your Doctor.
The following websites are a few I found that I think have reliable up-to-date and unbiased information on Diverticular Disease:-
- Diverticulitis - Mayo Clinic. com
- Diverticulitis diet: Should I avoid nuts and seeds? MayoClinic.com
- Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis - National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (National Institutes of Health)
- Diverticulitis - Topic Overview - WebMD.com.
- Diverticulitis - Medicine Plus Medical Encyclopedia