Monday, February 24, 2014

In the over 60 population, as many as 50% will develop diverticulosis, (pouchlike protrusions of the intestinal wall the size of a pea or grape) and many of them will never have symptoms of diverticulitis. Seventeen years ago, I wasn't that lucky. I awoke in the morning feeling fine. In fact, my energy level was high. So an attack of diverticulitis really took me by surprise, at least at first, because I didn't even know I had the condition to begin with. By the time I decided to call our family doctor, I was experiencing blood with bowel movements and an achy pain in my lower left abdomen. It was the weekend so he called in an antibiotic for me because he said it sounded like classic symptoms of diverticulitis. 
When a diverticula becomes inflamed, it can also be infected and left untreated, may rupture into the abdominal cavity. As a person ages, the large intestine walls often weaken. Through years of frequent constipation and inadequate fiber to keep stools soft, this pressure causes diverticula to develop. They themselves do not cause any symptoms unless inflamed, but never go away either. My years of not maintaining a good diet brought me to this situation. Two months later, I had my first colonoscopy and it confirmed the condition. The list given to me about foods to avoid was extensive and discouraging including; corn, popcorn, nuts, seeds, whole grains. While the list of foods to eat was more like baby food and using over the counter fiber powders was suggested. That was it! There was no talk of anything to possibly sooth the digestive tract, the benefits of probiotics or a healthy diet for regular elimination.
During an attack, it is important to have a very simple diet and avoid the foods mentioned. But I felt somehow an overall improved eating plan and some help with supplements, held the key to improving my odds of not having another attack of diverticulitis again. Research led me to my first encounter with probiotics. Everything I read about their benefits, made so much sense. They are essential for having a "healthy gut", good absorption of nutrients from the intestines, fighting off bad bacteria and keeping the elimination process running smoothly. The product I decided on was, Kyo-Dophilus, from Wakunaga and to this day, it is still the first thing I take in the morning. The multi strains of bacteria it contains are important to the different areas of the digestive tract. This will be further covered in a separate post on probiotics. My diet was in for big changes too. It became a priority for me to eat more vegetables, whole grains, fruit and no red meat, just poultry, fish and tofu. I don't deprive myself of the occasional dessert made with few and natural ingredients. In fact, making sure everything in my grocery cart comes from either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and is organic as much as possible, assures me that the food I am eating is more natural and wholesome.
A wonderful product, DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice) has also been a daily addition to my routine. A chewable tablet, I use the German Chocolate by  Enzymatic Therapy DGL. Licorice is helpful for so many reasons. But I like the fact that it is beneficial to the mucus lining of the digestive tract and actually promotes healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers. Peppermint tea is my "go to" for aiding in digestion and soothing bloating/gas. Putting a little ground flax on my breakfast English muffin is a good and easy source of fiber with a nutty flavor. There are so many supplements/herbs available for good digestive health and we each have to find what works best for us. I just know that what I have been doing works for me, keeping me regular and protecting my digestive tract. And yes, I do eat nuts, seeds and popcorn and have not had another bout of diverticulitis since the first time, seventeen years ago.

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I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one. These are just my experiences and conclusions.
© 2014

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