No, no, everyone sit down and stop applauding. It may not be quite as exciting as you think.
In the world of digestive disorders, fiber is probably the most controversial subject. There is a lot of true and a lot of false information about this subject.
Let’s start with what everyone agrees on. In a healthy person, fiber is good. Most people get too little fiber in their diet. A diverticulitis diet, one rich in fiber, will assure you you’re taking positive steps toward your own recovery.
The real problem with lack of fiber is low volume in the intestines, a direct link to diverticulosis; here too, a diverticulosis diet is one of the keys to good health. It might help to think of your intestines, and especially your colon, like a tube of toothpaste. When you get down to the last toothpaste in the tube, it is a lot more work to push it out of the tube. This is the danger too low fiber and too low residue eating has on your system. Eating a diet low in fiber is much harder on your intestines than a higher fiber diet would be to “move things along.”
I do have to tell you, however, once you already have diverticulitis or colitis, adding a lot more fiber suddenly is not necessarily a good idea. Consider for a moment you have a much damaged colon. If you have pain, diverticula, fistulas, sores, wounds, and tears to begin with, then you’re already on a road with a sign at the end, reading “Watch out.” Here’s why. Your colon like the contents in a tube of toothpaste is weak, injured and may even have small tears in it. Suddenly adding a large volume of anything can actually cause complications and lots of pain. When the “tube” is weak you don’t want to add to the physical pressure it is under. Again a diet for diverticulosis is one of the closest remedies you have in your control to rectify a life of bad eating habits.
Only you and your doctor can assess whether or not you have open wounds and tears. Most people with colitis or diverticulitis are not at this level of crisis. If you know your colon is sound, gradually adding fiber is healthy and very tolerable for nearly everyone. When you increase your bulk by adding fiber to your diet, you move material through your colon much like you squeeze toothpaste through a tube of toothpaste. You make it easier for your colon to move the material through successfully. This process of movement is called peristalsis. Think of peristalsis as the motion of your hand squeezing the toothpaste tube. Lots of toothpaste makes it easy to dispense, while smaller amounts of toothpaste makes it difficult to move out of the tube, and the tube gets traumatized in the process of forcing the small amounts through it. This analogy is not far from the truth.
If you don’t eat at least 25% to 50% of your diet from the produce section of the grocery store or from your garden, you probably have a low fiber diet. A diverticulitis diet can treat or prevent diverticulitis. Some good examples of diverticulitis foods are canned or cooked fruits without skin or seeds, and vegetables such as green beans, peas and potatoes (without the skin). The less fresh produce you eat, the more you should add fiber back to your diet. In the meantime, supplement your fiber with something from the grocery store or health food store. I don’t like naming brands, but concentrate on healthier fiber choices. They all help. The one thing I recommend against is choosing a fiber source which is loaded with sugar, or worse yet contains artificial sweetener. I know it is annoying to listen to me sometimes telling you why “nearly everything is bad,” but my first passion is telling you the truth. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear instead of telling you the truth.
If you won’t listen to this advice, here is simple list to give you “best, better, good, and bad” choices.
Best: When your colon health is decent (no wounds or tears), gradually increase your fiber intake with fresh produce until you have at least one substantial movement per day and preferably two to four times per day (although they may not all be substantial). Once you get use to a diverticulitis diet, it’ll become easier for you to make the right food choices for you.
Better: Same as above regarding colon health, but gradually increase your fiber intake by taking a supplement such as a psyllium seed, psyllium husk or psyllium powder. Flax seed (crushed or powdered) is also a great fiber choice and includes some omega oils and nutrients as well. When choosing your fiber, avoid too much sugar and avoid all artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, they are toxic.
Good: Same as above regarding colon health, but take any type of fiber you can tolerate well, sugared, artificial sugar, pills, tablets, etc. Do something to improve your volume and it will still benefit you.
Bad: Keep doing what you are doing now and pretend you are going to get better. It is true, the program alone will cure diverticulitis and colitis, but the volume of stool moving through you is always going to be a factor in your internal health.
One definition of insanity is: Keep doing the same thing you have always done, but expect or hope for a different result.
Fiber is good for us for other reasons as well. The shape and non-softening nature of fiber makes it an internal “scrub brush” as it moves through us. It is the most effective internal cleanser we can use. If you look at people as a machine, such as a car for example, the internal dirt and buildup needs to be addressed periodically. In a car, this is handled with the 3,000-mile oil change. In people, especially in the UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S., we no longer fast (go without food periodically). We are rich enough and food is accessible enough we have come to think of missing a meal or two as some type of plague which has us “starving.”
Because we no longer get enough fiber, and we almost never fast for a 24-hour period (a natural cleanse), we are never getting cleaned out. As a group, our plumbing is filthy inside. Please consider adding some fiber to your diet. When you take in fiber you also need to drink a full glass of water, per dose (except produce fiber), above and beyond what it takes to mix the fiber. This is because you want to make the material moving through your tubes the consistency of toothpaste, and not the consistency of a brick. Add fiber, add water, and get healthier. Adopt a sound diet for diverticulosis and you’re on your way to a healthier, happier lifestyle.
Please do what it takes to get over this horrible disease.