DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Will you write about diverticulosis? I was twice hospitalized for it and had to stay there 12 days in all. When I left, they didn’t give me any diet or medicines. I saw my primary doctor later, who didn’t think I had diverticulosis because they didn’t do much for me. Some tell me that you don’t have to stay on a diet or take medicine. Is that so? — N.F.
ANSWER: A diverticulum is a tiny pouch formed by the colon lining that has been pushed through the muscular colon wall. Its size varies from 0.2 to 0.4 inches (5 to 10 mm) in diameter, about the size of a small pea. Diverticulosis indicates that the colon has sprouted many diverticula. It’s most often silent. Close to one-third of adults at 60 years of age have it. By age 80, two-thirds have it.
Diverticulosis is found in countries where grains are refined. Refined grains have lost their outer coat, the bran. Bran was, at one time, the principal source of fiber. Fiber keeps stool soft and easily pushed through the digestive tract. With too little fiber, the colon has to exert great force to move undigested food along. That force is responsible for pushing the colon lining through the colon wall to form a diverticulum on its outer surface.
When you were hospitalized, you had diverticulitis — inflammation of diverticulum. The neck of diverticula became clogged with bacteria and pieces of hard stool. The diverticula swelled. For mild symptoms, people can be treated at home by going on a liquid diet and taking antibiotics. For more severe involvement, people are hospitalized and fed intravenously and given intravenous antibiotics.
Now that your diverticulitis has calmed down, the only diet you need follow is one with plenty of fiber — 30 to 35 grams a day. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are fiber sources. Many cereals are filled with fiber: Fiber One, All-Bran, Shredded Wheat and cooked oatmeal are examples. You do not have to take any medicines.
The booklet on diverticulosis covers this topic in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 502W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I will turn 65 shortly. My health is just fine. I am out and active. I do odd jobs like construction and hauling. Some friends want me to see a doctor just for a physical because I haven’t been to one in 35 years. Why should I? All is OK with me. Is it true that 80 percent of men don’t go to doctors? — C.F.
ANSWER: You’re getting on in years. Bad things happen with aging. You don’t want to be surprised by a heart attack, a stroke or a cancer that has grown so big that it can’t be treated, do you? Those are some of the reasons you should see a doctor. I like your fighting spirit.
I don’t believe that 80 percent of men never see a doctor.
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