All of my life, one of my greatest pleasures has been pointing out the error of strongly held myths. I remember clearly in First Grade the soul-satisfying pleasure of telling little Kenny Johns that Santa was not real, and that his Mom was the one doing all that stuff. Of course he cried and asked Ms. Sharp, our all-knowing teacher, if this were true and she quickly corrected me by telling him, "Santa is real if you believe in him..."
Today I will delight in such pleasure once again by screaming loudly from the roof of our little clinic:
"Eating nuts and seeds will NOT increase your risk of Diverticulitis!"
I don't care what your doctor or your gastroenterologist said; this is one of those medical myths that just won't die, but really needs to... You would think that a concept such as nut-and-seed-induced diverticulitis would have quickly fallen by the wayside in the face of the overwhelming research against it, the many articles written about it, and with absolutely no research supporting the false idea. There are many such medical myths, widely believed by both doctors and patients.
I have to admit it seems to make common-sense, nut pieces and little seeds would seem to stop up the openings of those little out-pouches in the large intestine called diverticuli. Once stopped up, the little pouch would become inflamed and lead to an attack of diverticulitis. For several years I thoughtlessly repeated this medical myth to my own patients. This is a perfect example of how a Medical Myth is created and perpetuated, without any real supporting facts. This idea/mental image seemed to make so much sense, it must be true. Well guess what? Not only is this Medical Myth untrue, it appears that the exact opposite is true, according to a very large study, eating seeds, nuts and popcorn actually decreases one's risk of having diverticulitis.
This study was published a few years ago but evidently many doctors didn't get the memo. At least once per week, while explaining to a patient what a healthy diet actually is, I am interrupted at my suggestion that eating nuts and seeds is very healthy by the patient's indignant admonition that their "Stomach Doctor" warned them to never eat nuts or seeds. As you might imagine, this places a stumbling block in the path of my continued discussion with the patient of what a healthy diet actually is...
The Study I'm referring to followed over 47,000 subjects at least 40 years old, for 18 years. It is a general rule that the larger a medical study is and the longer it lasts, the more reliable the results it will give us. By those standards this study is a Boss! Not only did this study fail to find any link between eating nuts and seeds and bouts of diverticulitis, it actually found the exact opposite; the more nuts and seeds one eats, the less likely they are to ever have diverticulitis! My patients who are beginning to follow a more Primal way of eating and who love nuts and seeds will be very happy to hear this.
But still, I have patients returning from their visits with a gastroenterologist reporting they have been warned to avoid food containing nuts and seeds. I would encourage anyone about to keep an appointment with a gastroenterologist to print out a copy ofthis studyand take with them in order to educate the doctor just in case they are to be given such "advice". So, what did this very large, very long study find actually caused diverticulitis? That's a very good question; that would be something to actually warn patients about....
The study states, "known or potential risk factors, include increasing age; body mass index; red meat consumption; lack of physical activity; cigarette smoking; and the over-use of NSAIDs and acetaminophen." Now we can't do much about getting older yet, but we can add diverticulitis to the long list of bad things caused by smoking, and then stop smoking. We can certainly increase our physical activity, and cut down on the total amount of over-the-counter pain relievers we take. This sounds like a list of things that the average Doctor would love to condemn; so why must they demonize innocent nuts and seeds?
Now you possess knowledge that it seems some Doctors do not know. Next time you hear someone complaining that they are banned from nuts and seeds because of their diverticulosis, you can confidently step in and hand them a copy of this medical study. So now you know; and wasn't that fun?
Please share this message with any friend or relative who is currently afraid to enjoy a tasty, healthy snack containing nuts or seeds, their colon will thank you!