Make Yourself Healthy: Diverticulitis

You have diverticulitis when “diverticula in your digestive tract become inflamed or infected. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches.” A man in his forties named Tuck had a serious case:

In my twenties I got really sick; lying in bed for 5 days, bleeding from the lower part of my digestive tract: not pretty. . . Delirious days later and ten pounds lighter and I was recovered, except for one problem: I had diarrhea for the subsequent 14 years. . . . Two years ago [2008] I passed out on the toilet on a ski weekend. The emergency room at Bennington Hospital [Vermont] told me it was a stomach flu.

Four weeks later I got cramps at work. I had to lie on the floor until it passed. Then I drove to my doctor’s office, and he told me that I had diverticulitis, and I had to go to the emergency room. I drove myself, and barely made it. I was in agony; I nearly passed out again while they were interviewing me to see if it was “serious”. . . . I had a perforated colon. . . . I spent the next four days in the pre-operative ward, so if it got worse they could cut me open immediately. I lost 10 pounds. Then I started bleeding, and I realized these were all the same symptoms that I had had 14 years before. My blood pressure got so low that the automated blood-pressure machine wouldn’t work . . .

I mentioned to all three of the doctors I saw that I had had constant diarrhea for the last 14 years, since the first attack, and they shrugged. They told me to eat more fiber, and whole wheat, even though that was what I had been eating for the last 20 years. So I avoided surgery, started eating salad with salad dressing (containing industrial seed oils) and lots of whole wheat. . . . But the more salad and whole wheat I ate, the worse it got. I couldn’t understand why. Finally had to have eight inches of my colon removed. The diarrhea continued, so obviously the cause remained.

Then something happened that, before blogging, wasn’t possible:

Someone sent me a post that Stephen Guyenet did about how dental problems were pretty much all due to diet, not genetics, as I’d been told. As someone who’d had a ton of cavities, and 8 teeth pulled, and was determined to spare his daughters the same fate, I found this of interest.

I started reading the blog. 6 months later, I decided to stop eating seed oils, which eliminated my carb cravings, hence no wheat. Two days later, [unexpectedly] my diarrhea stopped. A good bit of trial and error, some accidental, ensued. [I learned that both] wheat and seed oils cause distress, but different types. The two combined can cause me to pass out. If I eat wheat by accident, then eating saturated animal fats (like cream) causes things to settle down.

He found that “traditional” oils (palm, coconut, olive) are okay. Industrial oils (corn, canola, cottonseed) are not. Animal fats (butter, lard, beef tallow) are best.

After 16 years my symptoms are now completely under my control. . . . I read the ingredients on everything. I make a big mistake once every 6-9 months. [Other benefits:] I’m much more resistant to sunburn, for instance, and my vision improved a bit.

So his problems were due to (a) wheat and (b) too much omega-6. His doctors had no idea.

The Mayo Clinic recommends a “diverticulitis diet” that is clear liquids and low-fiber foods. According to the Mayo Clinic, “mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with rest, changes in your diet and antibiotics. But serious cases of diverticulitis may require surgery.” The Mayo Clinic, it appears, has no idea what causes diverticulitis.

Tuck added:

It really pisses me off when people dismiss this, because it really makes a difference.  I had a colleague who was in the hospital for a colon resection for diverticulitis.  When he heard my story, he had the hospital put him on a gluten-free diet.  Four days later, instead of having surgery as scheduled, he checked out: cured.  He’s symptom-free on a gluten-free diet to this day.

I agree. As someone on the Shangri-La Diet forums put it, “you are handed a GIFT.” A story like this is a gift.

3 Responses to “Make Yourself Healthy: Diverticulitis”

  1. Koanic Says:

    That’s good.

    I found my regimen for living in China. Small meals of plain yoghurt spaced through daylight hours. Limit 2 liters per day. One package of free range organic pork, pressure cooked and otherwise plain, per day. No gorging or fasting.

    Seth: You seem to be saying your health was better when you did this. What was the health improvement and what was the earlier diet (correlated with worse health)?

  2. derp Says:

    Wow. I knew that inflammatory bowel disease and a whole mountain of other diseases can be made symptom-free with an exclusion diet, but I didn’t suspect gluten to be the bad boy in diverticulitis, too. Is there any common disease that *isn’t* aided, abetted, induced, entertained or linked to grains? Besides the flu?

    Is there currently any internet project collecting such first-hand stories, categorizing them and allowing for comments, questions, etc. …?

  3. Evelyn M. Says:

    Seeing the reference to “seed oils” in this interesting post reminds me of a conversation I had with a biologist some 20 – 25 years ago whose “animal” was the locust. This was when the scientific community was telling everyone to shun animal fat and eat only polyunsaturated oils. She told me that grasses (including all cereal grains) defend themselves against locusts by increasing the amount of defensive insecticide they produce when attacked. This natural insecticide is found in seed oil. She was worried that encouraging people to ingest large amounts of oil from new sources, untested over the centuries, such as corn, safflower, etc., instead of traditional sources, such as olives, nuts, and animal fats/butter was not wise, since harvesting affects grasses the same way that locusts do.