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Diverticular Disease

Diverticular Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 18:49

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to Diverticular Disease.

Q: Does diverticular disease increase the chance of later developing colon cancer?

A: No, diverticular disease doesn't seem to increase the risk for colon cancer. But the symptoms of colon cancer can be quite similar to those of diverticular disease. Cancer and diverticula often look alike on CT scans (CT stands for Computed Tomography, a type of x-ray that shows the condition of soft tissue). So anyone suspected of having diverticular disease based on the findings of a CT scan should have a colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer. If no cancer is found, people with diverticular disease should undergo the same schedule of colon cancer screening as the general population.

Q: I've increased the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet, but should I avoid foods with seeds, for fear that the seeds may become trapped in diverticula and cause irritation?

A: In the past, doctors recommended that people with diverticular disease avoid eating seeds, like those in cucumbers and strawberries. But there's no scientific evidence supporting the notion that the particles become lodged in diverticula and inflame them. Some doctors still recommend that their patients eat foods with seeds in moderation.

Q: Do I have to get my fiber from food? Is taking a fiber supplement enough?

A: Supplements provide only a very restricted type of fiber, while eating a diet of high-fiber foods usually incorporates various kinds of fiber, and that's healthier. Fruits, vegetables, and oats have plenty of soluble fiber. Whole grains, bran, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables are full of insoluble fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fiber add bulk and softness to the stool. Insoluble fiber remains pretty much unchanged by the time it reaches the intestines, whereas soluble fiber acquires a soft, jelly-like texture. Both make stools easier to pass.

Q: Exactly how much fiber should I get in my diet?

A: The American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Your doctor may also recommend drinking a fiber product such as Citrucel or Metamucil once a day. These products are mixed with water, and each 8-ounce glass provides about four to six grams of fiber.

Q: Is diverticular disease hereditary?

A: Diverticular disease is acquired. Diverticula are very common in people who eat a diet high in fat, processed foods, and low in fiber. However, as with most diseases, there are some genetic factors to consider. People with collagen disorders are particularly prone to developing diverticular disease. For example, young people with Marfan's syndrome, a collagen disorder, have a relatively high chance of developing the condition early in life.

Diverticular Disease