Diverticulitis - Some Naturopathic Tips
Every week I hear this sentence or something like it, from disappointed market customers as they pick up a bag of Blend11: ‘oh I can’t eat seeds, I have diverticulosis, no best poos ever for me then!’ :( This is the (outdated) advice they’ve been given by their GP or gastroenterologist. Given that most of my products have seeds and that I’ve been researching / chatting to people about their poo issues for 20yrs, I always let them know the following:
- most people with diverticular pockets do not even know they have them (approx 50% of people over age 50 actually have some pockets, and most of them are blissfully unaware and munching on seeds whenever they please, never to experience any attacks, pain or discomfort.)
- diverticular pockets are usually formed as a result of constipation earlier in life, and (pre-soaked) seeds are one of the best foods to help prevent / alleviate sluggishness & constipation!
- if you are going to have an attack of diverticulitis (when the pockets get inflamed), it will usually follow a period of constipation or slower transit. The most important prevention for staying symptom free is to keep that bowel flowing easily and keep your gut microbiome and gut lining healthy - the simplest way to do that is with a regular intake of diverse, fermentable fibre. This will not only benefit the bowel and pockets, but every other health metric as well! One recent study showed that we want to be eating 30 different plant foods every week to maintain optimal microbial diversity, so if you can cover 11 of these with breakfast (Blend11), that’s an awesome step! Recent research also indicates that tendency towards diverticulis (the acute attacks) comes as a result of the following factors - chronic inflammation, gut microbial imbalance with resulting immune dysfunction).
- there are things more likely to aggravate diverticular pockets than seeds, however they are often not mentioned by your medical team. One of the most common is overuse of NSAIDs ie aspirin / ibuprofen type pain killers. This makes sense with the chronic inflammatory theory. NSAIDs cause irritation, damage & bleeding along the GI tract, (upper & lower). More info is available in this article on Inflammation management in acute diverticulitis. Regular / excessive consumption of alcohol is another huge one - not great for your microbiome or your gut lining (sorry!)
Diverticulosis vs diverticulitis
There is some confusion around even the naming of this condition, which needs to be cleared up before we discuss what you can & can't eat when you have it! Diverticulosis is different from diverticulitis, although the two names are often used interchangeably. A helpful tip when interpreting many long medical words is this: The suffix ’itis’ just means ‘inflammation of the’ - i.e. bronch-itis means your bronchi are inflamed, mening-itis means your meninges is inflamed, conjunctiv-itis means your conjunctiva are inflamed, tonsillitis.…I'm sure you can guess! Just knowing this can make many scary-sounding conditions seem a lot less threatening! Itis just means inflamed.
How will I know if I have diverticular disease?
Having a bad attack of diverticul- ’itis’ can be very painful, & potentially dangerous - sometimes requiring surgery, while having diverticul-'osis’ just means having some pockets…which may cause you no problems at all if your bowel stays in good working order. Around 15-25% of those with the 'osis' will end up having an attack of the 'itis'. 'Diverticulitis' is an painful attack of inflamed diverticula.
Diverticulosis (the pockets / pouches in the bowel wall - the non-scary one) is extremely common, & often picked up during tests for other conditions. About 1/3 of the Aussie population over 45 years, & 2/3 of those over 85 years are affected & it’s one condition we get asked about often at our goodMix market stalls (must be the best poos ever signs)!?
Can I still eat seeds?
Most people with diagnosed diverticulosis will have been advised to avoid nuts & seeds completely by their Doctor due to the supposed risk of them getting ‘stuck’ in the pockets - causing pain, irritation & more serious complications like infection & peritonitis (which can be life-threatening as well as extremely painful). There is actually zero scientific proof / data that this actually happens, though many Doctors & patients will swear that it does! It seems to be one of those things which will be a huge issue for some people and a complete non-issue for the majority, and one which will depend on many other variables. Diverticulitis is not just a simple result of the combination of bowel pockets & nut/seed consumption! There are obviously many people living with diverticulosis who are completely symptom-free, & have no idea that they even have any bowel pockets. You could easily be one of them - esp if you've had any issues with constipation in the past. These blissfully unaware folks eat a normal diet (including nuts & seeds) & remain without symptoms. There are some, however - with diagnosed diverticula, who swear that every time they eat tomatoes (or some other common seedy thing like multi-grain bread) - they get extreme pain. These guys will be (understandably) terrified of foods like Blend 11 & Blend13, but at the same time are often really constipated :(
What causes diverticular pockets, attacks & how can I avoid them?
The theory is that a low fibre diet & the resulting constipation increases internal pressure & stress on the bowel wall, causing the pouches / weaknesses in the bowel lining to be ‘pushed out’. A low fibre diet with resulting sluggishness also aggravates any existing pockets (pressure and microbial imbalance) making it more likely that a ‘fecalith’ (small rock hard bit of poo) will become lodged, leading to irritation / inflammation / bleeding / rupture. I guess if you have a sharp seed as part of this ‘poo-pebble’, it may be potentially more irritating & damaging - however, as a preventative, the inclusion of soaked and blended seeds (with their awesome mucilaginous fibre) will greatly soften & lubricate the contents of the bowel, improve the gut bacterial balance, transit time & overall health of the bowel & its wall. So Blend11 and 13 can be used as prevention against diverticular attacks & general maintenance / improvement of the bowel wall to lessen the chances of pockets forming in the first place.
Here’s some more naturopathic tips for supporting your diverticular pockets (and entire bowel), if you are concerned.
1. When you are experiencing a diverticular flare, or feel like you may be about to, your primary aim is to avoid it (super painful / can be dangerous) & also to avoid the antibiotics you’ll almost certainly be given if it gets bad). So - any signs of an attack, switch to a low fibre liquid diet - ie bone / vegetable broths, veggie juices, herb teas, Greens+Aloe, coconut water, fulvic acid in water. Stick to this for a day or so, maybe longer if you still don’t feel 100%. NOTE - go straight to emergency if things feel serious, in rare cases an attack can lead to a perforated bowel & that is life-threatening.
2. If things calm down with liquid diet & maybe some supplements, go back to a diet that is rich in diverse, fermentable fibre to support your gut microbial diversity / gut lining. Keep it low FODMAP if that helps you with discomfort / bloating / IBS etc while feeling fragile. You may want to introduce fibres gradually, ie soaked Blend11 in a smoothie, porridge, soups, cooked root veggies etc, before trying harder things like unsoaked nuts, celery, raw carrot etc.
- slippery elm powder
- greens + aloe
- turmeric / curcumin
- bone broth
- collagen / gelatin
- zinc carnosine
- acacia fibre
- fulvic acid
- PHGG fibre
- psyllium husk
- probiotics ie Terra Flora
4. Avoid medications wherever you can. Many can disrupt the gut microbiome to the same degree that antibiotics can! Some of the worst offenders are PPI drugs (stomach acid blockers) and the contraceptive pill.
As a side note - diabetics can rejoice here as metformin actually can improve your gut microbial situation! Take oly meds that you absolutely need and try to avoid them where you can.
Here’s why we get such great feedback from our Blend11 customers with diverticular pockets.
One of the most common symptoms (if you have any) with the pockets, is a feeling of ‘incomplete evacuation’ ie when you feel the urge to poo, then you go and not much comes out and you still kinda feel the urge to go. This is common with diverticular pockets as when poo builds up / gets caught in there en route to the rectum, it can trigger the message ‘full lower bowel / rectum, you need to go poo’ even when the rectum itself isn’t actually full enough. So you try to ‘empty the load’ and it’s a very disappointing effort, plus you still feel the urge to go (because there’s some stimulus coming from a pocket)! Super annoying.
Blend11 seems to really assist with creating a healthy stool consistency & size, sweeping everything along & stopping things from hanging around in the pockets / getting stuck to the sides / over-fermenting. Being so fibrous means it helps to really fill that lower colon & rectum, so that any urges are generally followed by a complete & satisfying motion. Such a relief for many! Here’s just a few customer testimonials:
"Absolutely love this product!! Was a bit nervous about using it as I suffer diverticulitis but the info I was given on how to use it was amazing!! Not only does it help my health but it tastes beautiful. And definitely best poos ever! I have recommended this to so many friends and family and now they are hooked!"
"To the goodMix guys... just want to let you know how fantastic your Greens+Aloe and Blend 11 is! I'm in WA and my specialist put me onto your products as part of my total healing plan - thank you so much for such wonderful healing products."
"I can’t live without this blend! It has been a lifesaver as I have complex abdominal issues compounded by several surgeries. This stuff is the bomb for keeping things moving and it tastes great!
It’s also so versatile. Make it into a slice or mix it through yogurt or smoothies. Your gut will love it! 😊"
"I have been eating Blend11 everyday for about six months and it is a life changer! So versatile, I have it in smoothies, on porridge, fruit and yoghurt and even pancakes! It makes everything look so fancy and it tastes great. Best poos ever, can confirm (coming from someone with a VERY sensitive tummy)."
Love to hear what your experience has been like with Blend11 if you have pockets!