How following a vegetarian diet may lower risk of diverticular disease?
Diverticular disease is a common and painful gastrointestetinal conditon whose symptoms include abdominal pain and cramps as well as nausea, vomiting, fever, cramping, bloating and constipation. It is caused by the formation of small pouches in the bowel which create these symptoms.
Diverticular disease is more common in Western civilizations such as the United States and the United Kingdom than in other parts of the world. It is most prevalent in those over 70 years of age with more than 50% showing symptoms of diverticular disease, according to a study done by the University of Maryland.
Experts in the field have been led to the conclusion that the disease is caused by diet. People in Western civilizations, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, tend to eat more meat and less fiber which is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The lack of fiber in a diet can slow the digestive process, making constipation more likely to happen. Constipation puts pressure on the wall of bowel and increases the chances that those pouches will form.
A recent study done at Oxford University and led by Dr. Francesca Crowe and the Cancer Epidemiology unit has shown that people who follow a vegetarian diet and eat high amounts of fiber were less likely to develop diverticular disease. Those who consumed about 25 grams of dietary fiber were at a lower risk of contracting diverticular disease and being admitted to a hospital than those who consumed less than 14 grams a day. In addition, people who followed a primarily vegetarian diet had a 31% lower risk of contracting diverticular disease than those who ate primarily meat. However, eating more fiber and following vegetarian diets are independent of one another, meaning that vegetarians who also ate more fiber are at a lower risk for diverticular disease while those who ate more fiber and were vegetarians were also at a lower risk for diverticular disease.
One important point of the study is that diet alone may not be the only factors that affect one’s risk for diverticular disease. Other factors that should be taken into consideration are one’s overall health, the amount of daily exercise, whether one eats a healthy diet overall and other steps that people take to maintain their health. Simply sticking with a high-fiber and vegetarian diet may not provide the same lessened risk as those who are not as healthy or health aware.
Consequently, the University of Maryland has developed a more comprehensive approach to avoiding diverticular disease that recommends eating between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day and following a low-fat diet that includes a variety of vegetables. Such a diet is not only good for reducing the risk of diverticular disease, but is also good for overall health and may reduce the risk for other medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Also included in the recommendations are to avoid eating red meat and to avoid foods such as seeds which may block the opening of a diverticulum and lead to inflammation. Regular exercise is also part of the plan.
The basic conclusion is that one of the ways that diverticular disease and other conditions can be prevented is through modification of one’s diet and following a healthy living style.