You've heard the saying: Getting older can be tough, but it's "better than the alternative." That's always been true. But as society has gotten more unhealthy, growing older has gotten even tougher. Younger people are confronting knee problems - the result of years spent carrying around extra pounds. Hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease are affecting ever larger - and younger - segments of the population.
Many of the health problems Americans confront are related to how unhealthy our diets have become over the past several decades. For instance, diverticulitis, a condition that may be intimately linked to how we eat, is affecting more Americans than ever before. Never heard of it? Diverticulitis is the irritation or inflammation of small pouches on your intestine (called diverticulosis). Some of its symptoms include:
- Abdominal Tenderness
While we don't know for sure what causes diverticulitis, one culprit may be the low-fiber diets many Americans consume. Highly processed foods - staples in Western diets - are low in fiber and therefore tend to produce harder stools that are harder to pass. The excess strain placed on your colon by these stools may be a leading cause of diverticulosis. Diverticulitis occurs when pieces of stool break off and get stuck in these pouches.
I don't mean to gross you out, but it's an important subject. Diverticulosis affects more than half of Americans over 60 years old. If you have diverticulosis and eat a diet high in processed foods, there's a chance you'll suffer from diverticulitis at some point in your life.
How to Avoid Diverticulitis:
If you do have diverticulitis - you'll need to see a doctor to find out for sure - there are relatively easy ways to cure it. Whether you're put on bed rest, a very short-term liquid diet, or antibiotics, most instances of diverticulitis are merely painful inconveniences. But there is a way to avoid initial and future diverticulitis outbreaks and diverticulosis in general. It's two steps - and I bet you know them already:
- No more processed food. Packaged, processed foods have so many dangerous effects on your health, I'm amazed that some of them don't come with a warning label! Aside from the fact that they're quick and easy, processed foods have no positive qualities. They hinder your weight-loss goals and cause all kinds of internal health problems (including diverticulosis and diverticulitis) that you could be stuck battling for years.
- Fiber, fiber, fiber! It's no surprise that you always found boxes of fiber-rich cereal in your grandparents' pantry. Fiber softens stools and helps alleviate constipation. Softer stools mean you're less likely to develop diverticulosis. Plus, fiber-rich meals keep you fuller longer. It's also not a coincidence that the foods that are healthiest for you are also the foods that will help you achieve your weight-loss goals. But that doesn't mean you should reach for that same box of cereal your grandmother did. I like to get my fiber from fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, and legumes.
Diverticulitis can come with some pretty serious complications, so if you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, check with your doctor. But anyone - both people who have diverticulosis and those who don't - can take proactive steps towards improving their health and wellness.