“Where do most hernias occur?” Ask this question and nearly everyone will reply that a hernia is a mass that occurs in the lower abdomen.
But most are unaware there’s another location for the common hernia. It develops in the large intestine and can, at times, be a major problem requiring surgery. And one New Zealand doctor has a novel way to prevent this problem, known as diverticulosis. That is, if you have no desire to be invited to the next dinner party!
Diverticulosis is the occurrence of small pouches that penetrate muscle layers of the large bowel. The majority of patients never know they’re present and problems rarely occur before 50 years of age.
The most common symptoms are abdominal cramps, bloating, gas and constipation. But these same symptoms may also be due to the irritable bowel syndrome, making diagnosis difficult.
Fortunately, these small hernias rarely cause complications. But when they do, and the hernia becomes infected, it’s called diverticulitis. This can result in bleeding, severe abdominal pain, formation of an abscess and possible bowel rupture, all serious complications.
So why do hernias occur? Aging is a factor. There’s also evidence that genetics plays a role, making some people more prone to this malfunction. But chronic constipation is at the top of the list of suspects. For instance, Dr. Denis Burkitt, a British researcher, reported that African natives who consume large amounts of fiber do not suffer from constipation, appendicitis or large bowel problems.
Later, during the Second World War, Dr. Thomas L Cleaves was a surgeon on board the battleship King George V. Constipation was rampant among the sailors. And Cleaves was also suffering from constipation. But he hated taking laxatives. He decided to experiment on himself, and for days he consumed raw unprocessed bran. It cured him, and eventually his sailors as well.
Today, most North Americans do not consume enough fiber. We all need 30 grams of fiber daily and most people get about 15. This results in hard stools and painful bowel movements. With the addition of fiber along with increased water intake, stools become soft as toothpaste. A backward glance at the toilet is a good test to see if you’re taking sufficient fiber, though such inspection may cause a stiff neck!
A report conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) questions the role played by fiber in preventing diverticulosis. The NIH may be right. However, in this case, I doubt it.
Many believe that a high fiber diet is one road to a sound lifestyle and maintenance of a healthy bowel. It makes sense that a soft stool causes less harm to bowel tissue than stool as hard as rocks.
To boost fiber content, start the day with bran cereal and fruit. During the day add whole wheat bread, whole-wheat spaghetti, and vegetables that contain mainly insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber also holds onto large amounts of water in the intestinal tract to produce bulky soft stools.
Dr. Wynne-Jones, a New Zealand physician, has his own theory about diverticulosis. He claims that if you feel a desire to fart (pass gas) at a dinner party, but withhold the urge to do so, this increased pressure triggers hernias. I have no idea if he practices what he preaches, but if he does, it may be that he dislikes dinner parties and never wants a repeat invitation.
Mothers are often right about medical matters, but not always. For instance, years ago they believed that giving children castor oil on Saturday night to clean out the bowel was beneficial. It wasn’t a good idea then or now. The only safe laxative that does not injure bowel is Vitamin C. Take enough and it will always clean out the bowel. As many know, C also cleans atherosclerosis out of arteries.
High bran foods include black beans, green peas, bananas, prunes, tomatoes, celery, whole wheat spaghetti, raspberries, apples, potatoes with skin, to name a few.
Always inform your doctor of a change in bowel habits or rectal bleeding. And let me know what happens if you’re brave enough to follow Dr.Wynne-Jones’ advice!
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