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This week is evidently digestion week. It began with an email from a friend on helping out with a digestive condition called “diverticulosis,” which she referred to, unknown of the spelling, as “diver-tickle-o-sis.” Next, some friends came over for dinner and, naturally, we talked about IBS while eating. I’m a classy dinner host no doubt.

For starters, diverticulosis is a condition, an extremely common one, where pockets form in the intestines and fill with fecal matter. They are basically small blowouts in the intestinal walls, where it balloons out and gets clogged. As this mass ferments and continues to stretch out the intestinal walls, inflammation can set in, causing the development of a condition called diverticulitis.

As with IBS, these conditions are both caused and exacerbated by malabsorption, and more specifically in the case of diverticulitis, dietary fiber.

Of course, the standard recommendations set forth by much of the medical establishment is to choke down more fiber. Treatment for diverticulitis involves antibiotics and fiber supplements and a diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This, folks, is like treating an eye infection with a hydrochloric acid-filled eye dropper.

Fiber is indigestible matter. It takes a cow several stomachs and thousands of times more enzyme capacity and fermentation to break down plant fibers – cellulose, hemicellulose, etc. Humans, however, are not really built to consume that much fiber. On top of that, when we damage our digestive tracts through poor nutrition – a phenomenon noted by Robert McCarrison reliably and consistently with humans and virtually any species he was able to test, fiber becomes increasingly problematic.

Of course, we’re left not knowing what to do about such a situation, because we are led to believe that fiber is a healthy food. If we don’t get enough fiber, we will get colon cancer and constipation, and who knows what else. Plus, we are also inundated with information about fiber’s ability to lower cholesterol levels and reduce weight. Well, I’m sure you know this. Just about every cereal box in America marketed as a health food has some kind of fiber-related cure-all claim with it and a nice heart worked into the logo or graphics on the box – at the very least, a heart-shaped bowl. Well, if eating a “healthy” diet, which is high in fiber from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, then you should consider eating the most “unhealthy” diet possible, especially if you have a digestive problem such as diverticulitis.

Although I’d love to spend hours going into the fallacy that “fiber is good for you,” originally perpetrated in error by Denis Burkitt several decades ago, going in to great detail on Walter Willett’s Nurses Study that showed fiber, as a substance, does jack diddley for us – I am not. That has already been done by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories (chapter “Fiber”). On top of that, Konstantin Monastyrsky has created an avalanche of evidence condemning the consumption of copious amounts of fiber, particularly in supplement form and in breakfast cereals. His site, featuring comical new video, which cites only information from prestigious medical journals maligning fiber, is worth a visit.

Instead what I’d like to do is focus on what I would do if I had diverticulitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or any other fiber and malabsorption-related inflammatory disorder of the digestive tract – eat a low-density, low-residue, no-sugar diet.

Firstly, women suffer from digestive problems far more than men. The main reason is that women eat “healthier” than men. Instead of eating “unhealthy” foods that humans have relished since the beginning of time – and that we all come into this world wanting, women often eat Special K with skim milk and half the fruit off the Chiquita banana lady’s hat for breakfast, and throughout the rest of the day they eat gigantic salads as the bulk of their meal with more whole grains. Face it, women order salads at restaurants like there’s no tomorrow. Not only does a diet “overly rich in starch (carbohydrates) disturb digestive function” as McCarrison observed with certainty, but the fiber load from so many vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains in the “healthy” diet is enough to break the levees, and certainly enough to fan the fires of digestive misery.

Fibrous foods cause so many problems – diverticulosis for one because of the massive bulky stools that they create, because they are high-residue and take up a lot of space as they charge their way through the intestines. All this means is that, to obtain the same amount of energy that you can get from a stick of butter (800 calories), you would have to eat several bowls of cereal with skim milk and fruit. You’d have to eat pounds of broccoli. More stuff has to be digested, and, even more importantly, a large portion of the whole grain cereal (the fiber) or fruit and vegetable fiber must pass undigested through the digestive tract. This expands the intestinal walls creating diverticulae for one, a condition that is present in up to 50% of adults over 60, and numerous other problems. Plus, this feeds bacteria which ferment this mass, causing bloating, discomfort, more inflammation and irritation, both constipation and diarrhea, and flatulence – all things I haven’t experienced in a long, long time.

So, simply switch to a low-density, low-residue, low-fiber diet. Like magic, much of this disappears, as digestion improves to a level that most have never experienced while eating the typical American “healthy” diet, which as we know, almost always starts with a bowl or two of cereal with whole grain toast and fruit. The first time I ever experienced it I had no idea what was going on. This happened in Japan, home of the world’s lowest-fiber diet. It was amazing, it was the first week of my life that I hadn’t farted. At the time I was confused. I thought it had something to do with being in a clean, sanitary country or something. Uh, not so much. White rice (no fiber), soba noodles (no fiber), fish, a tiny amount of seaweed and hardly any fruits or vegetables – that’s Japanese cuisine for ya. Digestive heaven for a kid raised on Raisin Bran, an apple a day to keep the doctor away, and hearty portions of vegetables and salad with every ‘complete’ meal.

I’ve taken this digestive heaven to 7th heaven now, as my diet is not only exceedingly low in fiber, but 80% of my caloric intake comes in the most consolidated form of food energy there is – fat. Little goes in, and little comes out. This doesn’t mean constipation. In fact, fat speeds up transit time more than any other type of food. My stools are moist and come daily and regularly. Proteins and fats leave next to no residue whatsoever. My diet is very low in carbohydrates and therefore fiber, as only carbohydrates contain fiber. My stomach is flat and small, which has provided appetite reduction, which in turn means even less food passing through the digestive tract, less inflammation, better nutrient absorption (which fiber undeniably disrupts) and more.

For inflammatory digestive disorders:

Eat a low fiber diet – This may mean a reduction or even a total elimination in some cases. Eat small amounts of vegetables (as a garnish, not as the bulk of the meal), and make sure they are well-cooked. Raw vegetables and salads, for the most part are out of the question. Sea vegetables provide the highest nutrient to fiber ratio and are ideal plant foods (nori, dulse, kelp, wakame, etc.). Breakfast cereals are completely out of the question – the digestive destroyer. Beans and legumes, not a chance. You can also juice cucumbers and such to get nutrients, but avoid sweet-vegetables and fruit juice.

Eat fewer carbohydrates – This isn’t totally necessary, but it makes the diet easier. Plus, eating a diet based on refined, low-fiber carbohydrates is less than optimal for obvious reasons. Best carbohydrate sources for digestive problems are white rice, peeled potatoes and other peeled root vegetables, pearl barley, cream of rice, etc. Wheat and other grains can give people a lot of problems and are best avoided when possible.

Eat plenty of protein – Meats are digested almost completely, which is ideal, but still require digestive work, and tend to provoke constipation when eaten in excess without accompanying fats and carbohydrates. Get adequate protein, but don’t overdo it. It’s better to get the bulk of your calories from fat, especially if you are also overweight.

Eat the holiest of holies, fat – Fat is not the killer (ask professor Reaven at Stanford). Saturated fat, in particular, is always the best choice for any health condition. It is the Messiah, crucified by the powers that be in defense of cheap derivatives of grain-based commodities, from Kellogg’s (Kloggs for short) to margarine. Butter and coconut oil are best. Coconut oil in particular is strongly antibacterial and perfect for treating any bacterial overgrowth and inflammation. Other fat choices to replace calories from fibrous foods include coconut milk, cream, cream cheese, olive oil, bacon and lard, and other fatty foods that humans have savored, free of disease, since the beginning of time. Nuts and avocadoes are not healthier fats. In fact, if you have a digestive problem, those are terrible choices. Nuts are extremely high in fiber by weight and difficult to digest.

Avoid sugars – Most sugars are poorly absorbed. The most poorly absorbed is fructose, particularly when fructose is the predominant form of sugar, as in whole fruits, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, and pure fructose. Fruit, despite its nutritional value, is a very poor choice for someone with digestive problems, as it contains both fiber and fructose (up to 60% of us do not absorb fructose properly, leading to a host of disorders – IBS being one of them). Also watch out for lactose. Milk, especially pasteurized milk lacking lactase enzymes, is totally inappropriate for someone with an inflammatory digestive condition. It is pure bacteria food.

Eat three times per day – Eat regular meals, as evenly spaced as possible. Do not snack in between, but allow ample rest. This also helps digestion and regulates normal peristalsis. By keeping carbohydrates low to moderate, removing sugars, and being aggressive with fat and protein you will greatly reduce the urge to snack.

Sample meals:

Breakfast – 3 eggs scrambled in lots of butter with cheese and a few spinach leaves. 1 corn tortilla or just a little fried, peeled potatoes/hashbrowns with it.

Lunch – Beef stirfried in coconut oil with red peppers and nori over white rice – finished with butter.

Dinner – Mashed potatoes made with tons of butter, cream, and/or melted cheese with grilled chicken or fish. Small side of green beans cooked thoroughly – grandma-style (using traditional wisdom, which for millenia new that the proper way to eat vegetables was peeled if possible, and then cooked to mush, which breaks down the fiber matrix, making it more digestible)

For very severe digestive problems, protein may have to be reduced to once daily, with other meals consisting of starch and fat.

Afraid to try it? Just as Konstantin Monastyrsky says, author of Fiber Menace, “switching to a low-fiber diet is not chemotherapy.” Just do it gradually. For further guidance, particularly on making the transition to a reduced-fiber diet, please visit his website.

Diverticular disease (diverticulosis). When fiber increases stool size beyond the normal confinements of the large intestine, it causes the outward protrusion of the intestinal wall. The pouches that are formed are called diverticula (plural). When the diverticulum (singular) gets inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis. The diverticulitis is localized to specific diverticula because they may retain a fibrous fecal mass indefinitely. The eventual inflammations inside the diverticula are caused by the same mechanical, chemical, and bacteriological factors that are behind IBS, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
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