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by James Thomas, Saturday, 08 July 2017 | Categories: General Health

In 2017, vegetarianism and veganism are more popular than they have ever been. And yet, for those of us who still eat meat, there’s not much that a vegan campaigner could say to deter us from sinking our teeth into a juicy burger or our Sunday roast beef – until, that is, they start talking about the health risks.

We all know that eating too much red meat is not good for us, largely because it increases our risk of bowel cancer. Now, though, it seems that red meat could be worth avoiding for another health reason altogether: diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is a condition affecting the colon, also known as the large intestine. It begins with diverticular disease, in which small bulges and pockets develop in the lining of the colon. Diverticulitis refers to a later stage of the condition, in which these pockets become inflamed or infected.

Diverticulitis Symptoms

The symptoms of diverticulitis include pain in the abdomen, particularly after eating; bloating; and a change in your bowel habits. It can also cause flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, feeling unwell, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis can also lead to some unpleasant complications such as bleeding, urinary problems and the development of an abscess or fistula. In rarer cases, diverticulitis can lead to life-threatening conditions such as intestinal obstruction and peritonitis, both of which can require surgery.

According to research carried out recently, the unpleasant condition described above carries a clear association with the consumption of red meat. To get specific, data collected on 46,461 men between 1986 and 2012 indicated that those in the highest one-fifth for red meat consumption had a 58% increased risk for diverticulitis. Researchers suspect that red meat causes inflammation in the colon, which leads to the development of diverticulitis.

This is concerning because, while it’s common to be aware of the bowel cancer risk associated with eating red meat, many people will never have heard of diverticulitis. As a result they may they putting themselves at risk of developing the condition by eating too much red meat – this is a particular concern for people who fall into the following high-risk categories:

  • People who smoke
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Frequent use of anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen
  • Having a history of constipation
  • Having a family member with diverticular disease

It’s also thought that diverticular disease and diverticulitis are associated with not eating enough fibre.

The good news is that there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself from developing diverticulitis – and they don’t just revolve around cutting out red meat.

Preventing Diverticulitis

The first piece of advice that many doctors will give to someone with diverticular disease is to increase fibre intake. You can increase your fibre intake by consuming more fruits and vegetables, and eating starchy foods such as wholegrain bread, and brown pasta and rice. Pulses and beans are a particularly good source of fibre, as are nuts.

Other preventative measures include quitting smoking, losing weight and exercising more. Going by the study mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to limit your consumption of red meat – the NHS recommends that you should eat no more than 70g of red meat and processed meat a day. As explained by The Telegraph here, that equates to just under 500g of red meat and processed meat a week, which means that, over the course of seven days, you could eat one steak, one pork chop, two pork sausages and a portion of Bolognese sauce.

Treating Diverticulitis

If you do develop diverticulitis, it may be that it can be treated safely at home with a course of antibiotics. During this time you may be advised to stick to a liquids-only and later a low-fibre diet, to avoid putting too much strain on your colon. Once the diverticulitis has been treated, you will likely be advised to adopt a high fibre diet. It can also be helpful to lose weight, quit smoking and start exercising more.

If the condition is more serious, you may require hospital treatment and even surgery. You can read more about these treatments via the NHS.

Find out more about diverticulitis at our diverticulitis page.





 

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