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Popcorn, Nuts and Seeds Do NOT Cause Diverticulitis!

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One of my greatest pleasures in life is disproving strongly held myths.  I remember clearly in First Grade the soul-satisfying pleasure of telling little Danny Johns that Santa was not real, and that his Mom was the one doing all that stuff.  Of course he cried and asked Ms. Sharp, our all-knowing teacher, if this were true and she quickly corrected me by telling him, "Santa is real if you believe in him..."

Today I will delight in such pleasure once again by screaming loudly from the roof of our little clinic,
"Eating nuts, popcorn and seeds will 
NOT increase your risk of Diverticulitis!"  
I don't care what your doctor or your gastroenterologist (Ms. Sharp) said; this is one of those medical myths that just won't die, but really needs to...  You would think that a concept such as nut-and-seed-induced diverticulitis would have quickly fallen by the wayside in the face of the overwhelming research findings against it, and with absolutely no research supporting the false idea.  There are many such medical myths, widely believed by both doctors and patients, sadly, the doctors often profit from such myths while the patients sometimes suffer.

I have to admit it seems to make common-sense, popcorn pieces and little seeds would seem to stop up the openings of those little out-pouches in the large intestine called diverticuli.  Once stopped up, the little pouch would become inflamed and lead to an attack of diverticulitis.  For several years I thoughtlessly repeated this medical myth to my own patients.  This is a perfect example of how a Medical Myth is created and perpetuated, without any real supporting facts.  This idea/mental image seemed to make so much sense, it must be true.  Well guess what?  Not only is this Medical Myth untrue, it appears that the exact opposite is true, according to a very large study, eating seeds, nuts and popcorn actually decreases one's risk of having diverticulitis.

This study was published a few years ago but evidently many doctors didn't get the memo.  At least once per week, while explaining to a patient what a healthy diet actually is, I am interrupted at my suggestion that eating nuts and seeds is very healthy by the patient's indignant admonition that their GI Doctor told them to never eat nuts, seeds or popcorn.  As you might imagine, this places a stumbling block in the path of our continued discussion of what a healthy diet actually is...

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The Study I'm referring to followed over 47,000 subjects at least 40 years old, for 18 years.  You may recall from my previous posts that the larger and longer a medical study is, the more reliable the results it will give us.  Not only did this study fail to find a direct link between eating nuts, seeds and popcorn and bouts of diverticulitis, it actually found the exact opposite; the more nuts, seeds and popcorn one eats, the less likely they are to ever have diverticulitis!  My patients who are beginning to follow a more Primal way of eating will find this to make perfect sense.

But still, I have patients returning from their visits with a gastroenterologist reporting they have been told to avoid food containing nuts and seeds.  I would encourage anyone about to keep an appointment with a gastroenterologist to print out a copy of this study and take with them in order to educate the doctor just in case they are given such "advice".  So, what did this very large, very long study find actually caused  diverticulitis?  That's a very good question.

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The study states, "other known or potential risk factors, including increasing age; body mass index; red meat consumption; lack of physical activity; cigarette smoking; and the over-use of NSAIDs and acetaminophen."  Now we can't do much about getting older, but we can definitely take charge of and improve our weight to height ratio (BMI).  We can add diverticulitis to the long list of bad things caused by smoking.  We can certainly increase our physical activity, and cut down on the total amount of over-the-counter pain relievers we take.

So now we know; and wasn't that fun?

Please forward this message to any friend or relative who is currently afraid to enjoy a tasty, healthy snack containing popcorn, nuts or seeds, their colon will thank you!

Fight Anemia The Pioneer Way

Cooking in cast iron may seem like a throw-back to your Grand-mother's kitchen and not a move forward for your health, but I think if you'll be patient and read on you will find this information quite interesting.  By heeding this advice, not only will you add valuable blood-cell building natural iron to your diet, but quite possibly eliminate a possible carcinogen from your environment.

For years we had used the latest Teflon-coated wonder-skillet in our kitchen for the perceived benefit of enjoying a stick-free cooking experience.  Invariably, one of our kids would cook something in it and wind up using a metal spatula and scratching the surface.  We were quite unaware that this could be bad for our health, we were only upset that our non-stick mojo had been messed with.

Turns out those "coatings" on non-stick cookware can be anything but safe and benign.  They are probably fine as long as everyone in your kitchen handles them delicately and uses the proper cookware when cooking with them.  But, if you are like us and someone might turn their egg with a metal spatula, screw-driver, or a stick from the yard, then you might be risking your health for no reason.  Good quality cast-iron, properly prepared, is just as non-stick, has much less potential for danger, and actually adds good stuff to your diet.

The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen
Cast Iron Cookbook
Cookware coated with Teflon and similar products, at least initially, make cooking easier.  But, I have yet to buy a coated skillet and have the coating last for very long.  Where does the missing coating actually go?  Did we eat it one fleck and molecule at a time?  What is it made of?  Just how bad is it?  What about if one of the kids over-heats the skillet after it has been scratched???  Some Google-research will probably make you reconsider your coated cookware and opt instead for a more natural way to cook.

So, I just went out and bought us a nice big Lodge cast-iron skillet and commenced to "season" it.  After a month or so of attempts by me (everyone else abandoned the heavy thing much sooner) I gave up trying to make a pretty egg in it and when back to the Teflon-devil coated skillet.  Recently, I was very happy to learn a thing or two about the art and science of cast-iron cooking.

First let's look at the health benefits of cooking in cast iron. Grandmother's old cast iron skillet (the best kind) contains no harmful chemicals at all, and is actually better than a new skillet.  You could actually grind up the skillet and eat it with no ill effects, except maybe to your teeth.  The blacker the skillet is, the better it will cook.  The shinier the surface is, the more non-stick it will be.

But here is the medical factoid of the day; cooking in cast iron actually adds quite a bit of natural elemental iron to your diet.  How much?  It depends on what you are cooking.  At the bottom of this article is a short list I found very interesting, it comes from a 1986 article in The Journal of The American Diabetic Association.  It is quite possible that the iron skillet which traveled across America with each pioneer family saved the life of many a wife and mother who otherwise would have died from complications of iron-deficiency anemia.

Everything you cook in cast iron has more iron in it after the cooking, some things have substantially increased levels.  Tomato based recipes really pull the iron into the food being prepared, I'm assuming its the acidity that does this.  The obvious question, "If the skillet is giving up all this healthy iron with each meal cooked in it, and it has been used for decades, why has the skillet not disappeared???"  I'm not sure why that doesn't happen but I'm glad it doesn't.  But, what about my less than impressive experience with my new skillet?  Some of you have tried to cook in cast iron and found the results to be less than expected.  The skillets you can buy new today are very heavy and the cooking surface is very rough and neither of these traits endears the skillet to it's owner.  I have found out that, as usual, people had more sense in past years, and that skillets used to be lighter and have much smoother cooking surfaces.

The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and BeveragesThe trick with cast iron cookware is to buy or inherit the right kind and treat it the right way.  Do NOT go out and buy a heavy, new rough-surfaced cast iron skillet or you will be disappointed.  If you are not lucky enough to have inherited a good skillet, get on Ebay.com and bid on the blackest skillet you see made by Griswold.  These Made-in-the-USA skillets are a little lighter, and the cook-surface is much smoother.  The blacker skillets have been treated right through the years and will be virtually stick-proof.  A new skillet must be "seasoned" and if the surface is too rough, this can be quite the frustrating episode in your kitchen-career.

People who find that taking Iron Supplements gives them nausea or constipation will be happy to find they can get the same amount of iron from their skillet without those symptoms.  Iron from a skillet is elemental and is thus immediately absorbed, almost always without any side effects.  Healthy folks with normal iron levels will not be in danger of overdose because of cooking in an iron skillet.


Here is the Chart I promised:

Foods tested (100 g./3 oz.)
Iron content when raw
Iron content after cooking in iron skillet
Applesauce, unsweetened
0.35 mg.
7.38 mg.
Spaghetti sauce
Chili with meat and beans
Medium white sauce
Scrambled egg
Spaghetti sauce with meat
Beef vegetable stew
Fried egg
Spanish rice
Rice, white
Pan broiled bacon
Poached egg
Fried chicken
Pan fried green beans
Pan broiled hamburger
Fried potatoes
Fried corn tortillas
Pan-fried beef liver with onions
Baked cornbread

Interesting Update on Insomnia

You can improve your sleep quality without a prescription.  I just found a great little study about how to improve the quality of your sleep with natural substances you can get over the counter.  Anytime you can treat a condition that affects your quality of life without having to make a trip to the doctor and the pharmacy, I have done my job.

Poor sleep quality is very common as we get older, and the effects can spill over into daylight hours in the form of fuzzy thinking and overall fatigue.  Reaction time is decreased and we tend to be less happy and more grouchy overall as a result of poor sleep quality.

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A little study performed in a nursing home in Italy has been reported in January in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.  They looked at about 45 residents there; half were given a nightly placebo and the other half were given Melatonin 5mg, Magnesium 225mg and Zinc 11.25mg.  At the end of this 8-week study, all patients were given a test that looked at how they felt they slept and how rested they felt the next day.  The group given the three supplements had much better sleep scores than the placebo group.  I think most people could benefit from a larger supplement of zinc, but the other two are just about right.

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This study was done in the elderly (average age = 78yrs) but given the safety of the supplements, this could be the answer to anyone who is not sleeping well.  I believe that Magnesium and Zinc deficiencies are very common in the elderly, leading to many correctable problems we typically blame on aging alone; and it has been well-known for years that Melatonin can help improve sleep quality.  Zinc and Magnesium are also very effective at reducing the chance of night-time leg cramps, another common sleep interrupter.

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I would expect for this trio of supplements to work better for folks over 50 years of age on average.  The older you or your loved one is, the better this regimen should work for improving sleep quality.  If you know someone who complains about their sleep quality, pass this info along to them, it will make them less grouchy!

As always, this regimen will not help if you are eating mostly junk food, interrupting your sleep environment with Computer/TV light, and not getting enough daily exercise.  Your body was made to be active and to run properly on real, natural food.  Sitting on the couch eating Doritos is not the place you want to be, it leads to hundreds of unwanted medical conditions, and decreases you sleep quality as well.  Sorry folks, but you have to behave properly or life is not much fun.

Do You Really have Fibromyalgia?

The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Fibromyalgia (Cleveland Clinic Guides)
A Good Book
Just because you have been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia is no guarantee you really have it!  Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion which means it should be what is left after your doctor has ruled out all other conditions you could be suffering from.  It should not be the first diagnosis given, but the last one left.

There are multiple conditions and syndromes that can mimic Fibromyalgia, many of which can be completely cured.  Unfortunately, I have seen many patients who were wearing the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, only to discover with further investigation that they suffered from another condition which could be cured.

So I encourage you, before accepting the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, research the conditions below and be sure you were examined and tested to rule each one out:

  • Under-active thyroid 
  • Abnormal Hormone Function
  • Adrenal Gland insufficiency
  • Early Diabetes
  • Fatigue Syndrome (common after some viral infections)
  • Chronic Infection
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse
  • Malnutrition with our without an eating disorder
  • Undiagnosed Cancer
  • Low Vitamin D Level
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Elevated Calcium
  • Anemia
  • Undiagnosed Syphilis
  • Undiagnosed HIV
  • What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia: The Revolutionary Treatment That Can Reverse the Disease
    Another Good One
  • Possible Medication Side Effects (some Cholesterol, Blood Pressure or Psych meds)
If you were diagnosed as having Fibromyalgia without any blood tests being run, then your diagnosis is in question.  There is no blood test that can diagnose Fibromyalgia, but many of the conditions listed above can be ruled out with the proper blood-work.

There are many other conditions which can pretend to be Fibromyalgia, these are just the most likely.  So, if you are newly diagnosed, it is time to put on your thinking-cap, either with our without your doctor, and rule out the other conditions that might be pretending to be Fibromyalgia.