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Half of those over age 60 have diverticulitis

By You Docs

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 9 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Question: My husband is 70 years old, is 6 feet tall, weighs 145 pounds and has diverticulitis. He takes psyllium husk fiber and whey protein every day, eats everything you recommend and avoids bad fats. Why does he have diverticulitis? — Anonymous

Answer: You're asking why a slim, healthy man who eats a good diet that's low in aging fats has a disease that's linked to being overweight and eating poorly, right?

In a word, wear and tear, and maybe lack of water sometime in his past. About half of all people over 60 have diverticulosis, meaning they develop small pouches along the walls of their colon that bulge outward through weak spots in the wall. What causes weak spots? Sometimes, it's pushing hard when there's not enough water (and a cemented stool). Stuff collects in those outpouchings and can become inflamed. At that point, it's diverticulitis ("-itis" means "inflammation of"), and those hot pouches can cause a trip to the emergency room due to serious abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, fever and chills, particularly if there's an infection, perforation or colon blockage.

What your husband is doing — staying trim, eating a healthy diet and supplementing with fiber — is exactly what he should be doing to stay out of the hospital. Tell him to keep it up.

Question: Is there anything that I can do for gout besides taking medicine? — Pat, Canada

Answer: You'll find relief from this painful condition, a form of arthritis, in the kitchen as well as the medicine cabinet. What puts the "ow" in gout is when needlelike crystals of uric acid, a bodily waste product, are deposited in the joints (typically starting in the big toe) and in the soft tissues.

Smart moves that help reduce the severity of attacks — or prevent them altogether:

Trade alcohol for water. Alcohol increases uric acid; water washes it out.

Purge the purines. Uric acid is also a byproduct of purines, which occur in a wide variety of foods, including organ meats such as liver, sweetbreads and kidneys; certain fish, such as anchovies, mackerel, herring and sardines; scallops; game meats; asparagus; dried beans and peas; and mushrooms.

Make that low-aging (saturated) fat. Your dairy products should be low-fat anyway, but one study found that men who ate lots of low-fat dairy foods slashed their risk of gout.

Consider C. Other research is exploring the benefits of vitamin C in preventing and managing the disease.

Even if you do all this, you'll likely still need meds to stem pain and inflammation, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), steroids or colchicine, an ancient remedy derived from meadow saffron (now available as a prescription drug). The ones we like best (glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate) don't have a lot of research behind them but seem like miracle drugs to Dr. Mike's patients with gout.

Question: Last year I had three six- to eight-day stays in the hospital for asthma, pneumonia, a severe skin infection (cellulitis) and then H1N1. I was on prednisone just before each incident. My immune system seems to be shot. Is this drug to blame? — Valerie, Richton Park, Ill.

Answer: Prednisone is a great drug when needed, but yes, it can make mincemeat of your immune system. A steroid, it's classed as an immunosuppressant, which is a good thing if you need it to suppress an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, in which your body starts attacking its own tissues. You don't say so, but we're going to guess prednisone was prescribed for your asthma. That's a good thing in the short term, because it can cool the airway inflammation that can trigger life-threatening attacks. But taken chronically, it can wreak havoc on your ability to fight infections, and it can cause waist gain, weaken bones and a host of other bad things. So we docs try to give it for short periods (often in large doses over a couple of days to fend off an asthma attack; then you're tapered off it). But sometimes your doctor will prescribe small daily doses. In your case, they may not be small enough. Talk to your doc (and get a second opinion any time you have to receive a drug for more than two weeks) about other ways to control your asthma, if that's why you are taking prednisone.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen, are authors of "YOU: On a Diet." Want more? See "The Dr. Oz Show" weekdays at 9 a.m. on Ch. 13. To submit questions, go to www.RealAge.com. © Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Dist. by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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