Diverticulosis refers to the presence of pockets, or sac-like protrusions, on the colon wall. It is a very common condition. By age 60, the majority of adults (60%) will have at least a few diverticula. In most situations, diverticulosis does not cause symptoms or lead to complications. Only a very small proportion of people will develop bleeding or infection (known as diverticulitis).
If you are reading this, and are over the age of 40, there is a very good chance that you have diverticula in your colon. Maybe you had a screening colonoscopy and your doctor mentioned that he or she found diverticulosis. Or maybe it was mentioned on a CT scan performed for another reason. Regardless, you need not worry, as this is generally a harmless condition.
But should you change your diet? Most people have heard, or have been told (even by doctors), that they should avoid nuts and seeds if they have diverticulosis. However, this is a complete MYTH. The theory is that a small seed could become lodged in a diverticulum, leading to a blockage and infection. However, there is absolutely no evidencing supporting this idea. Not a single case of seed-related diverticulitis has ever been reported. In fact, a large study of 47,000 adults actually found that eating nuts and popcorn is actually associated with a lower risk of diverticulitis.
What this means is that if you have diverticulosis, you do NOT need to avoid nuts, seeds, or popcorn. This is a medical myth.
Christopher McGowan, MD, MSCR