Remember This Date for Better Colon Health

Remember This Date for Better Colon Health

Want to have a fit and healthy colon for years to come? Then make a daily date with this food: dates.

Dates have been enjoyed in the Middle East for millennia, and for good reason. Research shows that eating a handful of these sweet, chewy treats every day may help protect the colon from a painful gut disorder known as diverticulitis.

The gut stops here
If you're over the age of 60, there's a 50 percent chance that years of eating highly processed, low-fiber foods have taken a toll on your colon. Researchers believe almost half of retirement-age and older Americans suffer from diverticulosis. This is a condition where bulging pouches or sacs form in the intestine—usually the colon—possibly caused by the strain of constipation as a result of a low-fiber diet. Generally, diverticulosis is harmless. But it can turn into diverticulitis—a painful condition caused when feces get trapped in these pouches and cause inflammation or infection. (Are you regular? Find out what's healthy and what's not when it comes to bowel movements.)

Necessary roughage
But diverticulitis is not inevitable with age. You can reduce your risk dramatically with a high-fiber diet. And dates are an excellent source of bowel-friendly fiber. In fact, 1 cup of this dried fruit has a whopping 14 grams of the stuff. And in a study, researchers found that women eating 25 grams or more of fiber a day—and men eating 26 grams or more—were 40 percent less likely to get diverticulitis compared with people who got the least amount of fiber in their diets. Fiber keeps diverticulitis at bay by softening stools, which reduces strain on the bowels.

Remember . . .
If you're adding lots of fiber to your diet, do it slowly, over time. And be sure to drink plenty of water. This will help your body adjust gradually. And if you have diverticulitis, talk with your doctor about what kinds of fiber-rich foods are safest for you. (Get your digestion moving with this simple exercise. Hint: You're probably doing it already.)

Medically reviewed in March 2019.

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