When Doctors Don’t Know the Best Medical Advice

Some of their outdated tips may compromise your care or sabotage your health goals. Here, medical advice you can safely ignore.

By Sharon Liao from Reader's Digest Magazine | June 2013

Old Medical Advice: Avoid nuts, seeds, and corn if you have diverticulosis. For decades, doctors were taught that people with diverticulosis—a digestive disorder marked by small pouches in the lining of the colon—should steer clear of small, hard foods, which could lodge in these pockets, triggering symptoms like pain and bleeding. “Even today, I see patients who haven’t eaten popcorn in 15 years,” says Anish Sheth, MD, a gastroenterologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

New Medical Advice: Go ahead, snack on that trail mix. According to a study of nearly 50,000 people in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the previously banned foods didn’t raise the risk of complications, and people with the condition could safely eat them. On the contrary, eating nuts or popcorn actually lowered the risk of developing the disorder. “These foods are high in fiber, which helps to keep you regular,” explains Dr. Sheth. “And one theory is that, over time, the pressure of constipation may lead to weak spots in the colon, much like those that develop in an old garden hose.” By eating more high-fiber foods, you may avoid becoming one of the 50 percent of Americans over the age of 60 with the condition.

Next: Will eating smaller meals more frequently help you lose weight? »


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