Does red meat put you in the diverticulitis danger zone?

You already know that processed meat isn’t doing your health any favors…

All it’s doing is contributing to major diseases like cancer, heart disease and asthma. But what about red meat?

For years, red meat has held a top slot on the list of foods that supposedly hurt your health. But is this reputation warranted?

Well, there’s no denying that a lot of studies connect red meat to major health problems —  like cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

And these studies continue to pile up. Take the latest study published in the journal Gut, for example….

This study found a link between eating red meat and the development of a common and dangerous inflammatory bowel condition… diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis and red meat: A dangerous liaison?

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches develop on your colon or large intestine. These pouches can become inflamed or infected, leading to major cramping, vomiting, chills and constipation. If this happens, you may have to spend time in the hospital or even have surgery.

Since more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for diverticulitis in the U.S. each year, chances are you’re familiar with it. Maybe you or someone you love even has it. And if that’s the case, you need to hear exactly what the latest study determined…

Over the course of 26 years, men who ate the most red meat had a 58 percent higher chance of developing diverticulitis than those who ate the least red meat. Each daily serving of red meat was tied to an 18 percent spike in diverticulitis risk. And the risk level peaked at six servings of red meat per week.

Of course, the good news is, you can lower your diverticulitis risk pretty easily. Researchers found that replacing one serving of red meat per day with poultry or fish can lower your risk by 20 percent.

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Is all red meat really bad?

If you have diverticulitis or want to prevent it, you’re probably wondering if you should swear off red meat for good. But, you should know, health studies about meat are never as straightforward as they seem…

These studies never factor in the quality of the meat study participants eat. And when it comes to red meat and health, quality is a huge factor…

A 2010 scientific review, for example, found that grass-fed beef has a higher amount of the inflammation-fighting fatty acids conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and trans-vaccenic acid (TVA) than the grain-fed, conventional meat most people eat. It also contains more of the precursors to vitamin A and E and more of the anti-cancer antioxidants glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

And in 2016, researchers found that organic meat (which may or may not be grass-fed) has more omega-3s, more antioxidants and less saturated fat than conventional meat.

Since grass-fed and organic red meat have a different nutritional profile than conventional red meat, there’s a good chance they also has a different impact on your health. But the fact is, there’s not much research about the effect of high-quality red meat (like grass-fed beef) on your health. So, when it comes to meat eating, you’re going to have to make an educated decision for yourself.

In my opinion, if you’re getting high-quality red meat (grass-fed, organic, local, etc.) it can be an important part of a healthy diet. But if you’re worried about diverticulitis, you may want to play it safe and substitute your steak and burger for chicken and fish a couple of times a week. You may also want to:

  • Take a high-quality probiotic. They’ve been shown more effective than prescription drugs for diverticular disease.
  • Reduce your sugar
  • Eat more fiber, including dried plums. A fiber-rich diet is one of the top ways to prevent diverticulitis.
  • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables. If you eat a lot of red meat and not enough fruits and vegetables, you age faster.
  • Try some bentonite clay. European researchers have found taking clay internally can help with a long list of gut issues, including diverticulitis.

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“High dietary red meat intake linked to common bowel condition diverticulitis.” MedicalXpress. Retrieved January 12, 2017.

Cao, et al. “Meat intake and risk of diverticulitis among men.” Gut, 2017.

“Diverticulitis.” The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 12, 2017.

“Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis.” MedlinePlus. Retrieved January 12, 2017.

A. Daley, et al. “A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.” Nutrition Journal, 2010; 9:10.

Średnicka-Tober, et al. “Composition differences between organic and conventional meat: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.” British Journal of Nutrition, 2016 Mar 28;115(6):994-1011.

Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and