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Is Popcorn Bad for Your Intestines?

by
author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
Is Popcorn Bad for Your Intestines?
Popcorn in a glass bowl on a sunny table. Photo Credit DejanKolar/iStock/Getty Images

Popcorn, a whole grain that contains fiber, can cause problems if you have certain digestive disorders. At one time experts thought that popcorn, along with nuts and seeds, worsened diverticulitis, but this has not proven true. If you have irritable inflammatory bowel disease, popcorn and other types of fiber may worsen your symptoms, although not everyone experiences this effect.

Diverticulitis

As you age, the risk of developing diverticula, small bulging pouches in the intestine, increases, reaching around 50 percent by age 60, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. If you have diverticulosis, you have a 10 percent chance of developing diverticulitis, inflammation in the pouches.At one time, experts banned popcorn from the menu if you had diverticulosis, fearing that the popcorn would get stuck in the diverticula, causing inflammation. However, studies such as the one published in the August 2008 issue of "JAMA" have shown that eating popcorn did not increase the risk of diverticular complications. Increasing rather than decreasing fiber helps prevent complications of diverticulitis.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, occurs mostly in young adults, with Caucasians, particularly those of Eastern European Jewish descent, having the highest percentage of the disorder, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. Unlike many intestinal disorders, which improve when you add fiber, Crohn's disease may worsen when you increase your fiber intake. Popcorn may worsen the symptoms, which include diarrhea, blood in the stool, ulcerations in the intestines, decreased appetite and abdominal cramping and pain. According to a report in the January 2007 issue of "Inflammatory Bowel Diseases," popcorn is listed as a food to avoid with IBS, as it can trigger symptoms.

Diarrhea

If you're suffering through a bout of diarrhea from chemotherapy, an intestinal flu, dietary indiscretion or virus, popcorn is a good food to avoid, especially if you normally pour on the butter. Avoid popcorn, beans, nuts, fruits and other high-fiber foods like raw vegetables and bran until your symptoms subside. Popcorn kernels are pure, insoluble fiber, which means they will not digest at all, and according to the Kingston Regional Cancer Center, popcorn is a food that will increase your number of bowel movements, which you do not want to do if you are experiencing diarrhea.

Considerations

As a general rule, popcorn has benefits for your intestines, since it provides 3.5 grams of fiber in a 3-cup serving. Most Americans consume just 15 grams of fiber per day, well below the recommended dietary intake of at least 20 grams per day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Fiber not only keeps your bowel moving but also can help lower your cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels. fiber does not appear to lower the risk of colon cancer, as once thought, the Harvard School of Public Health notes.

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