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Diet Effects
March 2003

Q. I am a 32-year-old male. I have been on the Atkins Diet for several years. About two years ago I noticed small amounts of red blood swipes in my stool. I thought it was from straining as it seemed to come and go. I have since periodically gone off the diet and the bleeding goes away completely soon after as well as a return to regular bowel movements. However, anytime I go back to Atkin's diet or cut out carbs, the swipe of blood will begin to appear again. Could it be cancer if the bleeding stops and is this common with low carb diets?

A. Blood appearing in the stool or on tissue should be investigated. Normal bowel habits are aided by a diet that is high in fiber (found in most fruits, grains, and vegetables), adequate water intake, and regular exercise. In most people this will lead to regular bowel movements that are soft but formed and do not require straining as you describe.

At your age, the likelihood of a serious condition is very small. The bleeding should be investigated however. Small amounts of blood on the tissue are most commonly due to hemorrhoids (swollen veins) or a fissure, which is like a tiny cut in the skin. If the doctor can examine you within a day of the bleeding, he may well be able to confirm the diagnosis. He can then decide if further tests are needed, such as a sigmoidoscopy which is a direct look at the colon through an instrument.




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