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This is a topic with which I am uncomfortably familiar. In 2009, I had colon surgery. The precipitating event would have been comical if had not nearly killed me.

I had an old Chevy pickup I had driven out into the country. I was about 3 miles (5 km) from town when not just one but two of its tires went flat. My cell phone battery was dead, so I started walking into town. This being Texas and the early summer, it was clear, humid, and about 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). I didn't have any water.

Before I got to a service station, I passed a Dairy Queen. I was dehydrated. I had a huge glass of ice water. Then I had (I know, I know, it's horrible fast food, but it was delicious and I was famished and hot and tired) an ice cream treat called a Blizzard. I got the truck taken care of and I got back to my apartment. Then I had the worst pain I had ever had in my life.

What turned out to have happened, I found out in the hospital three days later, was that the cold mass of ice cream and ice water hit my intestines while I was dehydrated. The artery going to the left side of my colon had "low flow" and the cold reduced blood circulation even more. I didn't know it at the time, but I have a clotting disorder (my body doesn't use folic acid properly, so I make more clots), and clot stopped circulation to the left side of my colon altogether.

The temperature of what you eat, not just the fiber content of what you eat, also affects what you later feel in your colon.

Usually, this sequence of events is fatal. It most commonly happens in (1) people running marathons on hot summer days who drink too much ice water and (2) people over the age of 80 who have coronary artery disease. Because I had eaten a kale salad earlier in the day, my gut was full of stool, and the usual treatment, an emergency colostomy, would have led to a slow and painful death from gangrene a few days later. The doctors gave me blood thinners, and three kinds of IV antibiotics, and a saline (actually potassium chloride, not sodium chloride) drip, and hoped for the best.

Unlike 90 percent of people who have this problem, I lived, and I didn't have to have a colostomy. I was a very lucky man. It was a long time before I could eat normally, however.

For a week, the very idea of eating disgusted me. I recall telling my nurses the IV was fine, I never wanted to eat again. After my colon biopsy, about the fourth day, I had a little Jell-O (gelatin) and brother. On the sixth day, a friend brought me a breakfast sandwich from Whataburger (I know, I know, the health expert eats fast food, but it was kind of a special occasion and there was a limited number of things on my permitted foods list), and I walked on my own power out of the hospital.

I had to go back to the hospital 16 times for dehydration over the next four months. Water, it turned out, just wasn't enough to stay hydrated. Mineral water or even tap water with a pinch of salt would work, but not plain water.

It was years before I ate either kale or ice cream again. Even things like potatoes and carrots were too high in fiber at first. I could have meat broths, fall-off-the-bone tender meat, and "boiled to death" green vegetables without inviting abdominal pain for about a year.

Part of the problem, I realize in retrospect, was that being on three IV antibiotics, while probably saving my life, also wiped out the bacteria in my colon. I no longer had the bacteria that break down fiber so it passes easily out with the stool. The probiotic bacteria in yogurt weren't enough. I had to get all the other hundreds of strains of bacteria most of us have all the time from eating raw foods, but my gut could only take small amounts of raw foods at any given time. Six years later, I'm still not entirely back to normal, although that awful, painful urgent diarrhea I'd have the first year or two is now a far less common event.

I'd advise anyone who deals with colon problems that, lucky you, you aren't going to have to go on a weight-loss diet.

It's not a good idea to avoid protein foods. If you have colon problems, you are one of those relatively rare people at real risk for protein deficiencies. When I was in the hospital, a college (American) football player also could not eat for several days; because he had just 4 percent body fat, his body broke down muscle, and he now has a permanent limp even though it was his colon that was injured. Eat meat. If you are a vegan for ethical reasons, pay attention to protein, and then to fat. If you go on a weight-loss diet and you start experiencing constipation, stop. You may be doing serious injury to your colon.

Before your body can use plant foods, you need the friendly bacteria in your colon to process them.

Don't start off with lots of salad as your well-intentioned and ill-informed friends may suggest. Eat yogurt. Eat pickles (also sources of probiotic bacteria) and fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi and miso. Then eat the vegetables and fruits, cooked at first, then small amounts of raw plant foods.

After colon injury or colon surgery, you may find that the foods that used to taste good now taste horrible. That's because you have a sense of taste in your lower digestive tract, not just in your tongue, and it's changed. You can even have gluten sensitivity that you did not have before, or a sensitivity to a combination of soy and wheat that you did not have before. You may not be able to handle dairy products as well as before. You may become very, very sensitive to stimulants. Coffee may make you feel uncomfortable. Methamphetamines may kill you.

The less you eat, the lower your risk of causing problems.

Eat small portions of a few foods at first, and only gradually expand your diet selection. Getting over colectomy, colostomy, and ischemic colitis takes time, but it is possible if you go slow.

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