Diverticular disease or diverticulosis is a condition characterized by the formation of diverticula, small sac-like pouches on the inner intestinal wall, primarily the colon (large intestine). Diverticulitis is a complication of diverticulosis, which occurs due to the inflammation and infection of diverticular pouches.
Diverticulitis is estimated to occur in approximately 10 to 25 percent of those with diverticulosis. The odds of developing diverticulitis can be minimized by modifying diet and lifestyle.
The doctor may recommend a “diverticulitis diet” as part of your treatment, along with certain lifestyle modifications, which includes:
- Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to prevent constipation
- A liquid diet, such as fruit juices, broth, and ice pops
- A diet high in fiber, such as cooked vegetables, fresh fruits (such as apples, pears, avocados, and bananas), cereals (such as bran and oats), and whole grains
- Probiotics, which is present in yogurt, may be helpful
- Regular exercise, such as physical activity for 30 minutes on most days of the week
- Heat application, which can alleviate painful cramps
What causes diverticulitis?
Although not proven, according to some researchers, chronic constipation creates pressure in the intestinal walls, weakening them and leading to the development of diverticular pouches.
Another speculated theory suggests that the lack of fiber in the diet is responsible for increased strain in the colon, leading to the formation of pouches in the weak parts of the colon wall.
This pressure, along with the undigested food that is caught in these pouches pushes against the diverticular wall, causing inflammation and propensity for bacterial infections, resulting in diverticulitis.
What triggers diverticulitis flare-ups?
Certain factors that make a person more likely to develop diverticulosis are:
- Aging: The odd of developing diverticulosis increases with age, and it affects almost everyone older than 80 years.
- Gender: Males are more prone to develop diverticulosis than females.
- Weight: Overweight or obesity increases the odds.
- Hereditary: It can be a result of inherited genes.
- Improper diet: A diet low in fiber and high in refined foods and animal fats may increase the risk.
- Lack of exercise: Decreased or no physical activity, or a sedentary lifestyle contributes to the risk.
- Smoking: Smoking, alcohol, and excessive caffeine consumption can contribute to diverticulitis.
- Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and opioids.
What are the signs and symptoms of diverticulitis?
Usually, diverticulosis does not cause troublesome symptoms but mild or moderate cases may present with signs and symptoms, such as:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Tenderness on the affected area
- Bloating and gas
When complicated, diverticulitis is a serious and potentially dangerous condition, resulting in more serve symptoms, including:
What is the best way to diagnose diverticulitis?
The doctor will analyze the symptoms and will physically examine to look for tenderness.
To confirm the diagnosis, they may perform certain tests, including:
- Blood tests: Such as complete blood count.
- Liver function tests: To rule out liver problems.
- Stool test: To look out for infections.
- Imaging tests: Such as X-ray or computed tomography scans.
- Colonoscopy: A flexible lighted tube is used to examine the intestines.
How is diverticulitis treated?
Diverticulitis is treated using diet modifications, antibiotics, and surgery, such as:
- Diet modifications: Consume a diet high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, squash, and beans), grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Limit red meat consumption.
- Liquid diet: Includes water, tea, coffee, and strained fruit juices that will allow the bowel to heal faster.
- Oral antibiotics: Metronidazole, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, clavulanic acid, and ciprofloxacin.
- Stool softeners or laxatives: To relieve constipation and ease the passage of stools.
- Surgery: Involves removing a part of the colon through open surgery or a laparoscopic procedure.
- Colostomy: Done in extreme cases, the surgeon creates an opening (called a stoma) so that the intestine will empty into a bag that is attached to the front of the abdomen.
- Get adequate rest
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Khatri M. Understanding Diverticulitis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diverticulitis-treatment
Cleveland Clinic. Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis of the Colon. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10352-diverticular-disease
Pathak N. Diverticulitis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diverticulitis-basics
Watson S. Diverticulitis Diet. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/diverticulitis-diet
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