Diverticulum are small pouches that many people have in the lining of the large intestine that bulge outward through weak spots in the muscle wall. Multiple pouches are called diverticula. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age and about half of all people older than 60 are thought to have diverticulosis.
Diverticula are most common in the lower portion of the large intestine, called the sigmoid colon. When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.
Ten to 25 percent of people with diverticulosis get diverticulitis. Both Dicerticulitis and diverticulosis are called diverticular disease.
Most people with diverticulosis do not have any discomfort or symptoms. However, some people may experience:
- Cramps pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen
Many other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers cause similar problems, so the symptoms do not always mean a person has diverticulosis.
With Diverticulitis inflammation is present so symptoms become more prevalent
The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain with tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen. Usually, the pain is severe and comes on suddenly, but it can also be mild and become worse over several days. The intensity of the pain can fluctuate. The sufferer may also experience:
- Change in bowel habits
Diverticulitis can lead to bleeding; infections; small tears or blockages in the colon. These complications always require medical treatment to prevent them from progressing and causing serious illness. If you have severe symptoms please consult your doctor.
Diet – Diverticular disease was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s, around the time processed foods were introduced. It is particularly common in the developed world where low-fibre diets are consumed, so this is thought to be a major factor. Fibre is the indigestible part of fruits, vegetables and grains. It acts like a brush passing through the intestines, preventing constipation by making stools soft and easy to pass. If stools are difficult to pass people often strain during a bowel movement. This can cause increased pressure in the colon, which may cause the colon lining to bulge out through weak spots in the intestinal muscle wall. This leads to the formation of diverticula. To find out more about how changing your diet to help prevent or manage diverticular disease, why not Book a Consultation with Smart Nutrition.
Exercise – Exercise promotes normal bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It also promotes good abdominal tone. All of these factors make exercise an excellent preventative tool as well as a factor in reducing the risk of future flare-ups. If you previously did little physical activity a nutritional therapist can help you to put together an appropriate and enjoyable exercise regime as part of your treatment plan.
Food Intolerance or Allergies – Chronic food sensitivities or allergies can aggravate the inflammatory reactions in diverticulitis, and may contribute to it. If you think your flare-ups may be linked to a food allergy or intolerance you may want to consider having A Food Allergy or Intolerance Test. Once identified Smart Nutrition could help you to remove the problem foods from your diet and find healthy, tasty alternatives.
Gut flora imbalances – Doctors are not certain what causes diverticula to become inflamed but think that the inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool are caught in the diverticula. Friendly bacteria are very important for ensuring that are stool are properly processed, that our gut lining is healthy and that bad bacteria cannot invade. If our numbers of friendly bacteria drop, any of these important roles may be neglected. This makes diverticulitis flare-ups more likely. Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using A Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. A nutritional therapist can then use the results to help optimise your gut flora and minimise inflammation.
Chronic stress – It is known that emotional stress can increase spasms of the colon and, perhaps, result in the formation of diverticuli. Stress can also exacerbate constipation and compromise gut flora, weakening the body’s defences against a bacterial infection that could cause a flare-up. If you have a stressful lifestyle and feel this may be a factor in your condition, An Adrenal Stress Test can help pinpoint precise imbalances and Smart Nutrition would be happy to help you to address this.