What Is Diverticulitis? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Prevention Explained

Photo: Getty
What Is Diverticulitis? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Prevention Explained
Health And Wellness

As you age, the walls of your colon, also known as your large intestine, weaken.

This increases the likelihood your body will form diverticula — small pockets or pouches in the wall of your digestive track — especially when too much pressure is placed on the colon walls, such as when you pass hard stools.

The formation of the pouches themselves is known as diverticulosis and is commonly benign and symptom-free at first — until the diverticula become infected and/or inflamed, a condition called diverticulitis.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease which occurs when the diverticula bulging along the walls of your colon become infected and inflamed.

RELATED: 3 Common Health Conditions You Probably Had No Idea Can Be Caused By Stress

As reported by Reuters, "According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, half of all people in the U.S. over age 60, and nearly everyone over age 80, has at least some diverticula in their colon ... The overall incidence of diverticulitis, with or without hospitalization, increased by 50 percent since 2000, and more so in younger people, [according to findings of a study conducted by] Dr. Adil E. Bharucha of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota."

Common symptoms associated with diverticulitis include:

  • Abdominal pain, usually on the left side
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Cramping
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Rectal bleeding, tears, or blockages

Consult your doctor at the first sign of fever or rectal bleeding.

What causes diverticulitis?

Doctors aren't entirely sure what causes either condition, although research shows genetic factors may play a significant role.

Others believe diverticulitis is linked to a diet that is too low in fiber, leading to hard stools that put increased pressure on the colon walls as they pass. However, a 2012 study found that "A high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis."

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases lists the following additional risk factors:

  • Certain medicines — including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, and steroids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

RELATED: 10 Warning Signs That Something’s Up With Your Health

How can diverticulitis be prevented?

Many still believe maintaining a healthy diet offers the best protection against diverticula forming in your colon.

If you have trouble including enough fiber in your diet, consider a soluble fiber supplement such as acacia fiber powder to help support intestinal regularity. Acacia fiber is generally well-tolerated and can be used daily to support intestinal health.

You should also be sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, and some doctors recommend avoiding nuts and seeds.

Probiotics may help by improving the overall health of your colon. Use a probiotic that is broad-spectrum and includes the Saccharomyces boulardii yeast strain.

Maintaining balanced magnesium levels is also important to ensure that your stools are soft. Reacted magnesium — a supplement which "provides three unique forms of highly-absorbed magnesium to ensure maximum absorption of this important macromineral" — can help with this.

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

The Mayo Clinic explains, "Your doctor will likely start with a physical examination, which will include checking your abdomen for tenderness. Women generally have a pelvic examination as well to rule out pelvic disease.

After that, the following tests are likely:

  • Blood and urine tests, to check for signs of infection.
  • A pregnancy test for women of childbearing age, to rule out pregnancy as a cause of abdominal pain.
  • A liver enzyme test, to rule out liver-related causes of abdominal pain.
  • A stool test, to rule out infection in people who have diarrhea.
  • A CT scan, which can identify inflamed or infected pouches and confirm a diagnosis of diverticulitis. CT can also indicate the severity of diverticulitis and guide treatment."

RELATED: Doing These 10 Things Before 10 A.M. Will Improve Your Health

What treatments are available for people with diverticulitis?

If you are currently experiencing mild symptoms associated with diverticulitis, the following DIY home remedies may help:

  • Therapeutic enemas with targeted essential oil blends
  • Essential oil suppositories
  • CBD oil
  • Maintaining a mostly liquid diet during flare-ups

Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine whether you are suffering from diverticulitis.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, one of the following forms of treatment may also be recommended:

  • Antibiotics
  • A temporary liquid diet
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Intravenous antibiotics for more complicated cases
  • Insertion of a tube to drain an abdominal abscess, if one has formed
  • Surgery, if you have complications such as a bowel abscess, fistula or obstruction, or a puncture (perforation) in the bowel wall, you have had multiple episodes of uncomplicated diverticulitis, and/or you have a weakened immune system

Diverticulitis is common, but it is also preventable in many cases.

The most important steps you can take to prevent diverticulitis are maintaining a healthy colon and soft, regular bowel movements.

Eating foods that are high in fiber, regularly cleansing your colon and taking the right supplements can be the key to diverticulitis prevention.

RELATED: What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine & Which Health Conditions Does It Work For?

Kristina Amelong, CCT, CNC, is an I-ACT certified colon hydrotherapist, nutritional consultant, and the founder of the Optimal Health Network. If you have questions or concerns about home colon cleansing or diverticulitis prevention or management, visit her website for more information.

Sign Up for the YourTango Newsletter

Let's make this a regular thing!

Disclaimer: The material on this page is presented for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or prescribing from a licensed healthcare professional. Consult with your doctor before altering or discontinuing any current medications, treatment, or care, or starting any diet, exercise, cleansing, or supplementation program, or if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention.

This article was originally published at Optimal Health Network. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Author
Expert