Some people develop small pouches called diverticula, in the lining of the colon or large intestine, that protrude outward through weak spots. A single pouch is called a diverticulum, and the medical condition is referred to as diverticulosis. Around 10 percent Americans, over the age of 40, have been diagnosed with it. When one or more of these pouches become inflamed, infected, or septic, the condition is referred to as diverticulitis.
The large intestine is responsible for the storage and elimination of waste materials from the body. Continuous pressure on the muscular bands of the colon, for removing the waste, causes a bulging pouch of tissue to protrude out from the colon wall. Usually, people above the age of 40 are more prone to developing this condition. Besides that, mentioned below are some other factors that can result in this condition:
- Advancing age
- High intake of red meat
- Frequent constipation
- Low fiber and high fat intake
- Connective tissue disorders affecting the colon wall
Diverticulosis is mostly asymptomatic; however, some people are known to experience the following symptoms depending upon the severity of the problem:
- Abdominal pain accompanied with sudden, mild cramps
- Bloating caused due to the gases in the abdomen
- Constipation and bouts of diarrhea in succession
- Presence of red blood clots in the stools
Now, when the diverticulum ruptures, inflames, or becomes infected, it causes diverticulitis. The doctors are still not very sure of the reasons, but it is commonly believed that waste materials in the pouch constrict the blood supply to the thin walls of the pouch, making them vulnerable to a bacterial infection. Diverticulosis is usually treated through lifestyle changes and less through medications.
Enlisted below are a few changes that may prove to be beneficial:
- Consumption of a high-fiber diet consisting of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grain and cereal products, and bran.
- The American Dietetic Association has recommended the consumption of 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.
- Avoidance of foods that contain indigestible roughage, such as celery and corn.
- Foods such as nuts, popcorn hulls, and seeds of sunflower, pumpkin, caraway, and sesame should be avoided or used sparingly.
- Avoid straining yourself while passing stools, and it's best to maintain a normal and healthy bowel routine (avoid getting constipated).
- Desist the intake of extremely hot or cold foods and fluids, as they result in the formation of gas in the abdominal region.
- Hydration is very important for a smooth bowel movement, so one should drink at least 6 - 8 glasses of water per day.
- It's important to lose weight through a proper diet and exercise if one is overweight.
- Alcohol irritates the bowel, and smoking irritates the gastric mucosa. Hence, both should be avoided.
- Consumption of fiber supplements, such as Metamucil and Benefiber aid in bowel movement. These products are available in the forms of powder, pills, or wafers and should be consumed with water.
Once the diverticulum is formed, it cannot be removed without surgical procedures. A good fiber-rich diet is one of the ways to manage the problem, and ensure that it does not aggravate and cause any discomfort. Always remember to seek medical advice at the earliest even when you observe the slightest of the symptoms.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.