Diverticulitis is a painful and debilitating condition involving inflammation in the digestive tract. It’s categorized by the presence of diverticula, which are bulging pockets within the colon and intestinal lining. Risk of developing a diverticular disease increases as you age. Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics but severe cases may result in surgery or death. Here’s everything you need to know about diverticulitis symptoms, treatment, and prevention!
What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis generally begins in the large intestine with a bulging pocket known as diverticula . The presence of diverticula is known as diverticulosis.
These abnormal pouches are actually quite common. They don’t have many symptoms (if any) and can go away without treatment.
Diverticula typically develop within weak areas of the colon that succumb to pressure. When pressure (like stress or forced bowel movements) pushes on these pouches, they can break through the intestines’ walls.
When diverticula rupture, they become inflamed. Eventually, these pouches develop an infection. They form abscesses that secrete pus into the system. This reaction leads to the development of diverticulitis.
Those diagnosed with diverticulosis and/or diverticulitis are also diagnosed with diverticular disease.
Complications Associated with Diverticulitis
10-25% of people with diverticulitis are at an increased risk of another medical diagnosis . That’s why it’s so important to see a doctor if you believe you have an infection.
Complications related to diverticulitis may include:
• Bowel Obstruction/Scarring
• Abscesses and Perforation/Rupturing
• Fistulas/Strictures – Abnormal Connections in Intestines That Lead to Bacteria Growth
• Peritonitis – Intestinal Contents Burst Into Abdominal Cavity
• Lower Gastrointestinal Hemorrhages
• Possible Death (Very Rare/Typically Associated with Peritonitis)
Please seek a medical professional if you have any reason to think you might have diverticulitis.
Who Is At Risk for Diverticulitis?
Elderly people are at an increased risk of diverticulitis. Up to 50% of people over 60 develop diverticulitis.  Much like colorectal cancer, diverticulitis is becoming increasingly common in young generations.
There aren’t any studies to confirm why diverticulitis cases are growing. However, they are rising besides our growing reliance on mass-produced food products.
A steady diet of highly processed foods can cause long-term inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause blockages through the intestines.
These blockages can prevent nutrient absorption, cause more inflammation, and promote weight gain. All of these can cause immense pressure on the GI tract, especially when you try to force bowel movements. With time, these forced bathroom trips can cause diverticula to rupture and inevitably, become infected.
What Are Symptoms of Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis can cause many uncomfortable sensations throughout the digestive tract. It’s essential you pay attention to these symptoms. If they worsen, please contact a physician.
Diverticulitis symptoms include:
• Constant Bloating
• Abdomen Pain
• Bloody Stool
• Painful Gas
When stool becomes bloody, it can be a clear indicator of an infection or tear in your intestines. Also, cramping on the left side when you pass gas or make a bowel movement might indicate diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis symptoms overlap with many common bowel problems, including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s important to talk to your doctor to get an official diagnosis so that you can start your road to treatment plan immediately.
How to Diagnose Diverticulitis
A diverticulitis diagnosis can save your life. Be open and honest about your diet and exercise habits when you talk to your doctor. They need all the information necessary to help limit your episodes of diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis diagnosis may include:
• Angiography – Determines Where Rectal Bleeding Is Occurring
• Barium Enema- Uses Barium to X-Ray Colon
• Colonoscopy – Scans Ulcers, Growths, Polyps, etc.
• CT Scan – Determines Diverticulitis Severity
• Rectum Exam – Gloved Finger Analysis
• Stool Sample Analysis – Bacterial Test
• Sigmoidoscopy – Camera Checks How Much Diverticula Are In Sigmoid Colon
• Blood Test – Measures Inflammation In Body Through White Blood Cells
There are conflicting reports on diverticulitis diagnosis, especially when it comes to colonoscopies. They might not detect all the diverticula in your GI tract. It’s important to discuss multiple test procedures to get a full scope of your intestinal health.
What Are Diverticulitis Treatments?
Diverticulitis is a treatable condition that, left unchecked, could have catastrophic consequences. It is imperative to get a proper diagnosis and start your diverticulitis treatment immediately to prevent further health complications.
Mild diverticulitis treatments include:
• Rest and Sleep
• Liquid Diets (Fruit juices Without Pulp, Tea, Water, Ice Chips, Bone Broth)
• Low-Fiber Diet (Temporary Until Healed)
• Oral Antibiotics
As problems cease, you can gradually integrate soft foods into your diet. Slowly increase your fiber intake and stay away from processed foods and unhealthy fats.
There are also instances that require more intervention.
Severe diverticulitis cases might require:
• Bowel or Sigmoid Resection – Rectal Surgeon Removes Infected Colon and Stitches Back Together
• IV Antibiotics – In Cases of Severe Rectal Bleeding
These treatments can be uncomfortable and costly. Be proactive with your health by talking to a physician when symptoms of diverticulitis persist.
Diverticulitis can be avoidable with a couple of lifestyle changes. Eliminating potential risk factors are key to a healthier and happier life. Here are some ways that you can decrease your risk of developing diverticulitis.
Ditch Saturated Fats
There is a strong line between diverticulitis and consuming saturated fats found in animal products and processed goods [*]. These foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids that litter the waistline and spark inflammation.
Consider eating more monounsaturated fatty acids. They provide the gut with metabolites that help heal the gut lining.
The best sources of fat for diverticulitis prevention include:
You can also integrate some polyunsaturated fatty acids into your diet. They are not as stable as monounsaturated fatty acids and can become prone to creating free radicals. However, they do contain necessary amino acids that are essential for a healthy gut.
Good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids include:
• Flax Seed
• Sunflower Seeds
Be sure to talk to your doctor prior to making any dietary changes.
Eat High-Fiber Diet
A low-fiber diet is helpful when recovering from diverticulitis because you don’t want to add pressure to your diverticula. When your low-fiber diet days are over, women should have 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day. Men should hover between 30 and 28 grams .
Some of the best high-fiber foods for diverticulitis include:
• Fruits (Berries, Apples, Bananas)
•Vegetables (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Green Peas) Fruit Oils
• Whole Grains (Whole Wheat Pasta, Barley, Quinoa)
• Legumes (Black Beans, Split Peas)
• Seeds (Chia, Sunflower)
• Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios)
Increasing dietary fiber is the most important step in diverticulitis prevention. Fiber helps eliminate toxins from that body that cause inflammation. These benefits include the toxins in the large intestine!
Cut Back on NSAIDs
Studies show that long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can cause long-term inflammation that leads to diverticulitis . Long-term use of these medicines can cause perforation that leads to infection.