Diverticulitis occurs when there is inflammation and infection in diverticula, or small, bulging pouches in the lining of the digestive system. Diverticula are most often found in the lower part of the large intestine, or the colon, are very common, especially after age 40, and rarely cause problems.
When one or more of the pouches become inflamed or infected, the condition is known as diverticulitis.
While diverticulitis can be hereditary, it is certainly manageable and has a good prognosis. Mild diverticulitis can be treated with rest, antibiotics, and changes in your diet.
What foods trigger diverticulitis?
There are a number of foods, including those low in fiber or high in sugar, that may increase the risk of developing diverticulitis or trigger symptoms. These foods include red meats, processed meats, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products.
Other factors contributing to flare-ups include age (over age 40); obesity; physical inactivity; a diet high in animal products and low in fibers; and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids or opioids.
What does diverticulitis feel like?
Diverticulitis, infection, and inflammation of diverticula can occur suddenly and without warning. Typical symptoms include:
- Painful cramps or tenderness that is constant and persistent, particularly in the lower left side of the abdomen
- Nausea or vomiting
- Constipation, sometimes severe
- Fever and chills
How is diverticulitis treated?
Typically, diverticulitis is treated first with oral antibiotics. Your physician may recommend taking over-the-counter medications for pain and following a low-fiber or liquid diet until your symptoms improve. Once the episode passes, you may slowly return to soft foods, then a more diet, which should also include high-fiber foods.
If your condition is more severe, you have rectal bleeding or you are having repeated occurrences of diverticulitis, your physician may admit you to the hospital to receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics and fluids. Surgery may be considered if you suffer from abscesses, a tear/perforation in your color, blockages or strictures, fistulas, continued bleeding, or severe symptoms that are not responding to treatment.
What is the difference between diverticulitis and diverticulosis?
Diverticulosis is the presence of one or more diverticula or small growths or polyps in your colon wall. It is a common condition, does not cause symptoms, and does not require treatment. Diverticulitis is characterized by inflammation and infection of diverticula, which typically will require some intervention, whether antibiotics or surgery for more serious cases.
How can you prevent diverticulitis?
There are several lifestyle changes that can help you prevent diverticulitis:
- Exercise regularly: exercise (30 minutes or more daily) promotes normal bowel function
- Eat more fiber: fiber-rich foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, help waste material pass through your digestive tract more quickly
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid smoking
If you are experiencing constant and persistent abdominal pain, it’s important to get with a specialist right away to evaluate your pain, your diet, and your lifestyle. Digestive Health Centers can help, and we’re ready to have a conversation with you about diverticulitis or any other digestive issues you have. Contact us today.