Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticuli in the colon rupture. The rupture results in infection in the tissues which surround the colon. The colon is the large intestine and is a long tube like striation that stores and then eliminates waste material. As a person gets older, pressure within the colon causes bulging pockets of tissue, or sacs, that push out from the colon walls. A small bulging sac pushing outward from the colon wall is called a diverticulum. More than one bulging sac is referred to as diverticula. Diverticula can occur throughout the colon, but most are common near the end of the left colon. This is referred to as the sigmoid colon. The condition of having these diverticula in the colon is called diverticulosis.

Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis

 

Many people have small pouches in their colons that bulge outward through weak spots, similar to an inner tube that protrudes through weak places in a tire. Each pouch is called a diverticulum, or diverticula. The condition of having diverticula is called diverticulitis. About 10 percent of Americans over the age of 40 have diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age. About half of all people over the age of 60 have diverticulosis. When the pouches become infected or inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis. This will occur in 10 to 20 percent of people with diverticulosis. Diverticulosis and diverticulitis are also called diverticular disease.

 

Most people with diverticulosis do not have any symptoms or discomfort to speak of. However, symptoms may include bloating, mild cramps, and constipation. Other diseases including irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers cause similar problems. Because of these symptoms it is not an automatic indicator that a person has diverticulosis. Visiting a doctor for a diagnosis is very important if one is having these troubling symptoms. The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain. The most common sign is tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. If infection is the cause, constipation, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, and cramping may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infection and complications.

 

It has not yet been proven that a low fiber diet is the main cause of diverticular disease. The disease was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900’s. Around the same time, processed foods were introduced into the American diet. Many processed foods contain low fiber and refined flour. Refined flour, as opposed to whole wheat flour, has no wheat bran, therefore, no fiber. Fiber is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that the body is unable to digest. Some fiber dissolves easily in water, called insoluble fiber. Both kinds of fiber help make stools soft and easy to pass. Fiber also helps to prevent constipation. Constipation makes the muscles strain to move stool that is too hard. It is the main cause of increased pressure in the colon. The excess pressure may cause the weak spots in the colon to bulge out and become diverticula.

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