What Is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a result of developing diverticulosis (pouches formed in the walls of your intestine that have no signs of inflammation). When pouches form in the walls of your colon and become inflamed or infected, it can be very painful. Doctors aren’t sure what causes diverticulitis, but the evidence shows that a low-fiber, high-fat diet can play a large role in its development. If you are not adding any fiber to your diet, your stool does not have enough bulkiness and your colon has to work harder than normal to push your stool out of your rectum. The pressure from this extra effort can cause pouches to form in these damaged areas of your colon. Bacteria grow in these pouches and cause inflammation.
In the United States, fifty percent of adults over the age of sixty have or have had diverticulosis. Around twenty percent of those adults develop diverticulitis. People who live in countries with a low fiber diet and high red meat consumption (such as the U.S. and other developed nations) are more likely to get diverticulitis; it is rarely an issue in countries that have a high-fiber diet that is rich in vegetables.
Fiber is extremely necessary for your body to properly digest your food. The healthy functioning of your digestive tract can help you feel full and stay fit and healthy. Not having enough fiber can lead to:
- Elevated Levels of Cholesterol and Sugar in your Blood
Having too much fiber can lead to:
- Bowel Obstruction
The standard healthy amount of fiber required each day is 25 grams. Remember, if you are increasing your fiber intake, it is imperative that you also increase your water intake. Here are some versatile, high fiber foods:
- Leafy Greens
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Symptoms of Diverticulitis
- Belly Pain
- Bloating and Gas
- Diarrhea or Constipation
- Fever and Chills
- Lack of Appetite
- Nausea and Vomiting
The primary cause of diverticulitis isn’t known. Bacteria grow in corners of your intestines; these corners form pouches that become infected or inflamed. Pressure may lead to small perforations or tears in your intestinal wall. You could develop peritonitis as a result of your infection spilling into your abdominal cavity. In this case, your diverticulitis would require colon surgery.
After asking you about your symptoms your doctor will physically examine you and administer tests that will determine whether you have an infection. These tests will also make sure you don’t have any other health problems. Your doctor will most likely perform the following:
- Blood Tests
- X-Rays, CT-Scan
Depending on how bad your symptoms are you may need to consume a liquid diet for a while. You will be able to return to solid food when you are feeling better. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
If you are experiencing chronic pain or a bowel obstruction and your body is not responding to antibiotics, you may need diverticulitis surgery on your colon. If you are diagnosed with any of the following, you will need colon surgery.
- Abscess (a pocket of infection)
- Fistula (an abnormal connection between organs)
- Peritonitis (infection spilling into your abdominal cavity)
When Colon Surgery is Needed
The surgeon will cleanse your infected abdominal cavity and removes the portion of your colon that is affected by diverticulitis. Your surgeon will re-attach the two ends of the colon. If you are diagnosed with a perforation, abscess, peritonitis, severe bleeding, or intestinal obstruction, you will undergo two surgeries instead of one. Between the first and second surgery, you will have a temporary colostomy (your colon will be diverted to an artificial opening in your abdominal wall). Your stool will be collected in a pouch instead of being ejected from your rectum, and several weeks later your surgeon will rejoin the ends of your colon.
The recovery period for a colon surgery can be long; the shortest recovery time is usually between six and eight weeks. You will be able to start walking and looking like yourself within three days, and rapid improvements in your movement and ability usually occur. These are some after-effects of surgery that you may experience in the medium or long term:
- Blood Clots
- Emotional Distress
- Sexual Dysfunction
These symptoms may require more treatment and delay your recovery. The most important thing is to restore (or introduce) responsible eating and bowel habits into your routine.
Eating a high-fiber diet that is also low-fat, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular exercise is necessary for the prevention of diverticulitis. If you have already been diagnosed with diverticulitis, it is not too late! Don’t wait until it gets worse to make better eating decisions. The most important aspect of your food habits is the intake of high fiber foods that are also low in fat.
Just remember: high-fiber and low-fat, nothing can go wrong with that!