Diverticulitis is preceded by Diverticulosis.
The colon (large bowel) is a long tube-like structure that stores and then eliminates waste material left over after digestion of food. Some experts believe that abnormal intermittent high pressure in the colon due to muscle spasm or straining often as a result of constipation &/or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), causes weak spots-bulging pockets of tissue (called diverticula), that push out from the bowel walls like grapes. Once diverticula form, they do not disappear by themselves and becomes known as diverticulosis.
Diverticulosis is a common condition in the United States that affects half of all people over 60 years of age and nearly everyone by the age of 80. As a person gets older, the pouches in the digestive tract become more prominent. Fortunately, most patients with diverticulosis do not have symptoms, and therefore do not need treatment. However, in some people it may lead to several complications including inflammation, infection, bleeding, or intestinal blockage.
Diverticulitis typically occurs when these pockets become irritated, inflamed, and infected.
People with diverticulitis can develop related complications including:
- Abscess – a collection of infected fluid outside of the intestinal/colon wall.
- Stricture – a narrowing of the colon in the area of diverticulitis
- Fistula – a connection between the bowel and nearby organs including the bladder or the vagina.
- Perforation – a hole in the colon that allows bowel contents to leak into the abdomen. This is the most serious complication of diverticulitis.
Bleeding can occur from a rupture in one of the vessels that lines a diverticulum. Bleeding from diverticulosis is a less common complication of diverticulosis than diverticulitis. Patients with this condition typically pass a large amount of red or maroon blood from the rectum. The bleeding tends to occur without warning and there is no associated abdominal pain. Most bleeding will stop on its own. Repeated attacks of diverticulitis may require surgery to remove the affected portion of the colon.
How can diverticulosis be prevented?
Having regular bowel movements and avoiding constipation and straining is important to prevent diverticular disease and reduce its complications.
Adding fiber such as psyllium powder or capsules, bran and ground flax seeds to your diet pulls more water into stool, making it bulkier, softer, and easier to move — and move more quickly — through your colon. Just be careful not to take too much or it can become irritating and cause inflammation, gas, and potential constipation/diarrhea. It is best to start with a small amount such as ¼ tsp and gradually increase the dosage based on how you feel.
Drink plenty of water: Eating more fiber absorbs more water, so you will need to increase the amount of water you drink to keep stool soft and on the move. Exercise daily: Physical movement gets the bowel muscles stimulated and helps food pass through your intestinal system. Exercising for 15 to 30 minutes on most days if you can be greatly beneficial.
If constipation is a chronic issue taking magnesium is a natural stool softener. The dosage varies from person to person, so start low and increase until the stools become slightly soft.
To prevent infection of the diverticula (pouches) take Oreganol (oil of oregano) capsules (North American Herb & Spice) 1 cap 2-3 x a day before meals.
To decrease pain and inflammation of the colon take enteric coated peppermint oil capsules 2-3 x day before meals.
Take a good probiotic 1-2 x day and keep 1 hour away from food (Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotic) will help digest foods properly and improve immune system function within the colon.
Eliminate as much dairy products as possible as they are very constipating. Instead use dairy substitutes like coconut milk, almond milk, or rice milk products. Do not eat a lot of bananas, they are constipating too.
Eliminate white flour and limit wheat flour products like bread and pasta, instead eat other grains and incorporate more gluten free products like Quinoa pasta.
Remember it is extremely important to have a regular easy bowel movement every day!
Even 2-3 times a day would be great providing you are not experiencing cramping/pain, having loose stools or uncontrolled urgency.
If you are experiencing chronic constipation or diverticulitis episodes, and need specific instructions, appointments are available at the Tree of Life Wellness Center (telephone or in-office) at 508-336-4242.
Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner Tree of Life Wellness Center - Seekonk Massachusetts
Host Holistic Healthline Radio
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