The formation of diverticula in the walls of the digestive tract results in a relatively harmless condition known as known as diverticulosis. Some people may not have problems with this condition. However, if undigested food or fecal matter become lodged in the diverticula an infection may develop. This infection or inflammation of the diverticula is called diverticulitis.
It is believed that the primary cause of diverticular disease is a diet low in fiber. The disease is common in developed countries like the United States, England, and Australia because these cultures' diets are low in fiber. On the contrary the disease has a low occurrence in Asian and African countries because people eat high-fiber vegetable diets. Therefore, diverticulitis diets should contain high-fiber fruits and vegetables.
Constipation is another factor in developing diverticular disease because it makes the colon muscles strain to excrete stool that is too hard. Thus, constipation is the primary cause of increased pressure in the colon. This excess pressure causes weak spots that stick out and become diverticula.
Aging and heredity are also primary factors in the development of the disease. For instance, approximately half of all Americans ages sixty to eighty and nearly all adults over age eighty have diverticulosis.
As mentioned earlier, diverticulosis rarely causes many problems. However, symptoms include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. On the other hand diverticulitis, the inflammation of the diverticular, can cause severe cramping that is usually worse on the left side of the lower abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, thin stools, and diarrhea. These symptoms are worse in people who have severe infections and complications.
Since constipation is a key factor in developing this disease, it is crucial to prevent it. One of the primary causes of constipation is lack of fiber. Other factors include, not drinking enough water, lack of exercise, stress, and not responding to the urge to move the bowels.
It is evident how crucial a role fiber plays in developing diverticular disease. Therefore, diverticulitis diets – for both prevention and treatment – should contain plenty of fiber (The daily recommended amount is 25 to 35 grams per day). Diverticulitis diets should also be low in refined and processed foods.
When diverticulitis sufferers are having mild attacks, their doctors may recommend diverticulitis diets that include liquids and low-fiber foods. This helps the infected area to heal. However, once the symptoms improve they should gradually – to avoid gas, bloating, and constipation – increase their fiber to the daily recommended amounts.
Diverticular disease can be relatively harmless or very painful and debilitating. The best defense against developing the disease and a good treatment if you have the disease is to eat a fiber-rich diet.