Diverticulitis consists of small, bulging sacs or pouches of the inner lining of the intestine that become inflamed or infected. Most often, these pouches are in the large intestine. A combination of pain on the left lower quadrant pain, fever, and leukocytosis (an elevation of the white cell count in blood tests) is what distinguishes diverticulitis. Patients may also complain of nausea or diarrhea; others may be constipated.
The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain. The most common sign is tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. Less commonly, an individual with diverticulitis may present with right-sided abdominal pain. This may be due to the less prevalent right-sided diverticula or a very redundant sigmoid colon.
If infection is the cause, then nausea, vomiting, feeling hot while having no fever, cramping and constipation may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infection and complications. Diverticulitis worsens throughout the day, as it starts as small pains and slowly turns into vomiting and sharp pains.
What are the Causes?
A poor diet combined with chronic constipation is the most likely cause of diverticulitis. A diet high in sugar and white flour, cold cereal, cookies, crackers and cakes leads to constipation, which in turn causes people to strain when passing stools. This pressure may cause the pouches to form.
This has become very common since the inception of processed food. More than half of Americans over 60 have diverticulosis, while a small percentage will get diverticulitis. Diverticulitis is caused by small pieces of stool (feces) that become trapped in these pouches, causing infection or inflammation.
Another strong link to diverticulitis comes from the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Motrin). Researchers examined 22 years worth of data on 47,275 men (ages 40-75) and found that men who took NSAIDs two or more times weekly were significantly more likely to develop diverticulitis than men who did not take NAIDs. The same is believed to be true for women. The hypothesis is that NSAIDs allow an influx of bacteria and other toxins along with internal ruptures.
Diet and Lifestyle
The diet for diverticulitis follows the same principles as for constipation. The only difference is that avoiding nuts and seeds that are not ground into a powder may be necessary as hard chunks of anything can get stuck in the pockets; even a piece of raw carrot. Contrary to common belief, a person with diverticulitis should not adhere to a mushy, low-fiber diet; this actually serves to compound the problem.
Protein: Utilizing vegetarian sources of protein will also be beneficial since animal protein may stick to the colon. Choose fish, eggs, lentils, and chicken in small amounts. Beef can often be a problem.
Carbohydrates: Choose a combination of raw and cooked vegetables and fruits. When choosing raw, choose soft vegetables and fruits, and cook the harder ones.
Fat: Olive oil, coconut oil and avocados will be the best sources.
Fermented Foods: Yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut are excellent additions to meals because they help breakdown food and move it along.
Best juices: Carrot, beet, celery, papaya, apple, lemon, pineapple. Aloe Vera juice and chamomile tea are very healing and soothing to the intestinal tract and colon.
Homemade Chicken Broth: Put 4 quarts of water in with 1 chicken, 1 onion, 4 large chopped carrots, 4 sticks of chopped celery, and 4 whole garlic cloves. Simmer for 6 hours and strain. Drink throughout the day.
Water: Drink 6-8 cups pure water daily.
Relaxation: Stress, anger, and a negative attitude can also contribute to the tense or painful condition in the colon. It is therefore extremely important to practice relaxation methods daily.
Recommended Supplementation for Diverticulitis
Replenishes good bacteria.
Heals heal the gut lining.
Aids in digestion; also a good source of Vitamin K. A deficiency in K has been linked to intestinal health-issues. Contact Swanson Health Center for the product we recommend unavailable online.
Helps keep regularity and reduce pain by relaxing the stomach muscles.
Reduces inflammation and prevents infection.
1. Strate, Lisa L. MD, assistant professor of gastroenterology, University of Washington, Seattle.