Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis, the word looks scary but it's not hard to pronounce di - ver - tic -u -LI - tis. What is it?

Imagine a pimple, a pore on your face which becomes infected and swells. Now imagine that pimple happening alongside your large intestine. As people age, small sacs or pouches, (like pores in the skin) form along the intestine. The sacs are called diverticula and the condition is called diverticulosis. If digested food (feces) becomes trapped in these pouches and becomes inflamed, it's called  diverticulitis.

No one really knows what causes these small sacs to form but it's very common with more than half of Americans over age 60 having diverticulosis that can be seen during a colonoscopy. There are usually no symptoms for diverticulosis (sacs only). Diverticulitis is a different story and can often start suddenly with
  • Tenderness or pain, usually in the left lower side of the abdomen
  • Bloating or gas
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Not feeling hungry and not eating
That sounds a bit like GERD or even the flu. I'd guess the first two items, tenderness and bloating are the symptoms to watch for. Pain on one side of the abdomen could be appendicitis, potentially very serious. See your doctor!

Treatment for severe cases may require hospitalization. Or your doctor may suggest:
  • Rest in bed and possibly use a heating pad on your belly for the pain
  • Take pain medicines
  • Drink only fluids for a day or two, and then slowly begin drinking thicker liquids and then eating foods
  • Antibiotics.
Fiber is recommended - think of it as the equivalent of washing your face for pimples. But too much fiber may make one gassy so find the right balance.

Once you have the sacs you have them for life. Traditionally diverticulosis patients are recommended to avoid food items that may become trapped in the gut sacs like coarse grains, nuts, coconut, corn and popcorn, dried fruits, skins on vegetables and fruits, and seeds from tomatoes, strawberries, pickles, and cucumbers. However the Mayo Clinic reports that current research has shown that these foods aren't associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis. So the cause remains a mystery.

For more information see...
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diverticulitis/DS00070

http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/tc/diverticulitis-topic-overview

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001303/

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