Diverticulitis is inflammation of the diverticula, small bulging pouches found along the inner wall of the colon. If you have diverticula, you have diverticulosis. Most people with diverticulosis have no symptoms and don’t need special treatment unless they develop diverticulitis.
At Midwest Hemorrhoid Treatment Center in Creve Coeur, Missouri, we specialize in anorectal disorders affecting the anus and rectum. Though diverticulitis usually occurs in the large intestine, the causes and symptoms of diverticulitis are similar to hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
Given the commonalities, our board-certified family medicine physician, Dr. Betsy Clemens, wants to share some of the leading causes of diverticulitis.
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis
Collectively, diverticulosis and diverticulitis are called diverticular diseases.
If you have diverticulosis, you have small bulging pouches along the lining of your intestine. About 50% of people 60 and older have diverticulosis. Because diverticulosis rarely causes problems, most people only learn they have this common condition after undergoing their routine colon cancer screening.
When you have diverticulitis, you have inflammation or infection in one or more pouches. This is a serious acute condition that causes symptoms like abdominal pain, fever, or blood in stool requiring immediate medical intervention. If left untreated, diverticulitis may lead to a life-threatening infection.
Leading causes of diverticulitis
Researchers are still learning about diverticulosis and diverticulitis and what causes these gastrointestinal (GI) conditions. They theorize that eating a low-fiber diet may play a role in developing the pouches and the infection.
Fiber is a nondigestible carbohydrate that improves bowel habits by adding bulk to stool and improving food waste movement through the large intestine. If you don’t eat enough fiber, you may struggle with constipation.
Researchers theorize that the hard, dry stool stresses the lining of the intestinal wall, creating the pouches. Then, food waste and bacteria get caught in the pouches, creating inflammation and infection ― diverticulitis.
Diet is the connection between diverticulitis and the other anorectal disorders we treat, like hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Adding more fiber to your diet to prevent constipation may help lower your risk of developing diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.
Adults need 25 to 38 grams of fiber a day. You get fiber from plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds. You can add fiber to your diet by including whole fruit with breakfast, snacking on 100% whole-grain crackers, or adding beans to soups and salads.
When increasing fiber, go slowly, adding one high-fiber food at a time. Too much fiber too quickly may worsen your constipation and cause gas and bloating.
Drinking plenty of fluids when upping your fiber intake is also important. Fiber is like a sponge; it needs an adequate water supply in the digestive tract to stay soft and plump so it can easily pass through.
Improving bowel habits can prevent diverticulosis, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, and anal fissures. Let us help you create these healthy habits. Call our office at 636-228-3136 to schedule an appointment today.