Diverticula are small, pea-sized, bulging pouches in the digestive tract. While diverticula can form anywhere, most occur in your large intestine and are many times found in people that experience frequent constipation.
Having diverticula in the intestines is known as diverticulosis. This condition is many times unrecognized by the person affected because diverticulosis seldom causes any problems. Every once in a while however, diverticula can become infected or inflamed. This condition is called diverticulitis.
Many experts believe that a low-fiber diet is a key contributor to diverticulitis. Reason being is lack of fiber in the diet can make stool sometimes harder to pass. The excess pressure can result in certain areas of the colon to become weakened and collapse. This results in marble-sized pouches (diverticula) protruding through the colon wall. These pouches, which are small at first, but become larger gradually; typically develop in the sigmoid and descending colon. These are the lower portions of your large intestine just above your rectum. They are often the result of straining during bowel movements over a number of years.
Sometimes stool can become lodged in one of the pouches and the result can be an infection. Small tears or perforations can also develop in an infected pouch, which can lead to an infection within your abdomen (peritonitis). A person may also develop a collection of pus called an abscess if the infection is limited to an area around the wall of your colon where the diverticula are inflamed.
Diverticulitis can be acute or chronic. The majority of people affected are usually between the ages of 50 and 90. One reason that older people are generally more affected is that the walls of the large intestine tend to weaken with age.
For many people, symptoms are non-existent or mistaken for simple indigestion. For those who do experience symptoms, a pain in the lower left side of the abdomen is common. The pain is typically severe and surfaces rather abruptly. However, sometimes a person can experience a mild pain that can worsen over several days and have a fluctuating intensity.
Other typical symptoms include abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea, and constipation or diarrhea.
Less common signs and symptoms of diverticulitis may include:
The best steps you can take in treating diverticulitis have to do with your lifestyle.
A high fiber diet has been shown to be protective against diverticular disease. You'll need at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day to help prevent problems from diverticulosis. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals that are high in fiber and bran. Be sure to drink plenty of pure water each day, as a high fiber diet will not be effective without adequate water consumption.
Studies have also shown physical activity, specifically jogging or running, to protect against symptomatic diverticular disease.
Avoid foods such as celery and corn as these foods contain indigestible roughage and use bran to prevent constipation.
Eat a diet with your primary source of protein being from fish & vegetables. Stay away from grains, seeds or nuts, as these foods can be hard to digest which results in bloating & gas. Other foods that should be avoided include dairy products, red meat, fried foods, spices, sugar products as well as processed & refined foods.
Also remember to:
Avoid extremely hot or cold foods and fluids (which cause gas).
When you feel an attack or pain coming on, give yourself a cleansing enema with 2 quarts of luke-warm water mixed with the juice from a fresh squeezed lemon. This will aid in ridding the colon of undigested food that has been trapped and will also relieve pain.
Aside from lifestyle changes, supplementing with the following can also be helpful:
Acidophilus (Take as directed on label) - Helps support a healthy intestinal tract (gut) and replaces the flora in the small intestine, primarily to improve assimilation.
Fiber (Take as directed on label) - Helps prevent constipation. Also prevents infection.
Super Greens Formula - Garden of Life provides an excellent greens formula that is high in chlorophyll, which is extremely beneficial for this condition. Diverticulosis sufferers also seem to do better when chlorella is part of the diet. Chlorella will provide you with all the benefits of magnesium, carotenoids, chlorophyll and much more.
Vitamin B Complex (100 mg 3 times daily) - Aids in proper digestion.
Proteolytic Enzymes (Take as directed on label, between meals) - Aids in digestion & reduces inflammation in the colon.
Essential Fatty Acids (Take as directed on label) - Aids in protecting the cells that line the wall of the colon.
L-Glutamine (500 mg twice daily. Take with water or juice but never with milk) - Maintains the absorption surfaces of the gut called the villi.
Vitamin C - Anti-inflammatory and boosts immunity. I recommend a minimum of 3,000 to 8,000 mg daily in divided doses.
Garlic - Aids in digestion and is a natural antibiotic. I personally use Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract by Wakunaga, which is a high-quality odorless organic supplement. Take 2 capsules 3 times daily.
Alfalfa (2,000 mg in capsules or tincture) - Natural source of vitamin K and essential minerals that most people with intestinal disorders are lacking. Also contains chlorophyll, which aids in healing.
Aloe Vera Juice (Drink ½ cup 3 times a day) - promotes healing of the inflamed areas.