Diverticulitis: Causes, Symptoms, Stages, and Prevention

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when there is inflammation or infection of the small pouches in the intestinal wall of the digestive tract. It is also referred to as colonic diverticulitis.

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This diverticulitis is as a result of diverticulosis (Formation of small pouches). These small pouches (diversions) in the colon are formed when the walls of the colon are pressured due to the intake of a strong diet that lacks fibre, which over time, weakens the wall of the colon.

Because this diet is a strong continuous and fiberless one, it forms strong stool pellets, which then pushes the walls of the colon out, which results in the Formation of tiny bulges. In mild cases, It resolves within days to weeks of treatment, diet, and rest is followed seriously.

Diverticulitis is more common after the age of 40. There are less than 100 thousand cases annually in Nigeria, according to statistics provided by the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan.

A person who has diverticulosis may have few or no symptoms.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

Some of the common symptoms of diverticulitis are:

The above symptoms occur as a result of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

  • Colonic obstruction
  • Fever
  • High white blood cell count
  • Pain in the left lower abdomen
  • Inability to keep down food or fluids.

Normally, diverticula should cause no symptoms, although there might be occasional bleeding from a diverticulum. It is referred to as Diverticula bleeding.

Stages of Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula in the large intestine (colon) becomes infected and inflamed.

Diverticulitis comes in two stages, which are Moderate and Severe.

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Moderate Diverticulitis

This is the most common type of diverticulitis. It is still in its early stage with a moderate number of diverticula.

A colonoscopy is carried out by the health care provider to rule out the colonic cancer option. The patient is expected to be rested just as his colon will be rested while on a clear liquid diet for a few days.

Diverticulitis usually occurs due to the pressure exerted on the walls of the colon by hard stool pellets. There should be a gradual but steady increase in fiber intake should be of great help.

Take note that excessive or rushed intake of these fibers might result in constipation and gastritis.

Severe Diverticulitis

This type of diverticulitis is very common among the elderly population as their colon becomes very weak, and the diverticula present becomes readily inflamed.

It gets very severe to the extent that diverticula might get itself fixed to a nearby organ such as the rectum, bladder, or even the kidney leading to the creation of a fistula (forced opening between two organs originally not meant to be).

The colon may never return to its normal size. An increase in high fiber intake might help. Surgery is usually required in this case to manage the patient as nothing much could be done.

Diet for People with Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis diet

Dietary recommendation for people with diverticulosis depends on the following factors:

  • Stage of diverticulitis in a patient
  • Symptomatic effects: presence or absence of symptoms
  • A relapse that occurred during recovery leading to acute diverticulitis

Clear Liquid diet

A clear liquid diet is advised to be taken by a patient with a severe case of diverticulitis for a few days so as to let the inflamed diverticula heal.

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List of items that are to be taken when on a clear liquid diet include:

  • Soup very light with no vegetables or lumpy soup items
  • Fruit juices without pulp, such as apple juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Gelatin
  • Tea or coffee without cream
  • Water

Note that 1 to 2 days or three days at large should be the maximum period for the intake of a clear liquid diet. Anything beyond this would cause the patient to be weakened

Fiber Diet

The essential sources of dietary fiber are:

  • Beans and peas
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, lettuce, carrot, beetroot, etc. without their skin
  • Fruits: Apple, orange, pear
  • Flax seeds
  • Nuts: Groundnuts, cashew nuts, etc
  • Whole wheat
  • Oats
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Wheat bread
  • Cereals
  • Potato
  • Soya bean
  • Wheat spaghetti
  • Almonds
  • Popcorn
  • Dairy products: Milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Meat

Psyllium seed products are fibre supplements that could be taken. But the best option for fibre intake is natural sources.

Prevention of Diverticulitis

Diverticulosis is considered a Western disease as their food content over there is low in fibre. Although there is no food known to cause diverticulosis, the intake of high fibre food and plenty of water should help in the prevention.

Below are some foods encouraged to be taken:

  • Any form of Oats
  • Apples, oranges, grapefruit, etc
  • Pears
  • Beans
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Cereals

Conclusion

The causes of diverticulitis or diverticulosis are unknown, and no particular foods are known to lead to them. High fibre intake might help as studies have shown that diverticulosis and diverticulitis rarely occur in Africa as with the Western world due to the high intake of fibre foods by Africans.

Intake of enough fibre and fluids would help produce soft and bulky stool, thereby reducing the amount of pressure exerted on the walls of the colon.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.