The small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system are known as diverticula. These are found mostly in the lower part of your large intestine i.e., the colon. The presence of diverticula is known as diverticulosis. The condition in which one or more of the pouches gets inflamed or infected is known as diverticulitis. And they cause severe pain in the abdomen, fever, nausea, and due to a change in bowel habits.
What is diverticulosis and diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis: it is the inflammation or infection of pouches that can form in your intestines. And these pouches are known as diverticula. These pouches can be shown anywhere in your intestines.
Diverticulosis: the presence of these pouches (diverticula) is known as diverticulosis. They usually do not cause any symptoms but need to be treated.
Diverticulitis is a more serious condition that cannot be ignored and needs to be treated properly. This is the condition in which you will feel severe pain in the left side of your abdomen including fever.
Symptoms of diverticulosis and diverticulitis:
The symptoms of diverticulosis cannot be usually seen but you can report it in the following conditions:
- Tenderness over the affected area
- Mild cramps in the abdomen
Note- if you only have one or more of these above symptoms, it does not mean you have diverticulosis. Because these can be symptoms of other gastrointestinal disorders like appendicitis, stomach ulcers, etc.
- Severe pain in the lower left side of your abdomen
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
Causes of diverticulosis and diverticulitis
- Those who eat food low in fiber and high in refined oil may increase the risk of it.
- One of the occurrences of these pouches is due to the pressure you create in the intestinal walls through a bowel movement. This pressure can be due to constipation. Those who are often constipated create a pressure that weakens the intestinal walls and through which diverticular pouches are developed.
- Due to low intake of fiber, may lead to storage of the waste in your colon. This causes constipation which puts strain on the walls of your colon. Moreover, the increasing pressure causes the formation of the pouches (diverticula) in the weak areas of your colon.
- The cause of diverticulitis is not that much identified but it can be due to the bacterial infection found in the stool. And the walls of the diverticula are also eroded because of the increasing pressure on the walls of the colon.
Which age group is more at risk?
It is quite common in western populations. The formation of these pouches is mostly found in the growing age, especially in adults over 40 and above. So, the age factor is one of the aspects of forming diverticula. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), around 58 percent of people over 60 have diverticulosis.
What to eat and avoid on a diverticulitis diet?
Diet is one of the essentials in your health outcomes. It gives you a healthier lifestyle through which you can accomplish most of your inabilities.
The following are the dos and don’ts of managing the diverticular disease:
Foods you need to eat –
To avoid constipation and strain, it is important to have essential foods that are as follows:
- Low fiber foods
- White rice, white bread, or white pasta
- Dry or low fiber cereals
- Cooked animal proteins, such as fish, poultry, or eggs
- Olive oil
- Yellow squash, zucchini, or pumpkin without skin or seeds
- Cooked beets, asparagus, spinach
- Fruit and vegetable juice
- Clear liquid diet
- Ice chips
- Soup broth or stock
- Tea or coffee without any creams or flavors
- Electrolytes drinks
Other dietary considerations
Drink plenty of water every day: It is important to drink plenty of water every day. This helps you to keep hydrated and supports your gastrointestinal health.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) looked at the survey data to find the average daily water intake of Americans.
Doctors recommend the following amount of water intake:
- 3.7 liters per day for men, including about 3 liters (approx. 13 cups) in the form of beverages.
- 2.7 liters per day for women, including about 2.2 liters (approx. 9 cups) in the form of beverages.
Foods you need to avoid
We usually take a low-fiber, clear liquid diet during diverticulitis. However, avoidance of certain foods is also important during diverticulitis. And these foods are:
- High FODMAP foods
- FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates. It stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. You need to avoid foods that are high in FODMPs such as:
- certain fruits, like apples, pears, and plums
- dairy foods, like milk, yogurt, and ice cream
- fermented foods, like kimchi
- onions and garlic
Red and processed meat – Eating a diet high in red and processed meats could increase your risk of having diverticulitis. However, a diet containing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could help you to decrease the risk.
Foods high in sugar and fat – The standard western diet is full of fat and sugar, and it is low in fiber. Due to this, it can increase the development of diverticulitis.
The following are the foods that need to be avoided to prevent diverticulitis:
- Red meat
- Refined grains
- Full-fat dairy products
- Fried food like chicken, etc.
Do you need to avoid high-fiber foods?
The effect of fiber depends on person to person. In earlier times, doctors recommended a low-fiber diet or a clean liquid diet to prevent diverticulitis. Now, some doctors do not accept this and avoid it. According to them, dietary fiber improves bowel function. Because of proper digestion, the stool becomes soft and excreted easily. Moreover, it helps to prevent diverticulitis. 
These are the high-fiber foods that you need to be taken:
- Beans and legumes, like navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans
- Whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, oats
Thus, research suggests that eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent diverticulitis.
How are diverticulosis and diverticulitis diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of either diverticulosis or diverticulitis you need to be seen by the healthcare center for diagnosis. These can be done by several diagnostic tests. To diagnose the condition, doctors might perform the following tests:
- scan or X-rays – in this the presence of the pouches (diverticula) can be seen on the computer screen. Also, the surrounding tissue and bones are also viewed to identify the infection.
- Colonoscopy – this is a test in which a flexible lighted tube is used to examine the condition inside of the intestines.
Note ~ always recommend the doctor before the diagnosis of the test. Because, if you have a colonoscopy in case of acute diverticulitis, you can injure your intestines.
CT scan can help to diagnose acute diverticulitis. Make sure to use the right test to diagnose.
Treatments for Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis and diverticulitis can be treated according to the conditions in which they are found. Basically, depending upon the stage they have.
Once the development of the diverticula occurs, they are there unless you have them removed surgically. In the case of mild diverticulosis, you can minimize them by modifying your diet. If you have faced complications regarding the development of diverticulitis you need to see a doctor to recover completely.
Diverticulitis is treated using:
- Modifications in your diet
- Modification in the diet – helps to treat diverticulosis effectively. Drinking at least 8-ounce glasses of water daily to prevent constipation. Because constipation is one of the causes of diverticulosis. And to avoid constipation, use prune juice which can be served as a natural laxative.
Depending upon the stages, it can be treated as:
- In case of acute attacks of diverticulitis, have clear liquids or broths during the swelling of the diverticula.
- In case of the reduction of the diverticula, make use of foods that are high in fiber, such as cooked vegetables, cooked fruits, and apples. Probiotics can also be useful in this condition.
- Use of antibiotics – in the case of mild diverticulitis, the infection can be treated with stool softeners, a liquid diet, bed rest, antibiotics, and with the help of antispasmodic drugs. Moreover, if you have a more severe infection, you will have to be hospitalized to receive more effective care through intravenous (through a vein) antibiotics.
- – in case of severe attacks of acute diverticulitis, you need to have surgery in which your affected section will be removed. You need to have surgery in case your intravenous therapy does not work.
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