Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
What is Diverticulosis
About 50 percent of all Americans aged 60+ have small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in their digestive system. This condition is known as diverticulosis. Although diverticula can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach and/or small intestine, most of these pouches form in the large intestine (colon) above the rectum. The pouches form when pressure inside the colon builds up, typically due to constipation.
What Causes Diverticulosis
A low-fiber diet is considered to be the main cause of diverticular problems. First diagnosed in the United States in the early 1900s, and now common throughout developed countries, the emergence of diverticular disease coincided with the introduction of low-fiber processed foods (eg. branless refined flour). Even now, the disease is rare in Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber vegetable diets.
Symptoms of Diverticulosis
Symptoms may include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. However, these complaints are common to several other diseases like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers, so they are not always attributable to diverticulosis.
Most Cases of Diverticulosis Remain Minor and Unnoticed
Fortunately, in 80-85 percent of patients, these pouches or diverticula cause no problems and patients don’t even realise they have them.
Diverticulosis May Develop Into Diverticulitis
Occasionally, the pouches or diverticula can become infected and cause discomfort around the left side of the lower abdomen. In some cases they can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and a marked change in bowel habits. When diverticula get infected, the condition is called diverticulitis. An attack of diverticulitis can develop suddenly and without warning. Doctors are unsure what causes the infection. It may be triggered when stool or bacteria are caught in the diverticula.