Diverticulitis causes intense abdominal pain and occurs when marble-sized pouches in the intestinal wall become inflamed or infected. These pouches, known as diverticula, develop over time and are usually seen in people over 40, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. By the age of 60, over half of Americans have diverticula in their digestive systems, and 10 to 25 percent of them will develop diverticulitis. Extreme cases may require surgical removal of the portion of the intestine most affected. Causes of diverticulitis have not been proven, but theories include genetic predisposition and consumption of a low-fiber diet. Cases occur much more frequently in the United States and countries with diets low in fiber than in African and Asian countries with higher fiber diets, according to the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Diverticulitis is highly treatable, but is it reversible? The ACG confirms that once diverticula are present, they permanently reside in the intestinal wall. Through preventive measures, the chances of inflammation flare-ups can be minimized, if not eliminated. Reversal of diverticulitis is directly linked to colon health, according to the Mayo Clinic. Keeping waste moving smoothly through the colon prevents pressure from building and contaminants from reaching the diverticula, according to the AGC. Doctors have previously suggested avoiding nuts, seeds or similar foods that could become lodged inside the diverticula. Most research supports following a high-fiber diet as the most effective method of preventing, if not reversing, diverticulitis.
Avoiding and Eliminating Diverticulitis
Eat a high-fiber diet: Increase fiber by eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, or whole wheat breads to reduce pressure inside the digestive tract and constipation. The Mayo Clinic recommends an apple, half-cup of spinach or half-cup of kidney beans as examples of fiber-rich foods. Fiber supplements in powder or tablet form are an alternative some people prefer.
Increase exercise: One benefit of exercise beyond overall physical health is to improve bowel function, according to the Mayo Clinic. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the less frequently you exercise, the more likely you are to form new diverticula, a connection still being explored by researchers.
Follow your bowel: Responding to your body when it’s time to go helps relieve pressure and may result in waste that is easier to pass through the affected area. Straining can increase the pressure and possibly cause weak spots in the intestinal wall, which may lead to creating diverticula, according to the NIDDK
Increase liquid intake: To supplement your increased fiber intake, increase the amount of water you drink each day. Liquids help dissolve soluble fiber and keep wastes flowing, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Curious to know the extent of diverticula present in your intestinal wall? Methods of examination include barium enema, colonoscopy or CT scan, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.
Caffeine, alcohol and smoking are unproven but theorized factors in diverticulitis flare-ups, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. Monitor your use of these substances to see whether a connection exists.
Any time you experience abdominal pain, consult your doctor.