What Is Diverticulitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Natural Treatments
7 minute read
Diverticulitis is a form of irritable bowel disease that you can develop after the age of 40. As you get older, it is important to learn about the condition and listen to what your stomach is telling you.
Understanding diverticulitis can aid in diagnosis, treatment, and especially in prevention. Here are the symptoms and signs to watch out for, treatment options, and how you can work to stop it from ever occurring.
Diverticulitis is an inflammatory condition that causes pain in your digestive tract. If not caught quickly and treated, it can become very serious.
Your digestive tract contains small pouch-like structures (diverticula). When these become inflamed or infected, the condition diverticulitis develops.
Close to 200,000 people go to the hospital each year with diverticulitis. This may not be the most common digestive issue, but it is serious and common enough to warrant your attention.
Certain parts of your intestine are weaker than others, specifically the sigmoid colon, which is the last part of the large intestine before the rectum. In this area, the inner, soft tissue layer of your intestinal wall can pass through the outer layer forming a pocket or diverticula.
The exact reasons behind this are unknown but there are a few factors believed to contribute to it. Obesity and not getting enough exercise have been linked to the formation of diverticula, as has consumption of too much red meat.
It is also believed that a low fiber diet contributes to the diverticula in the sense that a lack of fiber increases your chances of constipation and disruption to digestive flow. Additional risk factors that have been linked through studies to diverticula formation include:
♦ Decreased levels of serotonin
♦ Use of steroids and opiates
♦ Excessive use of NSAIDs
The formation of the diverticula in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when these pockets become inflamed or infected. The most popularly thought reason that this can happen involves increased pressure in your colon arising from constipation and other digestive issues.
Bacteria or lodged fecal matter can become trapped n the pockets, thus leading to infection and inflammation of the area.
Signs of Diverticulitis
Because it is important to identify and seek treatment right away for diverticulitis, knowledge of symptoms is critical. Pain in the lower left side of the abdomen and sometime in the right side too is the main symptom for diverticulitis.
When the pain is persistent and lasts for several days, you need to bring this to your doctor’s attention for testing. Additional signs to look out for include:
♦ Nausea and vomiting
♦ Abdominal tenderness
How to Treat Diverticulitis
The typical treatment for diverticulitis is a course of antibiotics if there is an infection. You should also get rest and drink plenty of fluids to allow time for your gut to heal.
Without treatment, diverticulitis can result in the formation of abscesses. If these get through your intestinal wall, a serious infection known as peritonitis can develop. Untreated diverticulitis may need surgery to correct the serious complications that can arise.
Outside of medical treatment, there are natural remedies you can try at home to soothe the inflammation and allow your gut to heal. These remedies can also be used as preventative measures to keep you from getting diverticulitis in the first place.
Probiotics: The role bacteria play in diverticulitis is what makes probiotics beneficial. Probiotics support and replenish the beneficial flora in your gut, and this prevents harmful bacteria from flourishing. With the harmful strains in check, there is less risk for infection of the diverticula and reduced inflammation.
| Related: Can Probiotics Help With Ulcerative Colitis? |
Try a probiotic supplement or introduce probiotic foods such as yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut to your diet.
Chamomile tea: Knows for its soothing and calming effects, chamomile tea has long-been used to reduce inflammation and pain. In this way, it can also help soothe irritated diverticula and reduce inflammation in your intestines.
A fresh cup of tea will calm your diverticulitis symptoms and your mind.
Flaxseed: Ground flaxseed is full of fiber, making it a natural stool softener. Consumed daily, ground flaxseed can help promote healthier bowel movements which reduces the risk of infection in your gut.
The good news is that flaxseed does not have a distinct flavor, so you can pretty much add it to any meal.
Red meat reduction: Consumption of too much red meat has been shown to weaken your intestinal walls. This creates the ideal situation for diverticula pockets to form.
Too much red meat also increases cholesterol, which can lead to obesity and increased risk of diverticulitis. It is best to just limit the amount of red meat you eat for overall better health.
Heat: Cramping is a common symptom of diverticulitis and heat is the best way to relax the muscles and prevent cramping. A hot water bag or compress across your stomach as you lie down is all you need.
In cases of extreme discomfort you can try a heat patch to wear under your clothes so you get extended relief through the day.
Stay active: Studies have shown a link between inactivity and an increased risk of diverticulitis. You only need thirty minutes of activity a day to promote better health and protect yourself from disease.
If it is hard to stick to a routine, try exercising with a friend to get support and motivation while you fight to keep diverticulitis away.
Relaxation exercises: Meditation and yoga help you to relax not just your mind but your body too. With relaxation of the mind and muscles also comes reduced stress, and therefore reduced inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Diverticulitis is common and can lead to serious complications if untreated. Because the risk for this disease increases with age, it is important to educate yourself on the symptoms and risk factors.
The more you know, the better you can identify and treat the condition before it gets worse. Promote optimal gut health with a balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and keep diverticulitis as a word you know rather than a condition you endure.