Diverticulitis

What Is Painful Diverticulitis?

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Diverticulitis is a colon that has little pea-size bulges diverticula on its outer wall. The bulges are the colon lining that has pushed its way through the colon's muscular wall. About half of all people over 50 have diverticulosis. It's prevalent because our diet is too refined. The outer coat of grains the bran is removed when flour is refined. Bran is fiber, and fiber keeps undigested food moist in its passage through the colon. When food residue dries, the colon has to exert great pressure to pass it downward and outward. That high pressure balloons the colon lining through the colon wall to form diverticula on the outside surface of the colon.

Most of the time, diverticula produce no symptoms. Only about one in every 10 diverticulosis patients complains of lower-stomach discomfort, most often on the left side and most often mild. The treatment of diverticulosis is a gradual increase in the amount of daily fiber. People should work toward getting 25 grams of fiber every day.

Diverticulitis is diverticulosis when the diverticula have become inflamed. The inflammation occurs if bits of hard stool clog the neck of the diverticulum. Diverticula swell and their blood supply can be cut off. This brings on severe stomach pain, and it usually makes the person nauseated and provokes vomiting. Body temperature rises. Sometimes there is rectal bleeding. People with diverticulitis are maximally uncomfortable and seek medical help promptly.

A diverticulum is a pea- to grape-sized protrusion of the colon lining through the colon's muscular wall. It's a very common condition in Western countries - about 5 percent of people in their 40s have diverticula; by age 80 more than 50 percent have it.

It's believed to come from our highly refined diet. In preparing grains, we discard the outer cover of grain - the bran. Bran contains fiber, and fiber is nature's laxative. Without enough fiber, undigested food dries, and the colon has to generate great force to move it along. That force, in turn, pushes the colon lining through the colon wall to form diverticula. Most of the time, having diverticula poses no great problem.

However, 10 percent to 25 percent of those with diverticulosis develop diverticulitis - inflammation of a diverticulum. That happens when the opening of the diverticulum becomes blocked with rock-hard stool. Blockage leads to inflammation. The inflamed diverticulum can burst, seal off and be quite painful.

To prevent diverticulosis and its progression, add fiber to the diet - plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Treatment of diverticulitis is entirely different. When it flares up, people are put on a liquid diet and oral antibiotics. If the process is quite extensive and painful, hospitalization is necessary to provide nutrition through intravenous feeding and to administer antibiotics by vein. In the most serious of all attacks, it might be necessary to remove the section of colon that is studded with inflamed diverticula.