How do diverticula develop?
By and large, the causes of diverticula are somewhat of a mystery. While it is believed that age and heredity play a role, doctors speculate that diverticula form when the colon is under high pressure. This pressure puts a strain on the blood vessels in the bowel, causing small pouches to form at weak areas in the colon.
Causes of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is primarily caused by a diet low in fiber and high in processed, refined foods. Diets high in processed foods slow the digestion process and increase the risk of constipation, which in turn strains the walls of the colon during bowel movements. This strain can cause inflammation or an infection in the diverticula when slower-moving stool gets caught in the lower intestine.
Symptoms of Diverticulitis
Often times there are no symptoms present when diverticula form. However, when diverticulitis develops, bloating, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, pain in the lower-left quadrant of the abdominal region, and excessive flatulence are common. Individuals with a more serious case of diverticulitis may experience fever and chills, leukocytosis (elevated white blood cell count), and bowel obstruction. In extreme cases, diverticulitis can cause fistulas, unnatural connections of tissue between the colon and another organ. When this occurs in the bladder, affected individuals may pass stool through the vagina or urethra.
Long-term effects of Diverticulitis
Diverticulitis can lead to serious complications. If left untreated, a life-threatening infection known as peritonitis may occur in the abdominal lining. Repeated inflammation can cause the affected areas of the colon to become scarred and narrowed, which must be corrected with surgery. Fistulas may form in the bladder, between other areas of the gastrointestinal tract, or between the colon and the skin. In critical cases, surgery is required to remove abscesses formed in the lower intestine and a colostomy may be needed.
Remedies for Diverticulitis
The best method to prevent diverticulitis is to get routine colonoscopies. Because fiber intake plays such a crucial role in diverticulitis, affected individuals should pay close attention to food combining and ensure their diets contain plenty of fiber. Proper hydration is also required, as water allows stool to move easier through the colon.