If you suffer from chronic pain in your lower left abdomen, that also may be accompanied with tenderness and some fever, you may be experiencing diverticulitis. Some people may additionally experience leukocytosis (an elevation of the white cell count in blood tests). Patients may also complain of nausea or diarrhea; others may be constipated.
According to MedicineNet.com, as a person ages, pressure within the colon causes small outpouchings (sacs) that push out from the walls of the colon. A single outpouching is called a diverticulum. The plural of diverticulum (two or more outpouchings) is diverticula. Diverticula may occur throughout the colon, but they are most common near the distal end of the left colon called the sigmoid colon. People who have diverticula in the colon are referred to as having diverticulosis. Diverticulosis is very common in adults in the U. S., and most people will eventually develop them.
Diverticula are common in the Western world but are rare in areas such as Asia and Africa. Diverticula increase with age. They are uncommon before the age of 40, and are seen in more than 40% of people over the age of 60 years in the U.S.
Most people with diverticulosis have few or no symptoms. However, when a diverticulum ruptures, bacteria (always present in the colon) spread into the tissues surrounding the colon and cause infection and inflammation—when the condition called diverticulitis finally results.
Many doctors believe that seeds and nuts that are eaten can get caught in the opening to a diverticulum and increase the chance of rupture and developing diverticulitis. There is insufficient scientific evidence that seeds and nuts promote diverticulitis, however, to support dietary restrictions. More information can be found a this site: http://www.medicinenet.com/diverticulosis/article.htm.
According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH), scientists are not certain what causes diverticulosis and diverticular disease. For more than 50 years, the most widely accepted theory was that a low-fiber diet led to diverticulosis and diverticular disease. Diverticulosis and diverticular disease were first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s, around the time processed foods were introduced into the American diet.
Consumption of processed foods greatly reduced Americans’ fiber intake. Diverticulosis and diverticular disease are common in Western and industrialized countries—particularly the United States, England, and Australia—where low-fiber diets are common. The condition is rare in Asia and Africa, where most people eat high-fiber diets.Two large studies also indicate that a low-fiber diet may increase the chance of developing diverticular disease.
However, a recent study found that a low-fiber diet was not associated with diverticulosis and that a high-fiber diet and more frequent bowel movements may be linked to an increased rather than decreased chance of diverticula.
Other studies have focused on the role of decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in causing decreased relaxation and increased spasms of the colon muscle. A neurotransmitter is a chemical that helps brain cells communicate with nerve cells. However, more studies are needed in this area.
Studies have also found links between diverticular disease and obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and certain medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, and steroids.
Scientists agree that with diverticulitis, inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool get caught in a diverticulum. In the colon, inflammation also may be caused by a decrease in healthy bacteria and an increase in disease-causing bacteria. This change in the bacteria may permit chronic inflammation to develop in the colon. More material on this malady can be found at this website: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddISeases/pubs/diverticulosis/.
Your doctor will start your diagnosis by talking to you about the symptoms that you’re experiencing and your medical history. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam, checking for any pain in the abdomen. A blood test might also be ordered to find out if your white blood cell count is higher than normal, which would indicate an infection. Your doctor might also order a computed tomography (CT) scan (which uses computer-guided X-ray images) to find out if you have diverticula that are infected, according to HealthLine at this website: http://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis#Overview.
According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, Increasing the amount of dietary fiber (grains, legumes, vegetables, etc.) - and sometimes restricting certain foods reduces the pressure in the colon and may decrease the risk of complications due to diverticular disease.
Diverticulitis requires different management. Mild cases may be managed with oral antibiotics, dietary restrictions and possibly stool softeners. More severe cases require hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics and dietary restraints. Most acute attacks can be relieved with such methods.
Surgery is reserved for patients with recurrent episodes of diverticulitis, complications or severe attacks when there's little or no response to medication. Surgery may also be required in individuals with a single episode of severe bleeding from diverticulosis or with recurrent episodes of bleeding.
Surgical treatment for diverticulitis removes the diseased part of the colon, most commonly, the left or sigmoid colon. Often the colon is hooked up or "anastomosed" again to the rectum. Complete recovery can be expected. Normal bowel function usually resumes in about three weeks. In emergency surgeries, patients may require a temporary colostomy bag. Patients are encouraged to seek medical attention for abdominal symptoms early to help avoid complications. More info can be located at this site: http://www.fascrs.org/patients/conditions/diverticular_disease/.
While the reason is not exactly known, there is some evidence that links smoking & stress to symptoms becoming worse. Other factors that increase risk of diverticulitis are disease in the genes, gallbladder disease, obesity & coronary artery disease. The best steps you can take in treating diverticulitis have to do with your lifestyle.
A high fiber diet has been shown to be protective against diverticular disease. You'll need at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day to help prevent problems from diverticulosis. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals that are high in fiber and bran. Be sure to drink plenty of pure water each day, as a high fiber diet will not be effective without adequate water consumption.
Studies have also shown physical activity, specifically jogging or running, to protect against symptomatic diverticular disease. For naturopathic or holistic options to control or limit the inflammation that may lead to diverticulitis, find a lot of material on the subject at this website: http://www.naturalnews.com/021334_diverticulitis_digestive_disorders.html.
Diverticular disease is stressful, and painful. However, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of it as you grow older. Lifestyle, diet, and preventive medicine can help you live with this medical condition. See your doctor right away if you experience symptoms that may be causing you abdominal discomfort. Don’t delay treatment, and make dietary changes that can help you deal with diverticular problems.
Until next time.