What Are Diverticula?
As humans age, they often develop increased pressure in their colon. This pressure is often caused by increasing episodes of constipation. As the pressure is applied to the colon, over time, small tissue pockets or sacs develop outward from the wall of the colon. These sacs are called diverticula. The singular is diverticulum.
The diverticula most commonly occur in the lower 1/3 of the colon, in the area known as the sigmoid colon.
There is no known, specific biological purpose for diverticula. They are simply an anomaly that occurs with age and increasing colonic pressure. The biological reason for the development of diverticula is merely the weakening of the colon as a person ages.
The development of diverticula in the colon is known as “diverticulosis.” When they become inflamed, the condition is called “diverticulitis.”
What Causes The Diverticula To Become Inflamed?
When small particles of difficult to digest food become trapped in the diverticula, they tend to rub on the walls of the colon and develop a very small lesion or ulcer. This small ulcer becomes inflamed and can often react unfavorably to bacteria, which is highly populous in this area.
Once the bacteria enters the picture, the diverticula become very inflamed, swollen and painful. When inflammation occurs, the next step is rupture. If a diverticulum ruptures, the result can be peritonitis or infection of the interior gut, causing severe abdominal pain and tenderness, vomiting, fever and diarrhea, as well as some other serious symptoms.
The ultimate result of this diverticulitis is often serious surgical intervention. This surgery, called a “colon resection”, is the actual “cutting out” of affected diverticula. Once this surgery is performed it is essential for the patient to avoid further episodes as the next step is often the application of a colostomy or the removal of a large portion of the colon and the production of an abdominal “stoma” or hole in the gut from which defecation occurs.
The most effective and widely used preventative treatment for diverticulitis is the diverticulitis diet.
What Is A Diverticulitis Diet?
A diverticulitis diet is simply one that seeks to accomplish two tasks:
1) It prevents the further introduction of foods that have small, difficult to digest particles such as fibrous fruits or vegetables.
2) It lowers the pressure on the gut and allows the colon to rest as much as possible.
What Are The Most Common Diverticulitis Diets?
The most common diet used during acute episodes of the condition is what as known as a “low residue” diet. With this type of diet, fiber is reduced as much as possible because fiber particles can get into the diverticula and cause additional inflammation. The elimination of fiber allows the gut the flow and rest. It rests because fiber causes the bowel to move. Without much fiber, the colon tends to have less peristaltic action, which is the undulating movement that causes feces to move along through the colon. The lack of peristaltic action, unfortunately often leads to …