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What is Diverticular Disease PDF Print E-mail

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“What is it and what is the cause of it?” seems to be the most common question asked once a person finds themselves diagnosed with diverticular disease. 

It really is a simple explanation, our colon’s job is to move waste from the small intestine juncture on the right side of our body upward, over to the left, and then downward to the rectum where it is now sent out of the body.  The main goal is for these contents to be soft and move easily so that the colon muscles only need to gently squeeze to get things moving through.
The start of diverticulosis begins when our stool tries to pass through dry & hard which generally is due to not enough fiber in the diet.  As it is trying to pass through it causes extra pressure in the intestines and intestinal lining.  When the colon has this excessive pressure going through, the contents can cause greater force causing the inner linings of the colon wall to push out of the outer lining in the weaker areas, much like an over inflated balloon pushes out through the weaken areas of the latex.  These pouches or sacs are called diverticula, unfortunately once diverticula have developed, they are there forever and do not go away.  Diverticula are also know to affect other parts of the intestinal tract, however the majority of cases are found in the lower left side of the colon closest to the rectum, this area is called the sigmoid colon. 

There are many factors that contribute to the development of diverticula pouches and these include:

  • a low fiber diet
  • little or no regular exercise
  • aging, primarily over 50
  • family history of diverticular disease
  • changes in the muscle of the intestinal wall
  • obesity
  • regular use of laxatives
  • high fat intake
  • even physical abnormalities can come into play.

The next stage of diverticular disease is diverticulitis.  Diverticulitis begins when the pouches become infected or inflamed and cause pain and tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen.  The good news is that diverticulitis occurs in only about 10 – 25% of all people diagnosed with diverticulosis.

Staying in touch with your body’s needs can help to control diverticular disease, keep any more diverticula from forming, and decreases the chance of diverticulitis occurring.   Start by eating a high fiber diet, roughly 15 – 25 grams a day that is low in fat.  Ultimately a diet based on whole wheat products, fresh fruits and vegetables.  Avoiding red meat is also helpful, and some form of exercise daily.  Keeping your system flowing smoothly is the ultimate goal and key to a healthy intestinal system.

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