What is Diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a condition marked by inflammation of the diverticula, which are abnormal sacs that form in the walls of the intestines. The presence of these sacs is known as diverticulosis.
Affecting more than half of Americans over the age of 60, diverticulosis is thought to result from abnormal pressure in the colon. This pressure causes pouches of intestinal lining to protrude through the intestinal wall and form diverticula. In about ten to 25 percent of individuals with diverticulosis, the diverticula become inflamed and diverticulitis occurs.
The term "diverticular disease" can refer to either diverticulitis or diverticulosis.
Natural Remedies for Diverticulitis and Diverticulosis:
To date, very little is known about the use of alternative medicine in treatment of diverticular disease. However, the following natural substances may be beneficial for some patients:
According to a study published in 2006, a combination of soluble fiber (like glucomannan) and poorly absorbed antibiotics (like rifaximin) may produce the best results when it comes to relieving symptoms and preventing acute diverticulitis. Glucomannan is a soluble, bulk-forming fiber derived from the root of konjac, a plant that grows in Asia.
See Glucomannan: What You Need to Know to learn more about glucomannan.
In some cases, doctors recommend taking psyllium one to three times daily in order to treat diverticulosis. Available in powder, capsule, and wafer form, psyllium is a natural source of mucilage (a type of fiber that helps trigger contraction of the colon walls).
Given the potential complications associated with diverticular disease, it's important to consult your physician before using glucomannan, psyllium, or any type of alternative medicine in treatment of this condition.
Find out more about Psyllium.
What Causes Diverticular Disease?
The causes of diverticulosis and diverticulitis are unknown. However, it's thought that the following may increase your risk for diverticulosis:
- eating a low-fiber diet
- straining during bowel movements (due to constipation or the presence of hard stool)
- lack of exercise
Symptoms of Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Although diverticulosis often produces no symptoms, some individuals may experience cramping in the lower abdomen, bloating, and/or constipation.
People with diverticulitis may experience the following symptoms:
- abdominal pain (in particular, tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen)
- a change in bowel habits
The abdominal pain associated with diverticulitis tends to be severe and occur suddenly, although in some cases it can start out mild and then worsen over several days.
Treatments for Diverticular Disease
In many cases, treatment of diverticulosis involves the implementation of a high-fiber diet (to relieve pressure in the colon) and the use of pain medications (to ease symptoms). In more severe cases, treatment may include the use of antibiotics and/or surgery.
To treat diverticulitis, doctors often focus on eliminating the cause of the inflammation. Antibiotics, for instance, may be used to treat inflammation resulting from a bacterial infection. Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment may also include bed rest, use of pain medication, the implementation of a liquid diet (in order to allow the colon to rest), and/or surgery to remove the affected area.
Since diverticulitis can lead to a number of serious complications (including rectal bleeding, the formation of abscesses, and intestinal obstruction), it's important to seek medical treatment if you experience any diverticulitis symptoms.
Frieri G, Pimpo MT, Scarpignato C. "Management of colonic diverticular disease." Digestion. 2006;73 Suppl 1:58-66.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis [link: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diverticulosis/]. NIH Publication No. 08–1163. July 2008.