Diverticulitis is inflammation or infection of small pouches, called diverticula, which develop along the walls of your intestines. The formation of the pouches themselves is a relatively benign condition known as diverticulitis. The pouches can develop anywhere on the digestive tract, but they most commonly form at the end of the descending and sigmoid colons, and they also frequently occur on the first section of the small intestine, although problems are rarely found there.
Ageing and heredity are primary factors in the development of diverticulitis, but diet also plays a role; eating a lot of low-fibre, refined foods can greatly increase the risk.
According to the British Journal of Clinical Practice, "A high fibre diet is effective in the treatment of diverticulitis disease." Research shows that fibre is important regarding the prevention and treatment of diverticulitis.
Sometimes, even when you have diverticulitis, you may not even know it because the diverticula are usually painless and cause few symptoms. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Sometimes you may experience cramping on your left side that disappears when you pass gas or move your bowels. And, because diverticula will occasionally bleed, your stool may contain bright red blood.
You should consult your doctor if: you have fever, chills, and abdominal swelling, or are vomiting; abdomen becomes rigid and movement causing pain; or blood appears in stools, indicating internal bleeding.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which the diverticuli (sac-like, pea-sized protrusions in the intestinal wall) are inflamed. They typically form if an individual suffers from frequent constipation and eating a low fibre diet may be a contributory factor. Diverticulitis can be either acute or chronic.
Symptoms include cramping, bloating, tenderness on the left side of the abdomen that is relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement, constipation or diarrhoea, nausea, and an almost continual need to eliminate. Because the walls of the large intestine often weaken as a person ages, this is a condition affecting older rather than younger people. Exactly what causes diverticulitis is not known but it is known that smoking and stress make symptoms worse. Poor eating habits compound the problem. A poor diet, a family history of the disease, gall bladder disease, obesity, and coronary artery disease all increase the chances of developing diverticulitis. In fact, this is a classic example of a stress-related disorder.
- The key to controlling this disorder is to consume an adequate amount of fibre and lots of quality water (filtered or bottled). At least 30g of fibre is needed each day. Supplementing with psyllium may also be beneficial as this does not promote gas formation in the colon as do other sources of fibre such as wheat bran. Drink at least eight 8oz glasses of filtered water daily. Herbal teas, broth, and live juices (freshly juiced vegetables and fruit) can account for some of the liquid needed. Liquid aids in keeping the pouch-like areas clean of toxic wastes, preventing inflammation.
- Eat a low carbohydrate diet with high levels of protein from vegetable sources and fish. Do not eat grains, seeds or nuts, except for well cooked brown rice. These foods are hard to digest, resulting in bloating and gas. Also eliminate dairy products, red meat, sugar products, fried foods, spices and processed foods.
- Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables. These are good sources of vitamin K. Obtaining this vitamin from the diet is especially important for people with intestinal disorders.
- Eat garlic for its healing and detoxifying properties.
- During an acute attack, your doctor may recommend a low fibre diet temporarily. Once the inflammation clears, slowly switch back to a high fibre diet.
- When an attack or pain begins, you may want to use a cleansing enema using two quarts of warm water and the juice of a fresh lemon. This helps to rid the colon of undigested and entrapped food and to relieve pain.
- On the day of an acute attack, take four charcoal tablets or capsules with a large glass of water (available at health food shops), to absorb trapped gas. Always take charcoal separately from medications and other supplements, and do not take it for prolonged periods as it absorbs beneficial nutrients as well as gas!
- During severe attacks, use liquid or colloidal vitamin supplements for better assimiliation and put all fruits and vegetables through a blender. Eat steamed vegetables only. Organic baby foods are good until healing is complete. Add psyllium to baby foods for gentle fibre. Drink carrot juice, cabbage juice and ‘green’ drinks (such as Udos Beyond Greens).
- To relieve pain, massage the left side of the abdomen. Stand up and do stretching exercises.
- DO NOT overuse laxatives; they can irritate the colon wall.
Food allergies/intolerances are often a cause of intestinal disorders. Allergy testing is advised.
If the diverticula are infected, your doctor may recommend antibiotics. Be sure to consume organic plain yogurt or probiotic supplements to replenish beneficial bacteria in the gut.
- Probiotics – beneficial bacteria (bio-bifidus) is essential to replace flora in the small intestine, primarily to improve assimilation.
- Vitamin B complex – 100mg of each of the major B vitamins three times a day. Needed for all enzyme systems in the body and for proper digestion.
- Digestive enzyme complex – 1 with meals. Needed to break down proteins.
- Essential fatty acids – 1g of omega 3 fish oils three times a day. Improves lymphatic function and aids in protecting the cells lining the wall of the colon. Also essential for reducing inflammation.
- Garlic – 2 capsules three times a day. Aids in digestion and destroys unwanted bacteria and parasites.
- L-glutamine – 500mg twice daily, on an empty stomach and taken with water or juice. Do not take with milk (competes for digestion of protein). A major metabolic fuel for the intestinal cells, maintains the villi (finger-like projections on the wall of the intestines through which nutrients are absorbed).
- Vitamin C – 2mg/3mg daily in divided doses. Reduces inflammation and boosts immune response.
- Chlorella -