Diverticular Disease and Diverticulitis
Diverticular disease occurs when small bulges appear in the large intestine. One of the main causes is a diet low in fibre. A good diet and lifestyle are vital to the prevention of diverticular disease.
Fibre makes your stools softer and larger, so less pressure is needed by your large intestine to push them out of your body. The pressure of moving hard, small pieces of stools through your large intestine creates weak spots in the outside layer of muscle. This allows the inner layer (mucosa) to squeeze through these weak spots, creating the diverticula.
There is currently no clinical evidence to fully prove the link between fibre and diverticula. However, diverticular disease and diverticulitis are both much more common in Western countries, where many people do not eat enough fibre.
Symptoms of diverticula include:
- lower abdominal pain
- feeling bloated
Diverticulitis occurs when these bulges in the intestine become infected or inflamed. Symptoms include:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea or frequent bowel movements
- A fever
Risk factors for developing diverticular disease include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a history of constipation
- Use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) painkillers, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- Having a close relative with diverticular disease, especially if they developed it under the age of 50
Exactly how these lead to developing diverticular disease is unclear, however research is ongoing.