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Diverticulitis – Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment + Diet

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Diverticulitis – Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment + Diet November 26, 2018

Diverticular diseases affect around 50% of individuals older than 60 years. And 10%-25% of them end up developing complications from the conditions, such as diverticulitis (1).

There has been a steep increase in the number of diverticulitis cases over the past century. While the severity of this condition may vary from person to person, most of its symptoms can be quite painful. Do you want to know more about this medical issue and how it can be treated? Keep reading.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Is Diverticulitis?
  2. Diverticulitis Vs. Diverticulosis
  3. Signs And Symptoms
  4. Causes And Risk Factors
  5. How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?
  6. Treatments For Diverticulitis
  7. How To Manage The Symptoms Of Diverticulitis Naturally
  8. How Your Diet Affects Diverticulitis?
  9. Prevention Tips

What Is Diverticulitis?

What Is Diverticulitis Pinit

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Diverticulitis is associated with the formation of diverticula, which are pouch-shaped formations that occur along your digestive tract. Diverticula most often occur in the colon, i.e., the large intestine.

These pouches are a result of weak spots in the intestinal walls that tend to blow outward. The pouches (diverticula) can become inflamed or infected by bacteria, thus causing diverticulitis.

Diverticula are harmless unless they are inflamed or infected. If you have developed diverticula that are not infected or inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulosis.

Let’s take a quick look a the major differences between diverticulitis and diverticulosis.

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Diverticulitis Vs. Diverticulosis

Diverticulitis

  • It is associated with the formation of pouches called diverticula that become inflamed or infected.
  • There is a chance of recurrence.
  • Diverticulitis can also turn chronic in some people.
  • The risk of developing diverticulitis increases with age.

Diverticulosis

  • Diverticulosis is associated with the formation of pouches called diverticula that are not infected or inflamed.
  • It usually doesn’t exhibit any symptoms, and if the condition actually does cause symptoms, it is referred to as symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease (SUDD).
  • In rare cases, diverticulosis can result in the development of diverticulitis.
  • As in the cases of diverticulitis, the risk of developing diverticulosis increases with age.

Unlike diverticulosis, diverticulitis can cause mild to severe symptoms that can occur all of a sudden or gradually over a few days.

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Signs And Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms associated with diverticulitis are:

  • Abdominal pain that typically occurs in the lower left side
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Blood in the stool

Diverticulitis is caused by a combination of factors that are discussed below.

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Causes And Risk Factors

The root cause of diverticulitis is the blockage of the opening diverticula. This blockage is usually triggered by the accumulation of fecal matter that leads to inflammation and subsequent infections.

Other factors associated with an increased risk of diverticulitis are:

  • A diet low in fiber
  • Heredity: A family history of the condition
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Regular use of certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin
  • A deficiency in vitamin D
  • Sex: In those aged 50 or younger, diverticulitis is more common in men, whereas, in those aged above 50, it is more common in women.
  • Advancing age

Since the symptoms of diverticulitis are similar to those of many other health conditions, your doctor may need to carry out one or more of the following tests to diagnose your condition.

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How Is Diverticulitis Diagnosed?

You may be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and the medications you are on. Other diagnostic tests may include:

  • A physical exam to check the abdomen for tenderness
  • A digital rectal exam to look for symptoms of pain, bleeding, masses, or other problems

Other diagnostic tests that may need to be carried out include:

  • Blood tests to look for inflammation, anemia, or other medical conditions like kidney or liver problems
  • Imaging tests like an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan
  • Urine test to look for different types of infections
  • Stool test to check GI infections
  • Pelvic examination to rule out gynecological problems
  • Women may have to take a pregnancy test to rule out pregnancy

Once your condition is diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe treatments depending on the severity of the symptoms.

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Treatments For Diverticulitis

The treatment options for diverticulitis may include:

  • A clear liquid diet
  • A low-fiber diet
  • Medications for diverticulitis including antibiotics like Metronidazole, Ciprofloxacin, or Amoxicillin
  • Follow-up medical appointment to check if your symptoms have improved
  • Surgery for severe cases of diverticulitis

The symptoms of diverticulitis can usually be managed right at home in the initial stages. However, in rare cases, it can lead to complications, and those suffering from acute cases may need to be admitted in a hospital for treatment.

The home remedies that can help in managing the symptoms of diverticulitis are listed below.

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How To Manage The Symptoms Of Diverticulitis Naturally

  1. Slippery Elm
  2. Aloe Vera Juice
  3. Vitamin D
  4. Licorice Root
  5. Grapefruit Seed Extract
  6. Ginger
  7. Garlic
  8. Turmeric
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Home Remedies To Ease The Pain Of Diverticulitis

1. Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 2 teaspoons of slippery elm
  • 1 glass of water, fruit juice, or tea
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two teaspoons of slippery elm to a glass of water, fruit juice, or tea.
  2. Mix well and drink up.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this mixture 1 to 2 times per day.

Why This Works

Slippery elm has demulcent properties that can help in relieving inflammation of the diverticula in your intestine (2).

Caution

Take your doctor’s advice before consuming this.

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2. Aloe Vera Juice

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You Will Need

1-2 tablespoons of fresh aloe vera juice

What You Have To Do

Drink one to two tablespoons of fresh aloe vera juice daily.

How Often You Should Do This

Make sure you drink it only once daily.

Why This Works

Aloe vera is used to treat various health conditions due to its healing and anti-inflammatory properties (3). These properties can help in soothing the inflamed and irritated diverticula along the digestive tract.

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3. Vitamin D

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You Will Need

25-100 mcg of vitamin D

What You Have To Do
  1. Consume 25-100 mcg of vitamin D daily.
  2. You can either consume foods rich in vitamin D, like fatty fish, cheese, and eggs, or take additional supplements for it.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this on a daily basis.

Why This Works

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing diverticulitis. Hence, maintaining optimal levels of serum vitamin D can also help you deal with the condition (4).

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4. Licorice Root

Licorice Root Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of dried licorice root
  • 1 cup of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two teaspoons of dried licorice to a cup of hot water.
  2. Steep for 5-10 minutes and strain.
  3. Drink the warm licorice tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink licorice tea 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Licorice is widely used to treat spasms and inflammation, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract (5). Hence, it can definitely work wonders when it comes to soothing the inflamed diverticula.

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5. Grapefruit Seed Extract

Grapefruit Seed Extract Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 8-12 drops of standardized and chemical-free grapefruit seed extract
  • 1 glass of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add 8-12 drops of standardized and chemical-free grapefruit seed extract to a glass of water.
  2. Mix well and drink it up.
How Often You Should Do This

You may drink this mixture once daily.

Why This Works

Grapefruit seed extract is a powerful antibacterial agent that can help in treating infected diverticula (6).

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6. Ginger

Ginger Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1-2 inches of sliced ginger root
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add 1-2 inches of sliced ginger to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain and wait for the tea to cool a bit.
  4. Drink the warm ginger tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink ginger tea 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

The rich composition of ginger makes it a beneficial remedy in treating various medical conditions. Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe an inflamed digestive tract and relax the muscles of the gut (7).

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7. Garlic

Garlic Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic juice
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Extract a teaspoon of juice from a few garlic cloves.
  2. Consume the garlic extract.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once daily to combat diverticulitis.

Why This Works

Garlic possesses impressive anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (8), (9). These activities might be helpful in treating diverticulitis and its symptoms.

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8. Turmeric

Turmeric Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 glass of hot milk
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of hot milk.
  2. Mix well and drink it up.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this at least once daily.

Why This Works

Curcumin, the active compound of turmeric, possesses powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (10), (11). These can help in reducing the inflammation and infection associated with diverticulitis.

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9. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar Pinit

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You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and drink the mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this concoction 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

ACV has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can be helpful in the treatment of diverticulitis (12).

These remedies will help in managing the symptoms of diverticulitis and lessen the pain. You must also pay attention to your diet as it has a major role to play in your recovery from diverticulitis.

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How Does Your Diet Affect Diverticulitis?

A diverticulitis diet is usually a temporary measure that gives your digestive system some rest. Oral intake of eatables is usually reduced until the symptoms of bleeding and diarrhea subside.

Your doctor might prescribe you a clear liquid diet that includes the following.

Foods To Eat
  • Fruit juices without pulp
  • Broths and soups
  • Ice chips
  • Ice popsicles without fruit pulps
  • Water
  • Gelatin
  • Tea
  • Coffee without cream

Once your symptoms start improving, your doctor may ask you to begin intake of low-fiber foods gradually

They include:

  • Peeled fruits without seeds that are cooked or canned
  • Canned or cooked peeled vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and beans
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Fruit and vegetable juices (without pulp)
  • Low fiber cereals
  • Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • White rice, pasta, and noodles

You also need to restrict your intake of certain foods if you are suffering from diverticulitis. These are foods that are difficult to digest.

Foods To Avoid
  • Nuts
  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Seeds

By now, you must have understood that one of the best ways to prevent diverticulitis from worsening is to modify your diet and lifestyle. Listed below are a few additional tips that can prevent the recurrence of diverticulitis.

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Prevention Tips

  • Increase your intake of fiber-rich foods gradually once your symptoms begin improving.
  • Drink a lot of fluids.
  • Avoid consuming refined foods like white rice, white pasta, etc.
  • Avoid getting constipated. Using over-the-counter laxatives or stool softeners may help.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Manage your weight.

Making even the slightest bit of change to your lifestyle can help a lot when it comes to dealing with the symptoms of diverticulitis. These remedies and tips can also prevent complications that tend to develop in some cases of the condition.

Are you aware of any other tips or remedies to deal with diverticulitis? Please share them with us in the comments section below.

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Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

When to see a doctor for diverticulitis?

If you feel that you are exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with diverticulitis, see a doctor and avail medical treatment immediately.

What does the pain that surfaces diverticulitis feel like?

The symptoms of diverticulitis can last anywhere from a few hours to days. Its most prominent symptom is severe pain (cramp) that is often felt on the lower left side of the abdomen.

How long does diverticulitis pain last?

The symptoms of diverticulitis, such as pain and cramps that occur in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen, can last for hours or even days.

Does diverticulitis cause diarrhea?

The inflammation of the diverticula that forms along the digestive tract can cause many symptoms and hardly subsides completely. This inflammation can cause constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, and bloating.

References

1. “Diverticular disease: Epidemiology and management” Canadian Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine
2. “Prebiotic Potential of Herbal Medicines Used in Digestive Health and Disease” Journal Of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, I US National Library of Medicine
3. “Antiinflammatory activity of extracts from Aloe vera gel” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine
4. “Higher Serum Levels of Vitamin D are Associated with Reduced Risk of Diverticulitis” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, US National Library of Medicine
5. “The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice, a widely used Chinese herb” Pharmaceutical Biology, US National Library of Medicine
6. “The effectiveness of processed grapefruit-seed extract as an antibacterial agent: I. An in vitro agar assay” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
7. “Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Ginger in Health and Physical Activity: Review of Current Evidence” International Journal of Preventive Medicine, US National Library of Medicine
8. “Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds” Journal of Immunology Research, US National Library of Medicine
9. “Antimicrobial activity of fresh garlic juice: An in vitro study” Ayu, US National Library of Medicine
10. “Anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, a major constituent of Curcuma longa: a review of preclinical and clinical research” Alternative Medicine Review, US National Library of Medicine
11. “A Review on Antibacterial, Antiviral, and Antifungal Activity of Curcumin” BioMed Research International, US National Library of Medicine
12. “Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression” Scientific Reports, US National Library of Medicine