WHAT IS DIVERTICULAR DISEASE (DIVERTICULOSIS)?
Diverticular disease is the development of outpouchings (called diverticula) in the intestine; they’re essentially tiny hernias in the colon wall. It is thought that the gut wall can pouch when pressure is consistently too high – yep, I’m looking at you, low fiber, slow motility and irregular elimination AKA constipation . Diverticuli are common in parts of the colon – like the sigmoid colon – that are less stretchy and a bit weaker. But we’re still not sure if we know all we need to know. That’s gut health for you!
People can actually have diverticular disease without ever having any symptoms or negative health outcomes. However, if those pouches become infected, you’ve got diverticulitis and it can be intense. Others develop chronic symptoms that overlap with irritable bowel syndrome a little bit, called symptomatic uncomplicated diverticular disease, or SUDD.
WHAT IS DIVERTICULITIS?
Diverticulitis is when your diverticuli get infected and inflamed. A flare of diverticulitis can range from mild to so bad it can land you in emergency…so don’t wait to go to your doc if you think something is up with your gut. When it happens, micro-perforations allow the translocation of gut bacteria across the gut wall and spark an infection response. And a flare may be the first time you learn that you have diverticula, unless they’ve been spotted in a colonoscopy beforehand.
Remember that having diverticula is common, particularly in the aging population and is often completely asymptomatic. Diverticulitis treatment in most cases requires dietary changes, specifically a reduction in dietary fiber to allow the gut to rest and clear fecal matter from the colon. Working with a dietitian is highly recommended to help take care of diverticulitis vs. diverticulosis and those uncomfortable symptoms that may occur.