Diverticulosis is a condition in which there are small pouches or pockets in the wall or lining of any portion of the digestive tract. These pockets occur when the inner layer of the digestive tract pushes through weak spots in the outer layer. The pouches associated with diverticulosis are most often located in the lower part of the large intestine (the colon).
The reason pouches (diverticula) form in the colon wall is not completely understood. Doctors think diverticula form when high pressure inside the colon pushes against weak spots in the colon wall.
Normally, a diet with adequate fiber (also called roughage) produces stool that is bulky and can move easily through the colon. If a diet is low in fiber, the colon must exert more pressure than usual to move small, hard stool. A low-fiber diet also can increase the time stool remains in the bowel, adding to the high pressure. Pouches may form when the high pressure pushes against weak spots in the colon.
Most people don't have symptoms. You may have had diverticulosis for years by the time symptoms occur (if they do). Over time, some people may get an infection in the pouches known as diverticulitis.
Your doctor may use the term painful, or symptomatic, diverticular disease. It's likely that painful diverticular disease is caused by bowel spasms commonly seen in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Symptoms include diarrhea and cramping abdominal pain, with no fever or other sign of an infection.
In many cases, diverticulosis is discovered only when tests, such as barium enema, CT scan or a colonoscopy, are done to find the cause of a different medical problem or during a screening exam.
The best way to treat diverticulosis is to avoid constipation. Here are some ideas:
- High fiber diet, ie. fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains in your diet each day.
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get some exercise every day.
- Take a fiber supplement, such as Citrucel or Metamucil, every day if needed. Start with a small dose and very slowly increase the dose as needed.
- Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Having a daily routine may help. Take your time and do not strain when you are having a bowel movement.