Diverticulitis, a painful disease of the colon, is caused when small pockets of the colon become infected and enflamed. The symptoms of the disease are harsh and can include constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting.
The small pockets, referred to as diverticula, occur when the muscle of the colon becomes weak. This weakness causes affected areas to push outward, resulting in the formation of the diverticula.
An individual may present with diverticula without the painful diverticulitis symptoms. This is because their diverticuli have yet to become infected or enflamed. When multiple diverticuli are present, the condition is known as diverticulosis. Diverticulosis can lcause colon bleeding.
For a long time medical professionals advised that patients suffering from the condition stay away food that such as nuts, and foods that have seeds. This recommendation was rooted in studies that found that small food particles, such as nuts and seeds, were passing through the digestive system and getting caught in diverticula, causing inflammation and infection. Doctors also recommended that patients increase their fiber intake as studies had shown that individuals with diets high in fiber were less likely to suffer from the disease.
Today, advising patients to avoid nuts and seeds may not be the best advice. In a 2016 article published by the NIH studies which casted doubt on previous findings regarding nuts and seeds were highlighted. Many of these studies refuted previous findings regarding diet and diverticulitis.
Dr. Moshe Barnajian, a Colorectal Specialist at SGLA, believes that, “more research is needed regarding the causes of diverticulosis and diverticulitis and how diet can effective disease.”
“Conflicting findings regarding fiber intake, nuts, and seeds highlight a need for more studies,” says Dr. Barnajian.
While there may be doubt regarding causes of the disease there is general agreement regarding treatment. Minor cases of diverticulitis can be treated with antibiotics. However, in some cases, where the infection is severe enough antibiotics may not be enough.
Surgery becomes necessary when it had been multiple episodes of diverticulitis or when there are life threatening complications of diverticulitis like abscess or rupture of the colon. When surgery becomes necessary in patients suffering from repetitive episodes of diverticulitis, this surgery can usually be performed using minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic techniques.
Dr. Barnajian points out that, “preforming a colon resection to treat diverticulitis is something we can often avoid.” He adds that, “If we are able to diagnose and treat diverticulitis early we can better manage its symptoms and help our patients live their lives free of pain and discomfort.”