It starts out gradually… a pain in your stomach that is easy to mistake for gas. But it doesn’t go away. You stretch. You walk. It only gets worse. Before long, you are doubled over because of the pain in your belly. And you start running a fever. These are actually signs of a very serious condition called diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis requires a doctor’s care. In many situations, it may even require a visit to the emergency room.
Diverticulitis is actually an acute form of another condition called diverticulosis. As you age, your chances of developing diverticulosis rise dramatically. Medical researchers estimate that nearly everyone age 80 or over has it, and more than half of people over 60 do. With diverticulosis, you aren’t likely to even notice it.
Diverticulosis doesn’t cause specific symptoms beyond the occasional minor stomach upset. Because of this, diverticulitis often takes people completely by surprise.
So just what is diverticulitis?
Well, when you don’t get enough fiber—and most Americans don’t—it can increase the pressure in your large intestine. The pressure can cause marble-sized pockets to form in your intestinal lining. These are diverticula, and if you have them you’ve got diverticulosis.
Sometimes, these little pouches become inflamed or even infected. When that happens, you’ll feel an ongoing pain in your abdomen. One way to recognize the pain as diverticulitis is if it hurts intensely to go over a speed bump while riding in a car. You might also run a fever. And you may notice blood in your stools.
In the worst cases, the diverticula may perforate, causing the contents of your colon to leak into other parts of your body—this is a recipe for systemic infection. Bad news.
Stop Diverticula From Forming in the First Place
As always, the best way to deal with diverticulitis is to prevent it from happening to you.
There is one definite culprit in the development of diverticulosis and diverticulitis, and that’s fiber. A low intake of dietary fiber causes diverticulosis. Once the diverticula form, high fiber foods can aggravate them, so you want to start eating more fiber sooner rather than later.
You ought to aim for 25 grams of fiber each day. More won’t hurt you and may deliver additional health benefits. You want to get both soluble and insoluble fiber. The best sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans.
One of my favorite ways to boost my fiber intake is to eat a three-bean salad with my lunch. Just mix green beans, garbanzo beans and kidney beans with your favorite Italian dressing. A cup of this salad packs in almost 10 grams of fiber… not too bad for a single serving.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News
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