What is diverticulitis?
Normally, we pay no attention to our large intestines, but if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you're well aware of your bowel. Painful, inflamed bulges in the intestinal wall, diverticula are worrisome and potentially dangerous. If your physician suspects you have this GI condition common in the over-60 population, seek the services of a gastroenterologist. Specially trained in diverticulitis, and the less serious diverticulosis, a GI specialist can diagnose and treat your bowel health for better long-term function and well-being.
Symptoms of diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is serious infection which requires medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Intense lower abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Pus and mucus with your bowel movements, indicating infection
When infection is severe, the individual puches of the intestinal wall may rupture, spilling bowel contents into the abdomen. This is a medical emergency and may require treatment with IV antibiotics and even surgery to repair the tears.
Being proactive with diverticulitis
Certainly, age is a factor in development of diverticula. Genetics, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle add to this GI problem, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.
However, gastroenterologists advise that dietary changes help decrease the chances of infection and rupture. In other words, you can live well even with diverticulosis by lowering your intake of fermentable carbohydrates such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products
In decades past, physicians recommended that patients with diverticulosis avoid seeds, nuts, corn and other foods which could collect and fester in the small intestinal pouches. More recent research, however, indicates that this may not be the case but that patients should keep track of foods which seem to increase symptoms.
Just as with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, diverticular disease improves with increased daily intake of water, a high fiber diet, and probiotic supplements (which add "good" bacteria and yeasts to the gut). Exercise always improves GI health and overall well-being, too.
Your gastroenterologist is the best person to see for precise diagnosis of this common condition. A barium enema, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and CT imaging help your specialist determine the exact cause of your symptoms and how to proceed with treatment--both for acute flare-ups and for long-term management of diverticulitis.
Your gastroenterologist encourages you to know more about your intestinal health and to stay on top of conditions such as diverticular disease. Be proactive about all aspects of your health for a longer, better life!