Diverticulosis is when pockets called diverticula form in the walls of your digestive tract. The inner layer of your intestine pushes through weak spots in the outer lining. This pressure makes them bulge out, making little pouches.
Doctors aren’t sure. Some think muscle spasms or strain (like when you have a bowel movement) make pressure build in your colon and push against the lining.
In the past, most experts thought not eating enough fiber – which is found in many fruits and vegetables, grains, and beans led to diverticulosis. But recent studies haven’t shown a clear link between the condition and eating fiber.
Your doctor will ask about your eating habits and health history before suggesting you tweak your diet.
Most people who have diverticulosis don’t show any signs. Those who do might have:
Belly pain or cramping
A doctor likely will suggest some ways to relieve your symptoms, like taking a mild pain reliever, while they pinpoints the cause. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcers can cause similar symptoms, so they’ll want to rule them out.
Diverticulosis is common in people over age 60. It doesn’t happen often to those younger than 30. Experts think the pouches show more with age. Men might get it more than women.
Research shows the condition might be genetic. That means you’re more likely to get it if your parents or any of your brothers or sisters have it.
Most doctors don’t notice cases of diverticulosis until they screen for other conditions. For instance, the pouches might show up in a colonoscopy, or an X-ray.
Your doctor might take these steps to know for sure:
Gather your medical history. They’ll ask you about your diet, general health, meds you take, and how often you have bowel movements.
Do a physical exam. This may include a digital rectal exam. With a lubricated gloved finger, they’ll gently check your anus for bleeding, pain, or other signs.
Perform tests. These might include:
A CT scan makes images of your digestive tract
A colonoscopy looks in your rectum and colon
A blood sample shows if you have signs like anemia or inflammation
A lower GI series uses X-rays to get a better look at your large intestine
High-fiber diet or fiber supplements. This will depend on how much your doctor thinks fiber (or the lack of it) might play into your condition. Fiber-rich foods reduce gas and pain in your stomach.
They might suggest a fiber product like Citrucel or Metamucil. They come in pill, powder or wafer forms. You’ll take it with lots of water.
Meds that help ease symptoms. These might include mesalazine.
Probiotics. Research is still being done on how probiotics live bacteria that live in your stomach and intestines – can help fight diverticulosis symptoms. Yogurt and supplements are good sources.
It’s important to check with your doctor before taking supplements of any kind.
This condition is much more common now than it was 100 years ago. Many doctors believe our modern diet – which features lots of refined carbs and keeps you from getting enough fiber – plays the biggest role in whether you get it.
Other possible risk factors include:
Being extremely overweight
Eating too much fat and red meat
Using anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen