Diverticulitis patients reveal psychological and physical symptoms long after their acute illness has passed, according to research. Based on patient interviews, the UCLA study concluded that many of them suffer from psychological as well as physical symptoms related to diverticulitis long after the recovery.
The findings also suggest that acute diverticulitis can progress into chronic irritable bowel syndrome.
Lead researcher Dr. Brennan Spiegel said, “We dug deeper into identifying the chronic physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that can profoundly change people’s lives after an attack of diverticulitis. Our findings reveal that many people suffer silently with severe quality-of-life problems long after an acute diverticulitis attack.”
What is diverticulitis?
If you are over the age of 40, your risk of developing diverticula increases. Diverticula are bulges forming in the lower part of the large intestine, or colon.
These bulges usually don’t cause many problems. But when they get infected or rupture, the condition progresses into diverticulitis. This can be quite severe, leading to excessive pain, nausea, and changes to bowels.
Mild diverticulitis can easily be treated with a proper diet. If reoccurring and severe, surgery may be required.
Causes and symptoms of diverticulitis
Weak spots along the bottom of the large intestine can cause the formation of diverticula. When pressure is added to these spots, bulges form. These pouches, may protrude through the colon wall. Diverticula themselves aren’t usually associated with any symptoms. As mentioned, diverticulitis is caused if these pouches burst or get infected.
5 symptoms of diverticulitis
- Severe pain – this pain may last for days and occur at the lower left side of the abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal tenderness
- Constipation, in some cases diarrhea (less common).
5 risk factors of diverticulitis
There are a few factors, aside from age, that can contribute to one’s risk of developing diverticulitis. They are:
- Being overweight – severe obesity may increase the need for surgery as a treatment
- Smoking – smokers are at a higher risk of diverticulitis, compared to non-smokers
- Not exercising – vigorous exercise has been shown to reduce one’s risk of diverticulitis
- Eating unhealthy diet – namely, foods that are high in animal fat and low in fiber
- Taking certain medications – steroid, opiates, and common over-the counter pain relievers may all increase your risk of diverticulitis
Home remedies and prevention of diverticulitis
Regular exercise, in particular, is beneficial for preventing diverticulitis because it helps keep the bowels regular. Exercise also works to reduce pressure on the colon. Added pressure on the colon can result in the formation of diverticula.
Fiber is essential, too. It works to maintain regular bowel movements and helps reduce pressure on the colon. And, in this vein, staying hydrated helps. Although fiber can help you stay regular, without enough fluids it can have the opposite effect. Staying hydrated improves bodily functions, so it’s important to drink enough water.
If diverticulitis is causing pain, there are home remedies you can use to reduce it. To reduce muscle cramping caused by diverticulitis, you can apply heat to the abdomen. Meditation, too, may be beneficial in managing pain associated with diverticulitis. Lastly, if you need to opt for a pain reliever, stay away from ibuprofen (Advil) and instead reach for acetaminophen (Tylenol).
Treatment options for diverticulitis
Medical treatments for diverticulitis include antibiotics to treat infection, liquid diet to allow bowels to heal, and over-the-counter pain relievers. In complicated cases of diverticulitis, surgery may be required, such as primary bowel resection, where the affected part of the intestine is removed and the rest of it is reconnected. Another option is bowel resection with colostomy if it is impossible to reconnect the colon to the rectum due to inflammation.
By practicing healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking, you can reduce your risk of developing diverticulitis. Although you can’t control aging or turn back the clock, you can control your risk factors – which is as simple as living a healthy lifestyle!