The risk of diverticulosis progressing into diverticulitis is actually quite low – just one percent over seven years, according to research findings. The present 15-year study contradicts the common belief on the rate of progression of diverticulosis into diverticulitis. The UCLA researchers uncovered that the progression risk is, in fact, significantly lower than previously believed – only one percent within seven years.
Senior author Dr. Brennan Spiegel said, “These colon pouches are commonly detected during colonoscopy, and patients wonder if they are important and what to do with them. In short, diverticulosis is not something to worry much about. Chances are low that something will happen.”
Diverticulosis is most common among seniors, with nearly half of those over the age of 60 and two-thirds over the age of 70 having the condition. Generally, the pouches do not cause any complications, but if symptoms and complications do arise, antibiotics or even surgery may be used as treatment.
Dr. Spiegel explained, “These risk figures have been widely quoted throughout the literature and appear in multiple research publications, prominent review articles, textbooks, and public guidelines. Because the data are from before the advent of routine colonoscopy, many cases of diverticulosis may have gone undiscovered, skewing the risk predictions.”
The retrospective UCLA study identified 2,222 patients from the Veterans Affairs Health System who were followed on average for 6.75 years. Ninety-five patients developed diverticulitis based on the loose definition of the condition not requiring CT scan confirmation. And of these 95, only 23 developed diverticulitis based on a very rigorous definition of the condition requiring CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.
The risk was nowhere near the previously believed 25 percent. In fact, these 23 patients constituted only one percent of the sample.
“With an aging population and greater use of colonoscopy for colorectal cancer screening, more and more people are going to be told they have diverticulosis. Patients often question the significance of this. If providers had more accurate information regarding the risk of diverticulosis complications, they then could make better decisions about the timing of interventions such as surgery,” added Dr. Spiegel.
The study stated, “These data may help to re-frame discussions with patients regarding their probability of developing clinically significant diverticulitis. Future research should identify individual predictors of diverticulitis in a prospective analysis to better risk-stratify among patients and further study why younger patients may harbor a higher risk of progression than do older patients.”
How to prevent diverticulosis and diverticulitis
There are preventative measures you can try to lower your risk of developing diverticulitis.
Regular exercise, in particular, is beneficial for diverticulitis prevention because it helps keep bowels regular and reduce pressure on the colon. Added pressure, on the other hand, can result in the formation of diverticula.
Fiber, too, is essential for bowel regularity. 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.
The best method to treat diverticulosis is through a healthy diet and constipation relief to avoid complications. The treatment methods suggested for diverticulitis – namely, exercise and diet – can also be used in diverticulosis to prevent its progression into diverticulitis. Therefore, you should bulk up on your fiber, increase your physical activity, and reduce your intake of animal fats and processed food.
Other home remedies that can reduce diverticula flares include:
Aloe vera: Aloe vera helps maintain intestinal flora, stimulate and promote bowel movements, and remove waste. It may also boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Slippery elm: Slippery elm can protect irritated tissue, reduce inflammation and pain, and promote healing.
Marshmallow: Marshmallow can help soothe inflammation and promote healthy bowel movements.
Licorice: Licorice has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce spasms and inflammation.
Lemon: Thanks to its antioxidant properties, lemon can aid in digestion and flushing of the waste.
Potatoes: White potatoes contain anti-inflammatory agents and starch, and are easy to digest.
Papayas and pears: These fruits can boost digestive health because of their fiber content.
Barley: Barley offers good fiber and anti-inflammatory properties.
Brown rice: Brown rice contains compounds that can reduce spasms and inflammation.
Garlic: Garlic may help prevent infection, so it can reduce the risk of diverticular inflammation.
Oregano: Oregano can help eliminate bugs hiding in the digestive tract, as it is a powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial agent.
Yogurt: Yogurt provides healthy bacteria (though be aware that the use of antibiotics will kill them off).
By practicing healthy habits, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and not smoking, you can reduce your risk of developing diverticulitis and diverticulosis. Although you can’t control aging or turn back the time, you can control these conditions – and it’s as simple as living well.