What Are the Causes of Diverticulitis?

How can you prevent this unpleasant disease?

Examining nutrition label closely

Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease in which one or more small pouches in the digestive tract become inflamed or infected. Doctors believe a low-fiber diet is the main cause.

The disease itself was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s. This is about the same time processed foods were first introduced into the American diet. Many processed foods contain refined, low-fiber flour.

Unlike whole-wheat flour, refined flour has no wheat bran. 

Diverticular disease is common in developed or industrialized countries, particularly the United States, England, and Australia, where low-fiber diets are common. The disease is rare in Asia and Africa, where people eat high-fiber vegetable diets.

How Can You Add Fiber Into Your Diet, and Why Should You Want To?

Dietary fiber includes the parts of plant foods your body can't digest or absorb. Upon eating these foods, the fiber passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, and finally out of your body. It can help make stools soft and easy to pass. It also prevents constipation. Some foods that are high in fiber include:

  • oats
  • peas
  • beans
  • apples
  • citrus fruits
  • carrots
  • barley
  • whole-wheat flour
  • wheat bran
  • nuts
  • beans
  • cauliflower
  • green beans
  • potatoes

When you become constipated because of a deficit of fiber in your diet, your muscles strain to move stool that is too hard.

It is the primary cause of increased pressure in the colon. This excess pressure causes the weak spots in the colon to bulge out and become diverticula (those small pouches that bulge outward through the colon or large intestine).

As mentioned above, diverticulitis occurs when these diverticula become infected or inflamed.

Doctors are not certain what causes the infection. It may begin when stool or bacteria are caught in the diverticula. As a result, the best known means of preventing diverticulitis is to prevent the diverticula from forming in the first place.

Of course, if you're already experiencing a bout of diverticulitis, your doctor will likely recommend a very different diet, one made up of only liquids so as to allow your colon to heal. Afterward, your doctor will let you know when it's safe to start reintroducing solid foods into your diet. While you'll probably have to start with low-fiber foods, you'll eventually be able to start adding higher-fiber foods back into your diet so as to prevent future instances of diverticulitis.

If you're lucky enough to have avoided diverticular disease thus far, focus on looking for ways to add more fiber into your diet.

Further Reading on Nutritional Fiber

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