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Acute Diverticulitis may lead to increased risk for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Harold Mandel's picture
A healthy high fiber salad

Diverticulitis is not a disorder which should be taken lightly. Aside from a great deal of pain there can be very serious complications with this disorder which if not treated properly can lead to death. It is important to work to get this disorder under control in order to avoid the pain and associated disability along with potentially fatal complications.

There is an increased risk for irritable bowel syndrome after acute diverticulitis, according to the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. It has been observed that people with diverticulosis frequently also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, there are no clear data to associate acute diverticulitis with subsequent IBS, functional bowel disorders, or to the associated emotional distress. Researchers decided to compare the incidence of IBS and functional bowel and related affective disorders seen in patients with diverticulitis.

The data from this research supported the conclusion that patients with diverticulitis could be at increased risk for later development of IBS and functional bowel disorders. The researchers have proposed calling this disorder postdiverticulitis IBS. Because diverticulitis appears to predispose patients to long-term gastrointestinal and emotional symptoms after the resolution of inflammation, postdiverticulitis IBS appears to be similar to postinfectious IBS.

Diverticulitis is associated to a higher risk of IBS, reports MedPage Today on Dec 23, 2013. Researchers have found diverticulitis patients had significantly increased risks for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mood disorders over time. This has potentially suggested a new disease class, according to the researchers.

In comparison with patients not suffering from the inflammatory condition, patients with diverticulitis were observed to have an adjusted 4.7-fold hazard of developing IBS as well as 2.4-fold adjusted hazards for a functional bowel disorder or mood disorder, respectively. Brennan Spiegel, MD, of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California, has said, "We propose calling this disorder post-diverticulitis IBS, which appears to predispose patients to long-term gastrointestinal and emotional symptoms after resolution of inflammation ... similar to post-infectious IBS."

Dr Weil defines diverticulitis as being a painful condition in which small pouches which develop in the wall of the digestive tract become inflamed or infected. If someone simply has these pouches, which are called diverticula, without inflammation or infection, the condition is called diverticulosis. Diverticulosis alone generally does not cause any symptoms. Fortunately, only about 4 percent of cases of diverticulosis worsen into more serious conditions, writes EmaxHealth reporter Denise Reynolds, RD.

People who suffer from divericulitis are generally uncomfortable and suffer from pain. The constellation of common symptoms associated with this disorder are:

1: Abdominal pain

2: Blood in the stool or accompanying the stool

3: Constipation

4: Fever and chills

5: Nausea and vomiting

When symptoms become very severe the wall of the intestine may become very infected and inflamed and may perforate, which can lead to peritonitis and life-threatening or even fatal complications.

The diverticula develop due to higher-than-normal pressure on the inside of the intestine, which causes the defects to form in the wall of the intestines. Such pressure can result from hard stools due to a low-fiber diet, as well as by a great deal of straining during bowel movements. When diverticula become inflamed or infected, diverticulitis occurs. The reasons behind the development of diverticulitis are not completely clear, but may be due stool or bacteria getting caught in the diverticula instead of moving through the body to be eliminated.

People who are older than age 40 are at greater risk for diverticultitis. Diverticula develop more often in people who eat a typical, low-fiber western diet, than in vegetarians and in people who live in Asian and African countries where consumption of dietary fiber is relatively high. Inactive people are also are greater risk for diverticula than people who exercise regularly. This may be because due to inactivity there is low muscle tone and slower transit of materials through the digestive tract.

The diagnosis of diverticulitis generally follows complaints of abdominal pain. The physician than questions the patient about the symptoms, lifestyle, and medical history. Tests which may be performed include:

1: Digital rectal examination

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2: Blood tests

3: X-rays

4: CT scan

5: Sigmoidoscopy

6: Colonoscopy

With conventional treatment some physicians may prescribe a course of antibiotics in order to treat a bacterial infection in the diverticula. Sometimes over-the-counter pain medications are recommended to ease the discomfort. Serial blood tests may be done to make certain the infection is resolving.

In extremely severe cases a type of surgery which is called colon resection may be recommended in order to prevent the bowel wall from perforating and to assist in avoiding more attacks. The diseased part of the bowel is removed and the remaining, healthy sections of the bowel are re-attached to each other with this surgery.

Dr. Weil offers some good recommendations to treat diverticulitis, which includes:

1: Eating whole, unprocessed foods which are high in fiber and fluid, both of which will aid bowel motility. Also, add extra fiber in the form of , being careful to drink plenty of water with these bulking agents

2: Take aloe vera gel after meals, staying below the dose that causes any laxative effect

3: Eliminate all caffeine from the diet

4: Avoid tobacco in any form

5: Get regular exercise and daily physical activity

6: Learn stress control techniques

7: Try enteric-coated capsules of peppermint oil

8: Use slippery elm powder prepared as a gruel, which can help sooth and heal irritated tissues in the digestive tract

You can fight diverticulitis on two fronts by adhering to a healthier lifestyle and better nutrition, reports EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell.

It has been my observation that gastrointestinal disorders are extremely painful and debilitating. As the literature suggests, it appears that the poor dietary patterns in the west, which are typically low in fiber and high in junk food, predisposes people to diverticulosis, which thereafter has the potential to lead to the very painful and potentially dangerous condition of diverticulitis. I therefore strongly recommend that everybody try to adhere to healthier diets which are loaded with fruits, vegetables and other high fiber foods, in order to help maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. I also suggest that everybody lead an active lifestyle with daily exercise to help maintain good health. I fully endorse the recommendations of Dr. Weil for dealing with this condition.