What do your intestines and a bike tire have in common? Well, think of a bike tire – it has a flexible, soft inside layer surrounded by a tougher, firmer outer layer. To pump up a bike tire, you inflate the softer inside tube. But if you happen to overfill that inner tube with air, it can bulge out – protruding through any weak spots in the outer portion of the tire.
Your intestines have a somewhat similar structure. And with too much pressure, you can actually develop bulges or protrusions through your intestinal wall just like an overinflated bike tire. This development of outpouchings in your intestinal wall can create a condition known as diverticulitis.
Today we’re going to explore exactly what diverticulitis is, what triggers this condition, and the recent changes to treatment guidelines. And most importantly we’ll cover some powerful and practical tips to combat this digestive disorder.
What Is Diverticulitis?
In some people, small pockets or bulges can form in the intestinal tract and push outward through weak spots in the wall of the intestines. These pockets are known as diverticula. When these pouches are present in your GI tract, you have what's known as diverticulosis. And when these pockets become inflamed and infected, it’s called diverticulitis.1
Now that we’ve got the vocabulary out of the way, let’s look at some of the symptoms that can spring up when these diverticula become inflamed and spiral into an episode of diverticulitis:1,2
- Abdominal pain, tenderness, or sensitivity that can persist for several days, either starting out mild and gradually becoming more severe or coming on suddenly. The lower left abdomen is the most common site of pain.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
- Fever and/or chills.
- Digestive upset – typically constipation, but occasionally will present with diarrhea.
- Rectal bleeding.
If left unaddressed, these symptoms can escalate into more serious complications.
Complications of Diverticulitis
Complications that can be caused by a severe case of diverticulitis include:3,4
- Abscesses: Painful, swollen collection of pus-filled areas that form around infected diverticula.
- Fistulas: An abnormal tunnel or passage that can form between your intestines and another nearby organ or part of your body. The most common fistulas occur either in the bladder or the vagina.
- Bowel obstruction: A spike in inflammation can partially or even completely block your intestines – halting the flow of food, fluids, and stool through your bowels.
- Bowel perforation: A tear or hole all the way through your intestinal wall that can allow waste and feces to leak into your abdominal cavity.
- Strictures: Ongoing inflammation can create scar tissue that can build up and lead to a narrowing of your intestines.
- Peritonitis: An infection in the lining of your abdominal cavity.
- Sepsis: Sepsis occurs when an infection becomes systemic and triggers a whole-body immune response that can be life-threatening.
So what on earth causes these strange pockets to form in your intestinal wall in the first place?
Diverticulitis Causes: What Triggers Your Diverticulitis?
The exact underlying cause of diverticulitis is still unclear and has been a topic of hot debate. It’s speculated that the formation of diverticula can be attributed to a number of factors such as:5,6
- Too little fiber or not enough fiber (both sides of this argument have been hotly debated and there’s evidence to support both viewpoints).
- Chronic constipation
- Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle
- Certain medications like steroids, opioids, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Dysbiosis or an imbalance in the microbes that reside in your gut
- Problems with your immune system
- Problems with the nerves, connective tissue, or muscles in your intestines
Once these diverticula pockets are formed, there are no singular identifiable factors that can be traced back as the root cause of diverticulitis flare-ups. While some individuals can experience severe diverticulitis flare-ups that can lead to serious complications like those listed above, there are many people who experience what is known as uncomplicated diverticulitis.
What Is Uncomplicated Diverticulitis?
Uncomplicated diverticulitis is exactly what it sounds like – a flare-up of diverticulitis that is free from severe complications. In uncomplicated diverticulitis, your diverticula and the surrounding intestinal lining become inflamed without the formation of pus, abscesses, fistulas, or any of the complications listed previously.7
The distinction between complicated and uncomplicated diverticulitis is important when you begin looking at treatment strategies.
What Is the Best Treatment for Diverticulitis?
The standard protocol for treating an acute flare-up of diverticulitis often includes:7,8
- A clear liquid diet for a short period of time to allow your colon to rest
- Medications for pain and inflammation
- A round of oral or intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotics
- Surgery (in severe cases)
While antibiotics tend to be administered in most diverticulitis cases, research is revealing that antibiotic therapy may actually be entirely unnecessary in those with uncomplicated diverticulitis. In fact, studies have found that in mild, uncomplicated diverticulitis, antibiotics do not accelerate recovery at all. Nor have they been found to prevent complications or recurrences.9
But if antibiotics have been the standard of care for decades, how can we manage uncomplicated diverticulitis without the use of antibiotics?
Can Diverticulitis Be Managed Without Antibiotics?
While antibiotics are still absolutely appropriate and life-saving in many cases of severe diverticulitis, new guidelines are emerging when it comes to addressing more mild cases. You see, diverticulitis is actually an inflammatory process, not necessarily an infectious process. So for those on the mild, uncomplicated end of the diverticulitis spectrum, antibiotics oftentimes serve no real purpose.10
Instead, those with mild cases of diverticulitis can be effectively treated with some diet modifications, pain management, and simple observation to ensure things do not escalate into a more severe flare-up. So if mild cases of diverticulitis can essentially resolve on their own without the use of antibiotics, is it possible to actually reverse this condition?
Can You Reverse Diverticulitis?
Once diverticula spring up in your digestive tract, they are unfortunately there to stay. Without surgical intervention, you simply can’t reverse these bulges within your intestinal wall. But the good news is, there are some lifestyle tweaks you can incorporate that can massively reduce your likelihood of flare-ups and help prevent any further damage or the formation of new diverticula.
Here’s what I recommend:
Eat A Healthy, Well-Rounded Diet
While there’s been heated debate around a high-fiber diet versus a low-fiber diet when it comes to treating diverticulitis, we still have no clear answer. But at the end of the day, creating an eating style that suits your lifestyle and helps you feel great doesn't have to be complicated.
Focus on building the majority of your meals around foods that are “from the earth”. Things like fresh fruits and veggies, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats are nutrient-dense and full of anti-inflammatory compounds – which can help ward off bouts of inflammation in your intestines. And while you can certainly occasionally indulge, it’s best to avoid highly-processed foods that can promote inflammation.
Support A Happy Healthy Gut
If your gut is irritated or imbalanced, you’re much more prone to spikes in inflammation that can lead to painful and troublesome diverticulitis flare-ups. Support and optimize your gut health by:
- Promoting a healthy and diverse microbiome by reinoculating your gut with a variety of good bacteria like those found in my Probiotic Daily Essentials and my Spore Probiotic Plus IgG.
- Bolstering the lining of your gut by incorporating healing compounds like Collagen Boost and Gut Shield.
- Ensure you’re having regular and healthy bowel movements that don’t force you to strain and potentially exacerbate existing diverticula or contribute to the development of new ones. Some supplements that can help support healthy bowel movements include Motility Booster, Essential Fiber, and Digestzyme Complete.
You can find all of these and more through my online store. And you can even get 10% off your first order by clicking right here.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and getting regular movement can help combat inflammation, minimize stress on your digestive tract, and help keep your bowels moving regularly. Movement doesn’t have to include sweaty workouts or intense exercise. Even just a daily walk can help support a healthy weight and count as your daily activity.
While diet, gut health, and exercise can all help combat inflammation, there are a few other ways you can reduce overall inflammation to lower your chances of having an inflammatory flare-up in your tummy. Some potent inflammation-fighting strategies include:
- Minimizing your toxic burden: Toxins can accumulate in your body, triggering low-level inflammation and over-working your immune system.
- Getting plenty of high-quality sleep: Sleep deprivation can put a major damper on your immune system and cause a spike in inflammation.
- Managing stress: Stress is a potent promoter of inflammation. Explore ways you can minimize stress in your life and find healthy ways to process and manage the unavoidable stressors.
- Incorporating inflammation-fighting therapies: Therapies like PEMF therapy, infrared sauna, and IV vitamin therapy can give you a serious edge in lowering inflammation.
While it can seem like a lot at first glance, incorporating many of these inflammation-fighting strategies can be simple to add to your day-to-day routine.
Have You Been Diagnosed With Diverticulitis?
If you’ve been diagnosed with diverticulosis or have experienced painful and frightening diverticulitis flare-ups, it’s more important than ever to prioritize your well-being and the health of your gut. While there’s not always a rhyme or reason to exactly what triggers diverticulitis flare-ups, there’s no denying that your day-to-day choices about how you eat, move, sleep, and think can have a monumental impact.
So if you’re ready to create or expand on your own healthy lifestyle, I encourage you to head over and check out my blog. It’s full of hundreds of articles just like this one to equip you with the know-how and easy-to-implement tips to take your health to the next level. And if you want my very best advice and resources delivered straight to your inbox, you can enter your name and email address in the form below to sign up for my weekly newsletter.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Were you surprised to learn that the guidelines are changing when it comes to administering antibiotics for mild cases of diverticulitis? If you’ve struggled with diverticulitis flare-ups, what tips or tricks have worked for you to keep inflammation at bay? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
- Diverticulitis – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
- Diverticulosis & Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention (clevelandclinic.org)
- Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Surgery (webmd.com)
- Definition & Facts for Diverticular Disease | NIDDK (nih.gov)
- Symptoms & Causes of Diverticular Disease | NIDDK (nih.gov)
- Diverticulitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Surgery (webmd.com)
- Treatment for Diverticular Disease | NIDDK (nih.gov)
- What Triggers Diverticulitis? (emedicinehealth.com)
- Diagnosis and Management of Acute Diverticulitis (aafp.org)
- Efficacy and Safety of Nonantibiotic Outpatient Treatment in… : Annals of Surgery (lww.com)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.