Diverticulitis and other forms of diverticular disease are often described as a Western disease, as Western low-fiber diets contribute to these diseases.1 This is not surprising, as the rates of diverticular illnesses are noticeably high in European and North American countries, as well as Australia, but low in Asian and African countries.2 But what exactly causes diverticulitis, and why is it such a prevalent condition today?
It’s All in the Colon: How Diverticulosis Begins
To know more about how diverticulitis forms, you must first become familiar with the colon — the area where this disorder occurs. The colon is the part of your large intestine responsible for eliminating waste from your body.3 As you age, the walls of the colon and the large intestines weaken.
When too much pressure, such as from passing hard stools or straining during bowel movements, is placed on your colon, pouches called diverticula protrude from the intestinal walls. This is called diverticulosis.4 By age 50, at least 50% of people in industrialized countries are believed to have diverticulosis, while 70% are likely to have it when they reach 80 years old.5
Diverticulosis is usually harmless. The sacs can exist in your system without exhibiting any symptoms at all. Sometimes, only very mild symptoms are felt. However, when the diverticula become infected with bacteria from fecal matter, diverticulosis becomes diverticulitis — an entirely different medical condition.6
Diverticulitis Can Be a Painful Condition — and the Rates Are Increasing
Diverticulitis comes with discomfort and hallmark symptoms, including abdominal pain and tenderness, constipation, cramping, bloating and, in some cases, rectal bleeding — this occurs when a blood vessel near a diverticulum bursts. If not addressed or treated, diverticulitis can lead to complications.7,8
While still less common than diverticulosis, it cannot be denied that the incidence of diverticulitis is steadily rising. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that it has become more common in the U.S. from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, with rates increasing as much as 50%.9
What’s more, cases of young people getting diverticulosis and diverticulitis are also increasing. People as young as 20 years old are now reporting symptoms of diverticulitis.10 Since these patients are often obese, this confirms that there is a likely link between obesity and diverticulitis.11
There is also a link between diverticulitis and low-fiber intake.12,13 People in Western countries, where diverticular disease is more prominent, consume a diet that’s mostly composed of low-fiber foods and processed products.
If this trend doesn’t stop, then cases of diverticulitis most likely will increase. In fact, a report published in Gastroenterology and reviewed in The New England Journal of Medicine says that the cost of gastrointestinal diseases in the U.S. has now grown to $136 billion a year, surpassing the costs of heart disease, trauma or mental health.14
Check Out These Pages for Helpful Information on Diverticulitis
The good news is there is a way for you to reduce your risk of diverticulitis, and all diverticular diseases in general. And, if you already have diverticulitis, there are ways to control the symptoms and reduce your risk of flare-ups.
Read these articles and educate yourself on diverticulitis — its symptoms, risk factors, causes and recommended diet for people afflicted with this ailment. You can also get reliable prevention tips and methods on how you can control the flare-ups.
Diverticulitis can be a painful and uncomfortable condition, but with the proper knowledge, you might be able to spare yourself from this illness.