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Understanding Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis

Front view of colon with diverticula pouches in lower part.
Pouches or diverticula usually occur in the lower part of the colon called the sigmoid.

The colon (large intestine) is the last part of the digestive tract. It absorbs water from stool and changes it from a liquid to a solid. In certain cases, small pouches called diverticula can form in the colon wall. This condition is called diverticulosis. It's very common as people get older. The pouches can become infected. If this happens, it becomes a more serious problem called diverticulitis. These problems can be painful. But they can be managed.

Managing your condition

Diet changes or medicines may be prescribed. 

If you have diverticulosis

Recommendations include:

  • Diet changes are often enough to control symptoms. The main changes are adding fiber (roughage) and drinking more water. Fiber absorbs water as it travels through your colon. This helps your stool stay soft and move smoothly. Water helps this process.

  • If needed, you may be told to take over-the-counter stool softeners.

  • To help ease pain, antispasmodic medicines may be prescribed.

  • Watch for changes in your bowel movements. Tell your healthcare provider if you notice any changes.

  • Begin an exercise program. Ask your healthcare provider how to get started.

  • Get plenty of rest and sleep. 

If you have diverticulitis

Treatment depends on how bad your symptoms are.

  • For mild symptoms. You may be put on a liquid diet for a short time. Antibiotics are usually prescribed. If these 2 steps relieve your symptoms, you may then be prescribed a high-fiber diet. If you still have symptoms, your healthcare provider will discuss more treatment choices with you.

  • For severe symptoms. You may need to be admitted to the hospital. There, you can be given IV antibiotics and fluids. You will also be put on a low-fiber or liquid diet. Although not common, surgery is needed in some people with severe symptoms.

Keys to colon health

Cross section of sigmoid colon showing diverticulitis.
Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become infected or inflamed.

Help keep your colon healthy with a diet that includes plenty of high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Drink plenty of liquids like water and juice. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, stress management, and adequate rest and sleep. 

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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