Diverticula are bulging sacs or small blisters that appear in the lining of your large intestine, or colon. This condition is called diverticulosis when the sacs first appear but aren’t yet inflamed or infected. When these sacs get acutely infected or inflamed, it’s called diverticulitis.

What causes diverticulitis?

No one knows exactly what causes diverticula, but eating a diet that’s low in fibre is thought to contribute to the formation of the sacs. Eating fibre with proper hydration helps soften your stool. Soft stools are easier to pass.

A low-fibre diet can cause problems such as constipation. With constipation, more pressure is needed to pass your stool. Doctors believe that increased colon pressure can lead to the development of diverticula. Diverticulitis occurs when faecal matter lodges in the diverticula and causes infections.

Am I at risk for developing diverticulitis?

  • Not eating enough fibre
  • Not eating enough fibre is a common problem in countries where much of the population eats processed foods. This includes the United States
  • Taking fibre supplements or eating more fresh vegetables and bran products can help. You should try to consume at least 20 to 25 grams of fibre per day, which is roughly 5 servings of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains

What are the symptoms of diverticulitis?

Sudden pain on the lower left side of the abdomen is the most common and most severe sign of diverticulitis. This pain can get worse over a few days.

Other signs of diverticulitis are:

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness, usually on the lower left side
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Gas or bloating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rectal bleeding that’s usually bright red

How is diverticulitis treated?

Depending on your case, your doctor might suggest that you treat yourself at home or recommend that you stay in a hospital during treatment.

Treatment at home

Treatment at home can include:

  • Bed rest, which can vary from a few days to a week or more
  • A liquid diet to allow your bowels to rest and your diverticula to heal
  • Prescription antibiotics

When do I see my doctor?

See your doctor to get tested for diverticulitis if you have intense abdominal pain. This is particularly important if the pain’s limited to your lower left side. Blood in your stool or unusual nausea and vomiting also indicate that you should see your doctor.

These symptoms may not be related to diverticulitis, but they are abnormal. Your doctor should conduct tests to either diagnose your diverticulitis or rule it out as a cause.