What is diverticulitis?
Diverticulitis is a condition in which diverticula are perforated and become infected and inflamed. Diverticula are saclike pea or grape-sized protrusions in the intestinal wall. They typically form if an individual suffers from frequent constipation. Eating a low-fiber diet, as is typical in industrialized countries such as the United States, may contribute to the development of diverticulitis. Without sufficient fiber to soften and add bulk, stools are harder to pass. Greatly increased pressure is required to force small portions of hard, dry stool through the bowel. This rise in pressure can cause pouches to form at weak points in the wall of the colon. Once diverticula develop, they do not go away. The diverticula themselves cause no symptoms. Many people have diverticulosis (the potichlike protrusions) and never develop diverticulitis (the inflamed pouches). However, if tiny cuts in the pouches become infected or inflamed, the result can be severe, causing fever, chills, nausea, and pain.
Diverticulitis can be either acute or chronic. Symptoms include cramping, bloating, tenderness on the left side of the abdomen that is relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, and an almost continual need to eliminate. There may be blood in the stool. Peritonitis, an inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity, can develop if a diverticulum ruptures and intestinal contents flow into the abdomen.
Because the walls of the large intestine often weaken as a person ages, this is a condition affecting older rather than younger people. It usually strikes people between the ages of fifty and ninety. It affects millions of Americans, but many people do not even know they have the condition because they either experience no symptoms or accept their symptoms as simple indigestion.
Exactly why is not known, but it is known that smoking and stress make symptoms worse. In fact, this is a classic example of a stress-related disorder. Poor eating habits compound the problem. A poor diet, a family history of the disease, gallbladder disease, obesity, and coronary artery disease all increase the chances of developing diverticulitis.
There are several diagnostic tests available to help diagnose diverticulitis. A barium enema is a procedure in which the colon is filled with liquid barium and x-rays are taken to reveal pouches in the colon wall, narrowing of the colon, or other abnormalities. With sigmoidoscopy, a thin, flexible lighted tube is inserted into the rectum to give the physician a closer look at the lower colon. If necessary, tissue samples can be removed for examination. To see into other parts of the colon, a colonoscopy must be performed. This is similar to a sigmoidoscopy, but allows a view of the entire colon.
Here are some herbs which helpful in the treatment of diverticulitis
1. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera promotes the healing of inflamed areas. It also helps to prevent constipation. Drink 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice three times daily. It can be mixed with a cup of herbal tea if you wish.
Bio-Rizin from American Biologics is a licorice extract that improves glandular function and helps relieve allergy symptoms. Take 10 to 20 drops twice daily.
Alfalfa is a good natural source of vitamin K and valuable minerals, which are often deficient in people with intestinal disorders. It also contains chlorophyll, which aids healing. Take 2,000 milligrams daily in capsule or extract form.
4. Cayenne and Chamomile
Other herbs beneficial for diverticulitis include cayenne (capsicum), chamomile, goldenseal, papaya, red clover, and yarrow extract or tea.
Caution: Do not use chamomile on an ongoing basis, as ragweed allergy may result. Avoid it completely if you are allergic to ragweed. Do not take goldenseal for more than one week at a time, and do not use it during pregnancy. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or glaucoma, use it only under a doctor’s supervision.
The key to controlling this disorder is to consume an adequate amount of fiber and lots of quality water. You need at least 30 grams of fiber each day. You may prefer to supplement your diet with a bulk product or a stool softener that contains methyl cellulose or psyllium, since these do not promote as much gas formation in the colon as other sources of fiber, especially wheat bran. Drink at least eight 8 ounce glasses of water daily. Herbal teas, broth, and live juices can account for some of the liquid needed. Liquid aids in keeping the pouch like areas clean of toxic wastes, preventing inflammation.
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables. These are good sources of vitamin K. Obtaining this vitamin through diet is especially important for people with intestinal disorders.
Eat a low-carbohydrate diet with high levels of protein from vegetable sources and fish. Do not eat grains, seeds, or nuts, except for well-cooked brown rice. These foods are hard to digest, resulting in bloating and gas. Also eliminate dairy products, red meat, sugar products, fried foods, spices, and processed foods.
Eat garlic for its healing and detoxifying properties.
5. Low-Fiber Diet
During an acute attack of diverticulitis, your health care provider may recommend a low-fiber diet temporarily. Once the inflammation clears, you may slowly switch back to a high-fiber diet.